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WASO to perform a 'barnburner' of a concert Tuesday

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra rehearses for its upcoming performance, which is scheduled for Tuesday evening at Memorial Auditorium in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Though Minnesota's professional orchestras are in a state of upheaval at present, Worthington's community orchestra is thriving and set to deliver a festive fall concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium.

"It's kind of amazing the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO) is in its third season already," said Dr. Christopher Stanichar, the group's conductor and head the Augustana College orchestra in Sioux Falls, S.D. "I'm very impressed with the progress and ability of the group.

"Their progress allows me to program more audience favorites that Worthington hasn't heard them perform yet."

Among the crowd-pleasers Stanichar has helped WASO's 45 members polish up for Tuesday night are Antonin Dvorak's "Slavonic Dance #8" and Johannes Brahms' "Hungarian Dance #5." The 40 student members of the Worthington High School (WHS) orchestra are joining WASO in playing those two numbers.

"The Brahms piece is everywhere," Stanichar said. "You've probably heard it on commercials, in movies or cartoons."

Stanichar harbors a not-so-secret love for Dvorak, who shares in Stanichar's ethnic heritage.

"Dvorak is one of my favorite composers," Stanichar said. "When he composed the Slavonic dances, they propelled him to world fame.

"There's a lot of flair to the piece, and it has a rhythm that is tricky to master."

But involving the student string players on the challenging Dvorak and Brahms selections was by design, and was a central element to the grant WASO received in support of this season's programming from the Southwest Minnesota Humanities Council (SMAHC).

"The grant was written with that mission in mind," explained Melanie Loy, one of WASO's four originators and the director of the WHS and Worthington Middle School orchestra programs. "The goal was to challenge the students, having them sit side-by-side in a larger setting with a full orchestra, including winds, brass and percussion."

A few area high school students -- senior Krista Vogt, first-chair violinist with the WHS orchestra, trombonist Jacob Carroll of Sibley, Iowa, and Kara Homandberg, a harpist from Edgerton -- choose to play with WASO as full members of the orchestral ensemble.

Vogt, who sits third chair, first violin, in WASO, has played with the group in each of its fall concerts to date.

"I like that the music is a lot more challenging than what I'm used to playing, and that we get to play different styles of music," Vogt said of the WASO repertoire. "It is difficult, but that forces you to rise to the challenge, and it's fun to play with different people."

Vogt sees WASO concertmaster Justyna Lutow-Resch, a string faculty member at Augustana College who earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a motivating role model.

Lutow-Resch, in turn, is happy to be involved with WASO for a second year.

"I love this community," she said. "There are great, good people here, and I love seeing their progress and how much they enjoy making music.

"They have a real drive to improve, and I come to Worthington because I love doing it."

Lutow-Resch, whom Stanichar calls "an amazing professional" who warmly embraces her role within WASO, is also a member of the Augustana String Quartet and is assistant principal second violin in the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. She will be featured on "Meditation from Thais" by Jules Massenet and the dynamic "Csardas" by Vittorio Monti.

"They are two extremely contrasting pieces, with 'Meditation' very much living up to its title," Stanichar said. "It's a prayer in musical form, and Justyna has the most dulcet sound and plays it so beautifully.

"The other piece, 'Csardas,' is a Hungarian dance with a real paprika flavor to it -- it's a tour de force for the violin, with many sections and contrasts."

Another concert highlight will be the WASO premiere of operatic mezzo-soprano Emily Lodine of Magnolia.

Lodine, a "world-class singer," according to Stanichar, will sing "Habanera," the famous aria from Georges Bizet's opera "Carmen."

"This concert is definitely full of barnburners," Stanichar said. "We also have the first movement from Mozart's 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' and the Shaker melody from Aaron Copland's 'Appalachian Spring.'

"The combined effort of WASO and the WHS orchestra students on two numbers also expands our instrumentation, injects a strong youth element and shows our efforts at collaboration," Stanichar continued. "We want to take great music and pass it on to the next generation, so they become lovers of it and pass it on to their kids.

"This concert will be entertaining throughout."

The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO) fall concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Worthington's Memorial Auditorium. Tickets (adult and student rates) are available in advance from WASO members, at the Auditorium's box office or at the door.