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  • Anchorage, AK
  • USA

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Randall Craig Fleischer, presented a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service.  Along with pieces by Grofé and Strauss, it featured Glacier Bay.  

They also used my multimedia material for Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite.

(from the Culture section on April 7, 2016)

Symphony Season Announced

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra published its 2016-17 season lineup in the program for last weekend’s concerts. Major offerings on tap include Cliburn piano competition finalist Fei Fei Dong in Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony on Sept. 24.

The program of Nov. 12 is something of a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and will include photos of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The music for that night will be Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite," the “Alpine Symphony” by Richard Strauss and new work by Stephen Lias, a composer who’s been spending a lot of time in Alaska, titled “Glacier Bay.”

Tim Fain, whose playing was featured in the soundtrack of the film “Black Swan,” will be the featured soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto on Jan. 28, a program that will also include Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” Electronic violinist Tracy Silverman will return to Anchorage for his own concerto on Feb. 25; Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” will also be on the program. And the season will close on April 1 with the Anchorage Concert Chorus and Alaska Chamber Singers joining the symphony for excerpts from “Boris Godunov” by Mussorgsky.

There will also be a “symphonic tribute” to the rock band Journey on March 3 and 4. The Silent Film night, on Jan. 14, will be a Charlie Chaplin double-bill with “The Kid” and “The Idle Class.”

The Mussorgsky is billed as “commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Alaska Purchase.” The Russian connection is implied, but from a purely historical perspective, the opera falls outside the era of Russian colonialism. Boris Godunov died a century before Bering sailed and Mussorgsky didn’t start to write his only completed opera until after the ink was dry on the treaty of cession. But it will do as well as anything, I suppose.

There’s only one piece I can think of that actually has something to do with Russian-America, or Russians and Americans in Alaska, Willard Straight’s 1967 opera “Toyon of Alaska,” or just “Toyon.” Straight was commissioned to write the work for the centennial of the purchase. Best known as a Broadway composer, he was hitting his stride at that time, selected as the composer for the Van Cliburn competition in 1966. The libretto was by Anchorage theater director Frank Brink and resembled his outdoor pageant about Baranov, “Cry of the Wild Ram.” The opera was performed in Anchorage and Fairbanks and then disappeared. So did Straight, who is one of those anomalies who doesn’t seem to have a listing on the internet. But the music must be around somewhere and it might be interesting to hear some of the excerpts from the forgotten piece from the last celebration.