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WASO’s Tuesday concert marks ninth season

Members of the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra pause during a recent rehearsal as they prepare for Tuesday night’s Nine-Year Anniversary Concert at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — When the 55-member Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, it will be the group’s 18th concert over the course of its nine-year existence.

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” quipped Beth Habicht, a WASO violinist and one of the ensemble’s four Leadership Team members.

“This is something we never imagined — to have endured for nearly a decade — and when you stop to think about it, it’s really awesome that Worthington has this music organization.

“Our sponsors list continues to grow, and the support we receive from the greater community and musicians involved has been incredible.”

Dr. Christopher Stanichar has led WASO musically since its inception, and he will again be on the conductor’s podium when the orchestra tackles Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor (also known as “The New World Symphony”) and Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.”

“I would put Dvorak toward the top of my list of favorite composers,” said Stanichar.

“It’s fitting that we’re playing Dvorak’s great ninth symphony for our ninth anniversary concert — and this was the first real American symphony.”

Dvorak composed it in 1893 while teaching at the National Conservatory of Music in New York.

“He was disappointed that so many of his students were trying to write music that sounded like that of European composers, so he composed this symphony as an example of a truly American piece of music,” explained Stanichar.

“It’s one of my favorite works to conduct.”

Habicht reveals that it’s quickly become a preferred selection for the musicians of WASO, too.

“Everybody just loves it,” said Habicht. “It’s really challenged every person in the orchestra, but it’s so beautiful, and the audience will find its melodies very familiar.”

The program also includes Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” which incorporates piano soloist Kurt Haag, a community choir of over 30 vocalists and six vocal soloists.

“Beethoven wrote this very intentionally as a closer for a recital of his works,” said Stanichar of the Beethoven selection.

“It’s not a very long composition — maybe about 20 minutes — but it sure takes a lot of horses to put it all together.

“It’s expertly written, as you’d expect from a master composer, and there’s nothing quite like it in all of orchestral literature.”

Haag, who last spring performed the piano solo in Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with WASO, is appearing in his final concert as a Worthington resident.

A math teacher at Worthington High School for the past four years, Haag will relocate to a similar position in his hometown of Becker at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

“Beethoven’s ‘Choral Fantasy’ is a magnificent collaboration between piano, orchestra, vocal soloists and chorus,” observed Haag.

“The piece journeys through a wide array of styles and emotions, and it’s wonderful to join once again with the WASO musicians after last spring’s successful performance of ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’”

Eric Parrish has separately rehearsed the community chorus that will perform the choral portion of the Beethoven in German. Parrish will be one of the six vocal soloists (along with other local singers Elizabeth Bushard and Taylor Huwe; three additional vocalists are guest musicians from outside the immediate Worthington area).

“We can hardly wait to hear it with the vocalists,” said Habicht, in anticipation of Sunday’s joint rehearsal of singers and orchestra.

Added Stanichar, “Within Beethoven’s ‘Choral Fantasy’ you can hear quotes of ‘Ode to Joy,’ although with different text.”

Habicht nodded, “You’ll definitely hear hints of Beethoven’s ninth symphony in it, which he wrote later.”

To honor American veterans, the WASO program will open with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Carmen Dragon’s arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” the latter of which will include the community chorus.

“It’s a popular, moving arrangement — Carmen Dragon directed the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra — and many of his arrangements are still played today,” said Stanichar.

With Haag offering his local finale on Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” Stanichar readily acknowledges Haag’s musical contributions to WASO.

“Kurt Haag will be very missed by the local community,” said Stanichar. “We’re happy to have this chance to work with him one more time while he’s living here.”

Credited Haag, “Worthington is so blessed to have many wonderful opportunities to become involved in the arts, whether as performers or attendees.

“I hope that strong support for the arts here continues.”

Such support can begin with attendance at Tuesday night’s WASO concert.

“It will be a great show, and a chance to see your friends and neighbors in the orchestra,” said Stanichar.

“Don’t miss it.”

The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra’s Nine-Year Anniversary Concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. Tickets are available at the box office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, or by calling 376-9101 or by visiting www.friendsoftheauditorium.com. Tickets will also be sold at the door.