University Symphony Orchestra concert: The last dance

concert promotional posterWith Guest Tiffany Blake, Soprano

The University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Wes Kenney, will play two dance-inspired works this week: Edvard Grieg’s Symphonic Dances and Igor Stravinsky’s iconic Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring).

In between the two, CSU faculty artist Tiffany Blake will perform the beautiful Four Last Songs of Richard Strauss to round out the program. The concert takes place at 7:30 pm on May 3 and 4 in Griffin Concert Hall at the UCA. 

The Four Symphonic Dances by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg explores the rich heritage of his country’s folk music and is considered the pinnacle of his orchestral writing. “These four dance pieces create a good drama and people can easily recognize them,” Kenney says of the work composed at the end of the 19th century. Written a year before his death, Strauss’ Four Last Songs are lushly romantic poems that highlight the soprano voice, and the performance features Blake.

The program concludes with Stravinsky’s iconic work The Rite of Spring being performed at CSU for the first time. “In many ways, the program could be called beauty and the beast as you will be mesmerized by the lovely essence of the Strauss and blown away by the performance of The Rite,” Kenney explained enthusiastically.

Stravinsky’s ballet score is famous for the riot that ensued at the premiere. The work for a gigantic orchestra – nearly 100 students, including woodwinds in five, eight horns, and a huge battery of percussion – is as much fun to watch as it is to hear, and “might be one of the loudest concerts I have ever conducted at the UCA,” laughed Kenney.

“It is also an opportunity for young musicians to do something that they perhaps will not do again in their lives,” the conductor said of an activity that requires listening comprehension, thinking skills, concentration, coordination, and cooperation. “They have been improving their life skills through the practice and rehearsal process.”

The intensity of Stravinsky reinforces the vital musicality and centeredness required for performing the entire program. “Especially in this contemporary culture, it seems impossible to put phones and computers away for multiple hours, but our music students are special because of the amount of concentration that is mandatory for practicing,” said the proud maestro.

From the elegant Four Last Songs to the enigmatic The Rite of Spring, the incredible cooperation of the large orchestra comes to fruition as “The Last Dance” takes patrons on a musically emotional journey. Tickets are available at