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Symphony kicks off 100th with impeccable style


The golden 1-0-0-shaped balloons bordered Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center's stage Saturday evening, setting the scene as Hays Symphony Orchestra led off its hundredth season with a celebration of century-old music.

From Sousa to Stravinsky, the symphony -- under the direction of Benjamin Cline, Jeff Jordan and Lane Weaver -- brought to life tunes that have echoed through the decades and introduced a new piece commissioned by Hays Symphony Guild in honor of the symphony's 100th year.

"Hays, America," composed by Jeffrey Bishop of Kansas City and performed by the Hays Symphony Orchestra, encapsulated the Hays of a century ago, depicting a community of immigrants who worked to build their lives on a remote expanse of prairie.

Beginning with a beckoning call of a single flute then answered by trumpet and oboe, "Hays, America" transitioned quickly to a bustling, busy selection reminiscent of a western movie soundtrack. Imagining before the concert what "Hays, America," might sound like, I was pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't a polka.

The orchestra's tribute to Irving Berlin hit such all-time favorites as "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" and "Puttin' on the Ritz." The lively, lyrical tunes took listeners back to the entertainment business's glory days. And while the symphony's impeccable performance was a delight, there likely were a few audience members who heard, from the recesses of their mind, the haunting voice of Ethel Merman, just waiting to be unleashed.

Joining the evening's musical offerings, the High Plains Barbershop Chorus, under the direction of Bill Scott, charmed the audience. The group brought back memories with "Old Man River," and "Alexander's Ragtime Band" showing enthusiasm for the art of barbershop as clear as their ringing harmonies. They even snuck in a few snappy choreographed dance moves just for good measure.

Saturday's symphony opener was a fitting tribute to the timelessness of exceptional music, composers and performers. From the dreamlike adventure of Stravinsky's Berceuse and "Finale from 'Firebird' " to the stirring patriotic "Armed Forces Salute," each selection showcased the talents of Hays' dedicated symphony members and the legacy of the Hays Symphony Guild, which has supported the group.

There's much more for listeners to look forward to in the months ahead. Coming up at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26, the symphony's string ensemble will perform at First Presbyterian Church, 29th and Hall.

The Young Artist Competition, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Beach/Schmidt, will feature non-pianists.

Wrapping up the season will be the masterwork concert at 2:30 p.m. May 4 at Beach/Schmidt.

Dawne Leiker is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News. dpleiker@fhsu.edu