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Bemidji Symphony Orchestra to conclude its 85th anniversary season April 28

BEMIDJI — The stage will be packed when the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra concludes its 85th anniversary season on Sunday, April 28, as the symphony will be joined by about 80 vocalists on stage.

The orchestra will be joined by soloist Jason Thoms and three area choirs to perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Five Mystical Songs” in the 3 p.m. concert at the Bemidji High School Auditorium.

Also on the song list is the challenging “Enigma Variations” by British composer Edward Elgar.

Tickets may be purchased online at

bemidjisymphony.org,

at both Lueken’s Village Foods locations or at the door. They are priced at $27 for adults, $22 for seniors 62 and older, and $10 for college students with ID. Students in grades K-12 will be admitted free of charge.

Thoms, a music professor at Bismarck State College in North Dakota, is a Grammy-nominated bass-baritone who has performed around the world. He also conducts the Dakota Pro Musica choir which performed “Considering Matthew Shepard” with the BSO in October.

Jason Thoms.jpeg
Grammy-nominated bass-baritone Jason Thoms will be the guest soloist at the Bemidji Symphony Orchestra concert on Sunday, April 28.

Contributed

“Jason is a wonderful colleague,” said BSO music director Beverly Everett. “We were at a coffee shop last year brainstorming, and he suggested ‘Five Mystical Songs.’ I said I would ask our area choirs if they would be interested, and if so that would be extra celebratory.”

Those choirs are the Bemidji Chorale, the Bemidji Choir from BSU, and the Park Rapids Classic Chorale. The Bemidji Chorale will include “Five Mystical Songs” in its concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 21, at Bangsberg Performing Arts Complex.

Everett said coordinating the Vaughn Williams piece with three area choirs is not as demanding as other big choral songs she has included such as Handel’s “Messiah” and requiems by Brahms and Verdi.

“This definitely requires that level of preparation by the choirs,” she said, “but I feel like it’s one that maybe doesn’t require me to be in front of them as much as some of the other pieces have. So I’m really entrusting it to their directors to get them all set so we can put it together when we have combined rehearsals next week.”

Thoms, a fifth-generation professional musician, has been singing Orthodox choral music for more than 10 years. He was one of three featured soloists on Benedict Sheehan’s “Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,” which was nominated for a 2022 Grammy in the Best Choral Performance category.

Thoms has been a professional conductor for more than 25 years. In 2017, he made his Carnegie Hall main stage debut when he served as artistic director and festival conductor for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation Hymn Festival. He has conducted ensembles in 49 states, Canada, Germany and Italy.

Everett is challenging herself and the BSO on the “Enigma Variations” piece. It’s her first time conducting what she calls an “epic” piece.

“It’s long, and it’s incredibly difficult for the orchestra,” Everett said. The piece was originally on the orchestra’s 2020 spring program that was canceled because of Covid.

She said audiences are often complimentary about her adventurous programming in Bemidji, but orchestra members can be skeptical about their ability to perform the difficult pieces.

“It’s almost a feeling of the music being a little beyond their reach,” Everett said. “But I’ve programmed that way for Bemidji since I’ve been there, and we’ve always risen to the occasion no matter what. I feel like it’s time for us to do this piece.”

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.


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