Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview 3 of 3


Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
Dmitri Shostakovich

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: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Continued from Part I

As it happened, Josef Stalin, the brutal dictator of the Soviet Union, would attend certain musical events and managed to find himself at a performance of Lady Macbeth. His reactions during the performance were clear and seen by all in attendance. They were not good and Stalin made sure Shostakovich knew it. He directed an article to be written in Pravda (ironically, that translates to “Truth“) the state organ of news and comment, called “Chaos Instead of Music.” Within days, one of Shostakovich’s new ballets, Bright Stream, also came under heavy criticism. Shostakovich was crushed. So much so, that he canceled the premiere of his freshly-written Fourth Symphony while he figured out a way to keep from being sent to a gulag or, worse yet, “disappearing.” He was now a “target.” Thus, did Shostakovitch write what came to be known by some as a musical apology, his Fifth Symphony? He was now fearful. Was this the real Shostakovich?

With the above as your backdrop, this D Minor Symphony begs to be listened to with fresh ears. The jagged argument that opens the first movement is serious, because it is a display of conflict that settles into meditative thought. Does one go this way or that? Does one satisfy the soul or the desire just to live? There are so many moments of sunlight that attempt to break through, that the first movement almost works as an extended introduction for the remaining three movements. The brass stomp through like an invading force, only to give way to a peaceful state of eternal questioning of the self. The scherzo is a paean to the composing style of Gustav Mahler, whose music was loved by Shostakovich. If there is a way to portray loneliness and the suffering it brings when relief is not in sight, the third movement does so with such tremendous pathos as to induce heartbreak or catharsis. You will decide, dear listener.

As for the finale, I can do no better than to leave you with the words of Shostakovich as quoted by the man who assisted with his memoirs, Solomon Volkov:

“I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in what happens in Boris Godunov. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,’ and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, ‘our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.'”

Testimony by Solomon Volkov

Bloomington Symphony Orchestra
Manny Laureano, Music Director & Conductor
photo by Leslie Plesser

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #6” featuring award-winning cellist Nygel Witherspoon soloist for the Cello Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview 2 of 3

Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
Dmitri Shostakovich

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: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.


Dmitri Shostakovich, composer

It is always a dilemma to write about Dmitri Shostakovich, who was born in St. Petersburg in 1906 under the Tsarist rule of “Bloody” Nicholas II and who died in Moscow in 1975 under Soviet domination led by Leonid Brezhnev. In effect, baby Dmitri was born in a Russia that had suffered the violent conflict of a failed revolution against Nicholas II a year before. By the time he broached adolescence, a new future for Russia was on the horizon with new leaders and new problems. Somehow, a young and somewhat sickly—but prodigiously talented—boy would try to perform on the piano while developing his gift for composition. The dilemma comes in trying to know who the real Dmitri Shostakovich is.

His musical parents gave him what he needed, to attend the Conservatory in what was renamed Petrograd, at the age of 13. He studied piano with a vengeance, but his composing skills were rapidly increasing. He loved the musical examples he heard in the works by Rimsky-Korsakov. They gave him the road to follow in his quest to learn how to best use the instruments of the orchestra. His orchestral language and wit were present in his First Symphony, a student piece that would be the envy of many 20th century composers to follow. He also benefited from the opportunity to use his improvising skills at the piano to accompany movies live. Was this young man the real Shostakovich?

He set upon writing his Second and Third Symphonies, both of which had contemporary political statements as their centerpieces with titles like To October and The First of May. Such music could not have displeased the local Communist leaders, could they? They included choruses and new sounds for that relatively new century. The fact is, they were not well-received and there would be a six year lapse before Shostakovich would provide another symphony for public consumption. There was more music to write, anyway. He wrote operas, chamber music, ballets, and a concerto for trumpet and piano. Even though it would not be performed for quite some time (until 1960) Symphony No. 4 did roll out of his pen. It was however, on the heels of his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District or Lady Macbeth of Minsk. All was well and Dmitri was being performed consistently. Was this driving force in Soviet musical art the real Shostakovich?

To be continued!


Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #6” featuring award-winning cellist Nygel Witherspoon soloist for the Cello Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview

Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104
Antonín Dvorák

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: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.


When, at first you don’t succeed, wait about thirty years and try it again. It’s always a bit stunning to see, when we study the lives of the great composers, how much time can lapse between a concept and an execution. From Brahms to Wagner, we see that the great composers were willing to wait until the roast was ready and rested before carving.

Antonín Dvorák was born in an area of the world that produced so much descriptive and beautiful music, Bohemia, in 1841 and he died in Prague, in 1904. In his later years he traveled to the New World and visited much of the United States, which gave him opportunity to experience music and musicians in a more personal and firsthand way. After hearing American composer and cellist Victor Herbert play his own Second Cello Concerto,
Dvorák was reminded that he had some unfinished work to do. In 1865, the young Antonín had written a Cello Concerto that he ultimately disliked and never took to the task of orchestrating to completion. Now the more mature and accomplished Dvorák realized he needed to both write a work for cello and orchestra that would satisfy him and be richly successful as a standard part of the solo repertoire.

Though Dvorák had selected friend and musical associate, Hanuš Wihan, to be his soloist for the premiere, it was not to be, due to a set of managerial mishaps—although Wihan did get the opportunity to play it publicly later. The premiere was rescheduled with a different soloist, Leo Stern, in London. Since Dvorák was of the group of composers who had conducting skills, he led the performance from the podium. His opportunity to conduct must have been very special indeed, but for a different reason than you might suspect. At one point in his life, Dvorák was quite smitten with one Josefina Cermáková but his ardor was not returned by Josefina. He did, however, marry Anna, the younger sister of Josefina. We can only surmise that there were always subdued feelings for his first love and when news of her reached him, he inserted a coda with references to a song of his, which he knew Josefina liked. One can only imagine that personal and reflective moment for him on the podium, as the music in his ears matched what he felt in his heart.


Nygel Witherspoon with his cello
Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #6” featuring award-winning cellist Nygel Witherspoon soloist for the Cello Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.


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From Boisterous to Pastoral :: Concert Preview 3 of 3


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 “From Boisterous to Pastoral” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 24, 2019.


Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

by Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms, composer

Johannes Brahms, composer

I will ask the readers of this particular set of notes about the Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) to indulge the author in a bit of sentimental folly. The hope of yours truly is that the recollection that has made this work such a favorite of mine would give Brahms cause to smile.

As a fledgling trumpeter in New York City, I had the opportunity—nay blessing—to play the first movement of this work by the man who shook the dust of his native Hamburg, Germany, from his feet, to be known more as a Viennese composer and artist—something for which the citizens of his birth city have still not forgiven. I was instantly enraptured by the sounds of this opus 73 of his. There was much for me to absorb, to be sure, but I was mesmerized by a theme that he had written earlier (to honor the birth of a child) that found it’s way into this Pastoral D Major symphony. So much so, in fact, that in my reverie I missed my next entrance! You, as the listener, will have no such problem since you are encouraged to dream away in the comfort of your seat.

There’s plenty from musicological and historical vantage points to appreciate here, from the summer getaways in the south of Austria to the impeccable structures of each movement that serve as the fabric he uses to weave his melodic/harmonic portraits. However, the magic in this music for the first-time listener is set firmly in the way it evolves so naturally. That is not to imply at all that the music is predictable. Far from it! Rather, it changes like a color wheel that is filled with warmth and stark hues.

The rolling cellos and basses introduce a duet by two horns that will be heard throughout the first movement as the first violins sit patiently, waiting to play what seems like nothing more than an etude of widening intervals. The sweetness of that simplicity is answered by a chorus of monk-like low brass that introduces a beautiful arching theme, once again, in the hands of the violins. The once-rolling theme is animated shortly thereafter and it is at that point that the listener realizes that the first movement will be full of many more climaxes and also charming surprises, particularly at the end coda.

The thoughtfulness of the second movement is a display of the beauty of the low and tenor instruments of the orchestra. There will be ample opportunity for the soprano members of the orchestra to sing in solo settings and also en masse. Brahms shows his handy ability to shift his rhythmic flow from straight 4/4 time to a 12/8 “swing” that brings to mind the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach.

What’s a Brahms symphony without an opportunity to be a bit playful? The third movement gives him a chance to, once again, play with pulses and time signatures to give the illusion that he has written everything in the movement in the same time signature. In fact, he goes from 3/4 to 2/4 to 3/4 to 3/8 to 9/8 and finally back to 3/4 in the sliest manner! He has taken a walk and every time he turns his head he sees a different scene, barely ever stopping to stand still.

If D Major was a key that Bach used to celebrate in a joyful manner, well, that was good enough for Brahms. The quiet murmuring that begins the finale gives way to unrepentant joy in Brahms’ hands. There are moments of introspection and development that are ravishingly atmospheric to give us a moment to breathe. Make that recovery quick, though, for Brahms is at his joyful best as the coda challenges the orchestra to race to the finish line as the low brass remind us what key we are in!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “From Boisterous to Pastoral” featuring Catherine Carson, winner of the Mary West Solo Competition as soloist for Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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From Boisterous to Pastoral :: Concert Preview 2 of 3


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 “From Boisterous to Pastoral” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor

Camille Saint-Saëns

Imagine how wonderful it would be to be a gifted composer! Melodies and harmonies would flow from you to your pen (perhaps a computer in today’s world) as you needed them. Now imagine the luxury of having at your disposal some of the world’s greatest soloists, eager to play the music you have written for them. This was the world Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921) lived in, as he was able to write this work for Pablo de Sarasate, a luminary of the violin world from Spain who was only a tender fifteen years of age!

What is remarkable about this concerto is revealed in the single movement you will hear at this BSO concert. It is common for composers of this time and before to write their finales in rondo form. That is to say, that one theme will have the opportunity to come back repeatedly, an economical way of writing and a good way to have your audience leave whistling the tune. Saint-Saëns eschews that form with a curt “Non, non!” and proceeds to use no fewer than five separate themes that tie together in the way that only a genius could dictate. Not since Mozart do we have a composer “throw away” themes in a playful manner and with such success. One theme in particular is so serene and pastoral as to put on display Saint-Saëns’ Catholic faith. Its tranquil beauty returns as a powerful hymn played by the brass section against the busy strings, each complementing each other.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “From Boisterous to Pastoral” featuring Catherine Carson, winner of the Mary West Solo Competition as soloist for Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at 3 p.m. at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington).

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From Boisterous to Pastoral :: Concert Preview 1 of 3


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 “From Boisterous to Pastoral” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Roman Carnival Overture

by Hector Berlioz

For a man who complained as much as he did about Rome, French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) kept that dislike a secret, if we are to judge by the quality of his output on Italian themes while he worked and finished his studies during the 1830s. In addition to his work for solo viola and orchestra, Harold in Italy, he completed a large, two-act opera called Benvenuto Cellini.

Photo of Hector Berlioz, composer
Hector Berlioz, Composer

One never knows exactly why audiences take to a work or greet it with raised eyebrows. In any case, the opera had only mild reaction but the overture was greeted with a bit more enthusiasm. Still, the entire work never really caught on during his lifetime. He did revisit it, though and even Franz Liszt took interest enough to revive it in Weimar. It was during that time that Berlioz thought it wise to draw a variety of themes from the opera and fashion an overture of a programmatic sort. That overture, Roman Carnival, is a robust medley of brash opening fireworks, a hopeful ballad from the English Horn that wafts infectiously from section to section, and a lively saltarello that builds, ebbs, and builds again into the boisterous finale this concert promises to deliver.

Buckle up.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “From Boisterous to Pastoral” featuring Catherine Carson, winner of the Mary West Solo Competition as soloist for Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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“Musical Milestones” Concert Preview No. 3

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 “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

La Mer by Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, composer

It is always interesting to see how the visual arts and music seem to express themselves similarly through the ages. From the complex nature of Baroque paintings which often sought to render emotion without the benefit of great exaggeration to the suggestive Impressionist period, music seemed to be a willing accomplice at nearly the same times.

Great composers through the years have never been short on imagination. The greatest of those were always sure to compose and imply rather than hit you over the head with an idea. Whereas Renoir and Monet were content to let you do some of the work with your eye and your mind’s eye, so was Claude Debussy (1862-1918).

Active imaginations are occasionally fed by real-life experiences or desires. Debussy, whose father had been a proud member of the French Navy, would remark one day when it became clear that the maritime life was not in the cards, “…I’ve retained a sincere devotion to the sea. To which you’ll reply that the Atlantic doesn’t exactly wash the foothills of Burgundy …! And that the result could be one of those hack landscapes done in the studio! But I have innumerable memories, and those, in my view, are worth more than a reality…” So, perhaps it was a good thing that Debussy’s renderings in his colorful work, La Mer, benefited from what what his mind saw, rather than his eyes.

It can be easily argued that Debussy’s craft here led to the single greatest work of the Impressionist period even though, as often happens, the initial critical reception was not stunning. Even critics who were friendly to the composer could not wrap their brains around what they had just heard in 1905. With our contemporary ears, the salt air, the freshness of a welcome breeze, and the sound of fish playing below the surface is inescapable to the point where Minnesotans may recognize a section that was used to sell local spring water on a television commercial!


Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Musical Milestones featuring Michael Sutton as soloist and conductor for Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 7, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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“Musical Milestones” 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 “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

Imagine a life that consists of working a decent job from 9 to 5, five days a week that has you looking forward to those blessed 2 weeks of vacation. There are promotions, a home upgrade or two, birthdays and graduations… all followed one day by a retirement and perhaps many days of earned fishing trips as you rest your head against the memories of a good life free of frequent drama.

The Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) that had one of the most productive 1954’s imaginable could never have sat still long enough to think of living a life as sedate as the one I described. In fact, this pianist/conductor/composer (put those in any order you like) from Lawrence, Massachusetts, was living a prolific and successful decade — one that could easily be the envy of any musician.

In that decade he composed minor and major works that helped develop the language that was clearly “Lenny” from a melodic and harmonic sense. Peter Pan, Trouble in Tahiti, Wonderful Town, the soundtrack for On the Waterfront and its corresponding orchestral suite, the Serenade for Violin and Orchestra, and finally, West Side Story were written and performed. All this while conducting ubiquitously, as well as being appointed to succeed Serge Koussevitsky as the head of conducting for the Tanglewood Music Festival, and producing television programs designed to educate all of America about classical music’s greatest works. He even allowed Felicia Montealegre to convince him that they should marry. Somehow, in the middle of all this, a collaboration with Lillian Hellman spawned a bitingly cynical bit of theater in 1956 called Candide.

Using Voltaire’s classic story as its basis, Bernstein managed to provide the perfect musical context to the acid-laced words from Hellman’s pen. Getting there was no easy feat, however, as the gallery of musical theater personalities all had different ideas about scenery, timing, and deadlines, and because Hellman had a reputation for taking her time. Of course, Bernstein didn’t help matters by going off to Rome to conduct opera performances with Maria Callas, leading to an interminable gestation for this wild musical child.

With Felicia now pregnant with their second child and bills piling up (the Bernstein’s knew how to spend money but saving it was not a huge priority) it truly is a wonder that the work ever got written. But written it was to tepid reception by the critics. It didn’t gain the respect it would eventually garner until the idea to engage noted Broadway Hal Prince in a much more successful revival in 1974. Prince was merciless in cutting what he felt was a bloated original version down to 105 minutes and preserving only the absolute best of the musical offerings.

The operetta brings to life the misadventures of a Professor Pangloss and his students Candide and his Cunegonde as they search for the best their lives can offer in this “best of all possible worlds.” They endure all manner of absurd hardships only to realize what Dorothy Gale learned with a click of her ruby slippers: After searching for their hearts’ desire, there really is no place like home.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Musical Milestones featuring Michael Sutton as soloist and conductor for Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 7, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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Announcing the 2018-19 Concert Season

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce the 2018-19 concert season, it’s sixth under Music Director and Conductor Manny  Laureano.

October 7, 2018 :: Musical Milestones || BUY TICKETS

November 18, 2018 :: Romantically Yours || BUY TICKETS

February 24, 2019 :: From Boisterous to Pastoral || BUY FLEX TICKETS

May 5, 2019 :: Music in 3D: #6 || BUY FLEX TICKETS

We are excited to perform works ranging from Bach to Bernstein. We hope you will join us for any or all of the season concerts. To learn more, click on the title of the concert and purchase tickets with the link to the right.

You can also click on the images below to download our 2018-19 Season Brochure.

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“Music in 3D: #5” Concert Preview No. 5

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: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

La valse
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

It is a delicious irony of a musical life that Maurice Ravel, an Impressionist composer of colors and atmosphere, was so fastidious in the way he did things. This talented, artistic, bachelor “neat freak” might have easily played the role of Felix Ungar had Neil Simon been around at the time.

If one were to open a score to his atmospheric 2nd Suite to Daphnis and Chloe, the eyes would be immediately met by an array of notes so seemingly complex that one would have to wonder how musicians were able to play the thing at all! So it is with his tribute to (and destruction of) the Viennese waltz of the day, La Valse (1920).

It begins with a quiet grumbling in the basses, divided to trill and then play pizzicati that serve as the heartbeat that gives the waltz it’s first life. You might be tempted to scream out loud “It’s alive!” but hold on, for this is just the beginning. He uses his brilliant understanding of orchestration and mind-numbing detail to create a mist-like veil that is lifted slowly like a sunrise to eventually reveal first light. It’s not really about one waltz but, in the manner of Johann Strauss Jr., it is several waltzes played one after the other, some with smooth transitions and others not.

Originally conceived as a ballet, it has received many, many more performances as a showpiece for orchestras showing off their myriad talents and section sonorities. It is all superbly organized to take both orchestra and listener on what is at first a comfortable ride of sensual swings and loops only to become a demonic exaggeration that ends with a comic punchline in 4/4 rather than three quarter time. Advisedly, I say to be wary of finding any deeper meaning in this music than what it is: taking an emotion to its zenith. That said, when you hear the original theme return… buckle up!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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