In memoriam: Jennifer Werner, BSO Substitute Trombone

If you attended one of the BSO concerts in 2016-17, you had a 75% chance of hearing Jennifer Werner play as a substitute bass trombonist. She was our “first call” sub for that chair (for many years, not just 2016-17!), and an immensely talented and capable player. As a bonus, she was the wife of the BSO’s tuba player, Michael Werner, and their chemistry as players and spouses was obvious to anyone who saw them interact onstage and off.

Following is the obituary written by Jennifer’s sister, Stephanie Sheldon. Our thoughts our with Jennifer’s family, her husband Mike, and all of the friends and musicians whose lives she impacted through her too brief but shining life.

Jennifer Werner, Bass Trombone
Photo credit: Leslie Plesser/Shuttersmack

Jennifer Werner passed away peacefully in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by family, on September 13th, 2017 at the age of 29. She lost an unfair battle against a rare and aggressive cancer, NUT Midline Carcinoma (NMC), after being diagnosed just a short 1 month and 10 days prior.

Jennifer’s passion resided in the arts. She attended the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and received her Bachelors of Arts in Music Therapy. Alongside working full time, she gigged with jazz bands including the Adam Meckler Orchestra, and played in classical ensembles including the Encore Wind Ensemble. People who have had the honor of playing with her or have listened to her play, know that she could slay a bass trombone part in a rockin’ jazz tune then turn around and create beautiful classical music as part of an orchestra. She possessed a musical talent that we all could appreciate, and quite frankly, be jealous of.

As much as music was a part of her life, her attributes far exceeded her musical talent. She was a wife, a daughter, a sister, a dog mother, a colleague, an aquascaper, a remodeler, a liberal advocate, and a friend to so many. Her personality, sense of humor, opinions, drive, and thoughtfulness will be greatly missed as we are left here to comprehend the loss of a truly beautiful person.

To honor Jennifer, celebrate her life, and help others that are fighting this impossible battle against NMC, our family is holding a benefit/memorial service open to all friends and family on Saturday September 23rd, 2017 from 12pm-3pm at the McColl Pond ELC in Savage, MN. This will be in place of funeral services, as Jennifer has selflessly donated herself to the University of Minnesota for research on this rare cancer. Jennifer’s musical colleagues and her husband will be providing live music for the event. The proceeds from CD sales from the Adam Meckler Orchestra and money that is donated will be given to the NMC Registry Research Fund out of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. Our family will then donate all proceeds on what would have been Jennifer’s 30th birthday, 9/27/17.

For more information on the Memorial Service, please check out Jennifer’s CaringBridge site.

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Suomi… How We Love You!

The BSO’s next concert, Suomi… How We Love You! will be one of many performances and special events celebrating Finland’s 100 years of independence. The BSO, led by Music Director and conductor Manny Laureano, is partnering with the Suomi Finland 100 Chorus, a special ensemble led by Eeva Savolainen, a graduate of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Ms. Savolainen has assembled a group of singers who are passionate about Finnish music and choral music, including musicians from the Bloomington Chorale and Angelica Cantanti’s Encore Singers, to perform for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Please click here to learn more about the concert and order your tickets now!

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Arts in the Park on August 10

Join the BSO at Bloomington’s Arts in the Park concert. This free concert starts at 7 p.m. at Normandale Lake Bandshell and will feature a program of light classical and pops music under the direction of Manny Laureano. Help us close out a great season of Arts in the Park and celebrate a lovely summer with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket and a picnic dinner! Or purchase treats from the onsite food trucks.

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Arts in the Park Program Announcement

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra and Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, invite you to attend our annual Arts in the Park performance presented by the City of Bloomington. Bring your lawn chairs or a blanket and pack a picnic dinner or purchase food onsite.

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String Auditions :: July 25

The Bloomington Symphony will hold string auditions on July 25. To be considered for the live audition, please submit your video by July 10. We are looking for an associate principal (2nd chair) second violin, principal bass and string players in all sections. We’d love to see your video or answer any questions you might have.

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Audition Date Scheduled

The Bloomington Symphony will hold auditions for Principal Trumpet and Percussion on Sunday, May 21. If you are interested in either of these positions, please send an email to auditions@bloomingtonsymphony.org for more information.

We will have a string audition date announcement shortly. We will be holding auditions for all string sections including leadership chairs in the first and second violins, violas and bass. We encourage all players to submit a video at your earliest convenience to be included in the early summer audition date.

All successful candidates will be invited to join the Bloomington Symphony at the Arts in the Park concert on Thursday, August 10 (rehearsals will begin on August 3).

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra performs at Arts in the Park, August 2016

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“Music in 3D: #4” Concert Preview No. 4

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Berlioz and his Dream Girl(s) {part 2 of 2}

Read the first part of this Musings here.

It takes him five separate movements, each one so well-written that it could stand alone, to describe a story of passion, tenderness, anger, and chilling terror.

Estelle, the object of Berlioz’s affections

The work opens with a self-reflective raising of the curtain and a theme in the violins that actually dates back to his first love Estelle, and eventually gives way to a joyous theme of love that makes its appearance in every movement in some mutated form. This is known as the idée fixe. The theme develops and Berlioz takes us on a wild ride of passion that seeks religious redemption at the end of the movement. The waltz that follows is a first date of sorts. and we know he’s with his Dream Girl as soon as we here the idée fixe. The walk in the country that serves as he third movement is a beautiful nod to Beethoven replete with dueling double reeds, each on their own hillsides, one near, one far. Dark thoughts invade the artists mind as he rages jealously. One of the shepherds returns, only to have his song mocked by looming thunderclouds.

Those thunderclouds tell us the honeymoon’s over as the artist has been sentenced to death for killing his Dream Girl while under the influence of a controlled substance. Don’t do drugs, kids. The artist is not just marched to the scaffold, rather he is pushed to it, as the gathered public wants blood—lots of it. Just before his head goes for a bouncing jaunt down the steps in 4/4 time, he thinks of his Dream Girl one last time.

As in a bad Hollywood horror movie, our artist comes back to find that his Dream Girl is now a witch and she’s come back with a coven of friends. Berlioz goes all out with cackling sounds, bells of doom, a Dies Irae theme that shows God is NOT happy, and the wood part of bows striking strings in order to paint a frightening picture of love gone wrong.

But what of that first sweetheart, Estelle? It turns out that she and Berlioz were reunited as friends and companions very late in their lives. This welcome relationship came after all three of Berlioz’s wives died prematurely as did Estelle’s husband. A happier ending than the Symphonie!

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Music in 3D: #4” Concert Preview No. 3

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the third edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Berlioz and his Dream Girl(s) {part 1 of 2}

Hector Berlioz

If love is the sickness, then composing is the cure, or such was the experience of a young Hector Berlioz (1803-1866) who, from the start, was the quintessential incurable romantic. Lucky thing, that, as France and the rest of Europe were well into the throes of the Romantic era by 1930, when the Symphonie fantastique was premiered. Berlioz discovered love and its partner, jealousy, in the form of a comely 18-year old summer neighbor named Estelle when he was 12 years old. Think about Michael Corleone being struck by “The Thunderbolt” in The Godfather and you will have an idea of how the boy felt. Estelle was amused and flattered but a relationship was out of the question… for the moment. Also, bear in mind that Berlioz began his musical studies at that very age, rather than much earlier as we are accustomed to hear about the great composers.

Berlioz was not shy about his passionate nature as he grew older, either. He was engaged to be married to a Mlle. Estelle Moke, but while he was away studying music in Italy he received a letter from his would-be mother-in-law informing him the marriage was off. Berlioz flew into a rage and plotted a triple murder and suicide plot involving elaborate disguises and double-barreled pistols. He cooled off and continued studying.

This personality had produced a tremendous work that was based on “The Life of a Young Artist” the year before. In fact, Berlioz had single-handedly, over the early years of his composing, changed the size and orchestration of the 19th century orchestra. Imagine a piece of music from the first third of the 19th century that features two harps, an English horn and an E? clarinet, a piccolo, two cornets and trumpets, two tubas, two sets of timpani, and two Liberty Bell-style bells, in addition to the rest of a large orchestra and you have the ingredients for his Symphonie fantastique, a five-movement foray into intimate and extroverted passion.

His now-familiar relationship with actress Harriet Smithson makes more sense given what we’ve learned about his personality before and after the Symphonie. He was obsessed with her and sent letters that went unanswered and put on concerts to attract her attention. He finally woke up from his dream when he was informed of rumors involving Smithson and her manager. It was that jolt which drove him to write… and write he did.

{Part 2 will be posted on March 30}

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Music in 3D: #4” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the second edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Concerto for ‘Cello in B minor by Antonín Dvorák

Antonín Dvorák

Some composers find their niches quickly and write defining pieces soon in their careers. Others learn more and truly deliver the works that become associated with their names, later in life. This was certainly true of this magnificent work for ‘cello by Antonín Dvorák (1841 – 1904). He had written a piano concerto which has gone into the dustbin of musical history. His next effort, the Concerto for Violin in A minor, has become somewhat of a standard for great soloists, but has not occupied the same place as those by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius, Beethoven, or Mozart. To be sure, when one hears the Violin Concerto, it leaves one wondering why it’s not heard with greater frequency.

The fact is that Dvorák simply didn’t believe that the solo ‘cello was a powerful or compelling enough voice to soar over the body of an orchestra. Fate took a hand, however, when he decided to go to hear a premiere by a composer and education colleague at New York City’s National Conservatory, where Dvorák served as director. That colleague was Victor Herbert, whose Cello Concerto convinced Dvorák that he had been under a misconception. Dvorák set to work for two years, and in 1896 was able to have the noted English ‘cellist, Leo Stern, play the solo part at a premiere performance in London that changed the world order for the instrument forever.

In listening to the first movement, one is truly struck by the conversational quality of the relationship between orchestra and soloist. The opening is generous and takes its time introducing the solo voice of the ‘cello. When the ‘cello enters, its voice is stentorian and poetic. It shifts from anguished to playful to thoughtful, all the while demanding the best in the soloist’s technical prowess. This movement gives us a peek at a beautiful work of art that occupies a solid place in the repertoire.

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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Music in 3D: #4 Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

La forza del destino

Giuseppe Verdi

It’s inevitable. Composers live their lives and eventually confront the events that make them who they are or prevent them from having what they want. Beethoven was forced into a life of ironically cruel deafness. Berlioz was dogged by the deaths of three wives. Tchaikovsky avoided but then could not deny his homosexuality. The Jewishness in Mahler’s background would never be accepted by the Viennese, regardless of his religious conversion to Catholicism.

It is easy to hear the frustrated outbursts in the music of these men, whether it comes in the form of a jagged motif which begins a Fifth Symphony or powerful brassy blasts that recur in an F minor symphony. Sometimes the angst is more subtle when heard as musical sighs or weeping.

When Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) dedicated an entire opera to the power of destiny, he had long since eschewed the merry romp that an Italian opera overture would often be, such as the kind Rossini would write to engage his audiences. After all, when Verdi wrote his operas, the so-called Age of Enlightenment was well upon European audiences and their respective cultures. Tragedies became synonymous with operatic plots, now that people’s eyes were being relentlessly opened to human suffering.

Verdi wastes no time in establishing the three knocks of destiny, or fate, with powerful octave shouts from the orchestra’s brass section. An intense, undulating theme rises and falls in the strings to compete in a different way with the rest of the orchestra. The tender moment that reveals the theme sung by tragic heroine, Leonora, is overcome by the gyrations of the earlier minor material. A sustained theme of hope is heard accompanied by two harps. Surely all will end well? Will the Deus ex machina appear in the form of the warm brass chorale save our heroine?

Well, it is, after all, a tragedy.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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