WASO is “Home for the Holidays” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO) will present a "Home for the Holidays" concert at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra rehearses Thursday evening at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center. WASO will perform a convert Tuesday at the auditorium. (Ryan McGaughey/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO) will present a “Home for the Holidays” concert at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.


With classical selections from composers like Prokofiev and Fauré, as well as several cherished holiday tunes, the program strikes a balance that’s sure to ignite the spirit of Christmas in attendees.


“There’s a snow globe of music for the second half,” said Dr. Christopher Stanichar, WASO’s conductor. “That includes a combination of many Christmas favorites, both sacred and secular.”



Likely highlights are Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” and Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” with soprano Elizabeth Bushard as the soloist on the latter.


“We enjoy doing a variety of music and maintaining a program with some classical masterworks that stretch both the audience and musicians a bit, but we also aim to provide several familiar, more contemporary pieces, too,” said Karen Pfeifer, a WASO violist and member of the group’s leadership team.


“Our goal is to make each concert accessible and enjoyable for a broad audience.”


WASO’s 55 musicians hail from Worthington and the surrounding region, with some members driving for weekly rehearsals from Windom, Westbrook, Sioux Falls, S.D., or Fairmont.



“We have a number of very talented musicians involved,” assured Stanichar. “The fact they are willing to invest the time both to rehearse and commute shows they need that kind of musical contact - and that it’s worth it to them.


“That’s what you do when you love something, and our audiences, in turn, seem to enjoy the orchestra every time we have a concert in Worthington.”


As it is the start of WASO’s eighth season, Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 - commonly known as his “Unfinished Symphony” - is the centerpiece of the concert’s first half.


“It’s one of the most famous works for orchestra,” endorsed Stanichar. “It was written around the same time as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but it has only two movements. To be considered a true classical symphony, it would need four movements.



“This symphony is so haunting, because Schubert put his whole soul out there for audiences of his day, and ours, to appreciate.”


Sadly, Schubert never lived to hear the work performed, and Stanichar summarizes Schubert’s unfortunate tale.


“Of all the classic stories about famous composers, Schubert’s is perhaps the most tragic of them all,” Stanichar related. “He died at age 31 and was penniless, living with his brother, and all of his music was in storage.”


With 600 compositions to his credit, Schubert was a prolific writer indeed.


“There’s a sense of longing and an unfulfilled romantic spirit to Schubert’s music that makes it so beautiful and appealing throughout the ages,” said Stanichar. “Once his ‘Unfinished Symphony’ was finally performed, with a score of it published by Johannes Brahms about 30 years after his death, it was an instant success.”


Stanichar says Schubert’s eighth is “a perfect symphony” for WASO to perform because it’s not as technically difficult as others they have tackled in past seasons but is nevertheless satisfying to play and hear.


“It requires some emotional vulnerability to impart its romantic spirit,” said Stanichar.


A more recent composition, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” is also on tap. That number, a signature tune of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, will be instantly recognizable to most concert goers.


“That piece is so fun,” said Beth Habicht, another WASO leadership team member. “Everyone likes it.”


WASO’s principal cellist, Laura Cooper, will be the featured soloist on Fauré’s “Elegie.”


“It works so well with the orchestra, and Laura sounds wonderful,” expressed Stanichar.


“Laura is typical of many of our musicians in that she is a music educator,” he added. “It takes a special commitment to participate in a community ensemble like this and keep one’s skills alive.”


A portion of the Southwest Minnesota Art Council grant WASO received in support of its ongoing efforts will sponsor the attendance of ISD 518 Adult Basic Education students at the group’s Monday evening dress rehearsal.


“We really want to make an effort to reach out to all segments of our community,” said Pfeifer.


Stanichar applauds that goal, as well as the determination of the WASO leadership team (Pfeifer, Habicht, Melanie Loy and Kristine Stewart).


“I have the deepest gratitude for our leadership team,” assured Stanichar. “They do so much behind the scenes that many people aren’t aware of.”


Tuesday’s concert finale is a Dan Goeller-arranged Christmas carol sing-along that has proved popular in past years.


“It has all the favorites,” said Stanichar. “People can hum along if they wish, and it should really bring on that holiday spirit.”


“Home for the Holidays,” the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert, is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. All tickets are reserved and are available at the box office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays or by calling 376-9101. Tickets will also be available at the door. A free reception follows the performance.


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