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Forte: 'One Thousand and One Nights' approaches

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The Yakima Symphony Orchestra wind and horn sections pictured in March 2018.

In one week, the musicians of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra will begin to gather at The Capitol Theatre to put final touches on the first program of the 2019-20 season, “One Thousand and One Nights.”

As the season title suggests, each YSO concert this season will have its own story to tell — and, like the stories from the original “Arabian Nights,” many of those stories will be woven of similar thread, taking a plot line from a previous story and spinning it out slightly differently, or introducing new characters to a familiar setting.

One recurring theme, appropriate to the initial Pops program, “Great Ladies of Swing,” but also at the heart of Maestro Lawrence Golan’s design of the Classical Series, is the influence of women composers in a field historically dominated by (and indeed reserved for) men.

Felix Mendelssohn has been cited as one of the most naturally gifted composers in the “classical” tradition, but his sister Fanny was every bit as talented as a composer and performer, and in March we will hear her Overture in C. In the same concert, we will be treated to the performing and compositional talents of YSO’s own principal clarinetist, Angelique Poteat, as well as the stunning artistry of violinist Denise Dillenbeck, whose solos as YSO concertmaster in Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” are among the most difficult and celebrated in the repertoire.

Certainly these roles and careers would have been unthinkable for women in Mendelssohn’s time, and we can only imagine how musical thought and traditions might have developed differently if that were not the case.

Another storyline intersecting the Classical and Pops series programs involves the complex web of influences among composers. Aaron Copland appears twice on this YSO season, and his music has come to be nearly synonymous with the “American sound.” He studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, where he was struck that his French colleagues were writing music that “sounded French” (as we’ll hear on a September program); meanwhile, those same French colleagues were becoming enchanted with American jazz (including the crossover works of George Gershwin, who appears on a February program).

There also are stories connected to the process of preparing and performing these concerts, as you know if you have watched this space over the past several months when YSO musicians have shared their unique relationships to the music they perform. In the end, it is the actual experience of the music in live performance, together in the concert hall with musicians and audience, that leaves the lasting imprint. But these threads and stories can provide a common context and language that enriches our understanding of that experience, and we look forward to sharing them with you in the coming months.

• David Rogers is executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Learn more at

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