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Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra's 'Celtic Celebration' a musical treat

Mar. 17, 2012

For those who chose to celebrate the evening of St. Patrick's Day with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, it was a night well spent.

"Celtic Celebration" at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, featured the full symphony orchestra with the added forces of a greatly enlarged percussion section, the delightful voices of the White Heron Chorale, and an ensemble of musicians performing indigenous instruments of Celtic lore.

Music for the program featured two concert suites from the pen of Shaun Davey. Both works utilized the integration of traditional folk music and instruments with the modern symphony orchestra.

The result was a musical style of charming simplicity, filled with extraordinary color, and exceptional grace.

Folk instruments featured were the accordion, gaita (a Galician bagpipe autonomous to the northwest of Spain), uilleann (Irish) pipes, Scottish pipes, fiddle, bodhran and Irish harp. The guest artists of the ensemble performed each instrument with nimbleness and great mastery.

Music for the first half came from Davey's concert suite "The Pilgrim." The music had a sweeping style to it, not at all unlike one would find in a movie score. This is not surprising as Davey has many film scores to his credit.

Immediately we were taken away with the thundering sound of the augmented percussion section and the tone color created by the inclusion of pipes with the orchestra. The mood was set for the evening.

While there was much celebratory enthusiasm in many of the works, there was also the beautiful melancholy so frequently associated with songs of folklore. To this, Davey was equally ready for the task.

It was during the fifth movement, "Fill to Me the Parting Glass," that the White Heron Chorale joined in. For the most part during the evening, the singers sang vocalise, without words, becoming yet another color in the orchestral palette.

Music for the second half came from Davey's "Special Olympics Suite" and again featured the members of the Chorale in several of the movements. The percussion came to the fore in two of the movements, "The Arrival of the Flag" and "The Arrival of the Flame."

Also featured in the suite was vocalist Catherine O'Connell who sang in "The President's Welcome" and the hauntingly beautiful "Farewell to Nantes."

The program ended with "Pilgrim's Finale," taken from "The Pilgrim."

- James Chauoir - Post Crescent

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