Immigration: Ellis Island Brought to Life
in Final LPO Season Performance Sunday
Between the years of 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island, the now legendary immigrant-processing center, was the gateway to America for literally millions of people. At 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 6, the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra will bring some of these stories to life in an innovative way at the Laredo Community College Martinez Fine Arts Center.
The concert, the last in the LPO’s 2007 “Evolution” season, is titled “American Influences” and features “Ellis Island: the Dream of America.” Written by young award-winning composer Peter Boyer, it is an inspired symphonic work which incorporates spoken word and projected images.
Tickets ($25 / $17 for seniors) are available at the door, Wells Fargo Bank (downtown), International Bank of Commerce locations at Plantation and Mall del Norte and the Texas A&M International University business office in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library. As always, students attend the concert for free.
In the foreword to the score, the composer spent a long time reading through personal stories of many immigrants who passed through Ellis Island during the period 1910–1940. He chose seven stirring stories to bring to life some of the many common experiences shared by thousands of people from various lands.
Brendan Townsend, music director of the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra was so emotionally and musically moved upon first hearing this work that he chose to present the work here in Laredo as part of a concert that highlights the many influences this country has had on the world.
“You cannot listen to these stories and not be moved, from tear-jerking stories to smiling reminiscences, by these wonderful stories that Peter has brought to life,” Townsend said.
The creation of the script, around which the music is composed, involved the selection, arrangement and editing of texts from the Ellis Island Oral History Project into a dramatic narrative.
Going beyond sheer music, the work uses seven actors – local personalities here in Laredo – to read the testimonials, which are accompanied by projected visual images from the Ellis Island Museum.
Townsend said the combination stirs emotions and underscores the emotional qualities of such experiences.
“ ‘Ellis Island: the Dream of America’ is the final piece on this unique program of music,” added Townsend, “The other program selections show both the innovations of a living composer and the influence that this country has had on composers from other countries.”
As an example, Czech composer Antonin Dvorak spent four years as the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York during which time he heard the premiere of a concerto for cello and orchestra by Victor Herbert—which inspired him to write his own concerto. The resulting cello concerto has remained one of the most favored pieces of music for cello and orchestra over the past century.
Infused throughout with luscious melodies and a certain wistfulness for Dvorak’s home country, the Orchestra will join renowned cellist Wesley Baldwin to bring this piece to life.
The Washington Post has described Baldwin’s playing as “almost orchestrally rich in sound; bold but well-controlled in phrasing and dynamics.” A friend of Maestro Townsend for a number of years, Baldwin is “hugely excited” to be coming to Laredo to perform this masterwork.
Opening the concert will be a short but vibrant work by Pennsylvanian composer Nancy Galbraith, “A Festive Violet Pulse,” which was written as a celebration of the arrival of Maestro Mariss Jansons to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1998.
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