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Alma Symphony Orchestra Performs Folk-inspired Harmony

Tchaikovsky’s ‘Little Russian’ Symphony forms the centerpiece of this concert, which brings together folksong and the composer’s famous melodic gift.

Alma Symphony OrchestraAlma Symphony Orchestra

The Alma Symphony Orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s folk-inspired “Little Russian” Symphony along with two additional masterpieces that are partially based on the familiar traditional English folk song “Greensleeves.”

The ASO’s second concert of the 2018-19 season will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2 in the Remick Heritage Center, Presbyterian Hall, at Alma College. Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for seniors 62 and up, and free for Alma College staff, students and youth 18 and under. Seating is reserved. Call (989) 463-7304 for ticket information.

“The music in this concert will be familiar to some in our audience though the titles may not be,” says Jonathan Spatola-Knoll, the ASO’s music director and conductor.

The first half of the program opens with composer Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” which features harmonic influences that come from the composer’s interest in English folk songs and hymns.

Alma Symphony OrchestraAlma Symphony Orchestra“The piece includes flute solos for two of the very talented Alma music students I have had the pleasure of teaching — Hannah Flemming and Bridget Eshleman,” says Spatola-Knoll. Flemming is a senior from Carp Lake; Eshleman is a senior from Rockford.

Gustav Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” also has folk song elements. It features various types of dances, such as the jig in the first movement, along with some violin and string solos.

“For me, the highlight is the final movement when Holst superimposes ‘Greensleeves’ on top of a jig-like dance,” says Spatola-Knoll. “It’s a very nice moment and helps bring the first half of our program full circle.”

The second half of the program features Tchaikovsky’s joyful Symphony No. 2, popularly known as the “Little Russian” Symphony, a title that references the small nation of The Ukraine.

“Tchaikovsky doesn’t always associate with folk music, but he sometimes uses folk tunes to frame his compositions, which he does in this work,” says Spatola-Knoll. “The finale is the most clear-cut presentation of folk music in which he repeats versions of a Ukrainian folk song with different combinations of instruments. The piece concludes in a kind of frenzied whirlwind.”

The approximately 80-member Alma Symphony Orchestra includes a mix of professional musicians from the mid-Michigan area and Alma College student-performers.

Story published on November 20, 2018