Hello friends and music lovers,
Welcome to my Blog! I am new at this, so please bare with me as I find my way to connect with you and have you come back and continue reading my stories. I look forward to sharing with you some insights about my musical life. My blog entries will vary in lengths, so be assured that they will not all be this long…meanwhile…here is my first story.
Jackson is a wonderful city to live in and it is the center of the dance world every 4 years for two weeks in June. It was this last June that we welcomed over 100 young dancers from around the world, who came to compete at the USA International Ballet Competition. It was first started in Jackson in 1979 by Ms. Thalia Mara, who was a ballerina and a great visionary. She had a wonderful and long-ranging vision of Jackson being the home for the USA International Ballet Competition every 4 years. Her dream came true when in 1982 President Ronald Reagan signed an official declaration choosing Jackson as the USA designated city to host IBC. We, Jacksonians are very proud to live in the American city that was chosen for this extraordinary honor!
Let me tell you a little about the IBC from the musician’s perspective, since many of you may have attended the competition as an audience member and don’t see much behind the scenes. We met our conductor, Maestra Ramona Pansegrau about a week before the opening ceremony and rehearsed the music for that opening concert. The excitement was mounting as we read through all of our pieces for the ceremony. It was not a long program of repertoire, but quite demanding on all of us, because we not only had to perform alone as an orchestra, but also rehearse with the guest dancers from the renowned Joffrey Ballet. First, we read an exciting piece by Carl Maria von Weber, the famous overture called “The invitation to the dance” (very appropriate). I believe this piece has always been done for this event. I don’t know if there is a better piece of music to get everyone in the mood for what’s to come at IBC. It is charming, full of lilt and grace, but also quite dramatic with full orchestra playing with lots of bravura. The other pieces on the program included Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No. 4, Tchaikovsky’s movement from “Swan Lake” Suite, Khachaturian’s incredibly beautiful Adagio from Spartakus and finally the intense and amazingly beautiful Mahler’s Adagietto from the Symphony No. 5. It was not an easy task to be able to play it the way the dancers requested, but I believe the result was beautiful and we had a lovely audience reception.
Ms. Ramona was very knowledgable about ballet music and familiar with playing for dancers, so we all trusted her to lead us to do a good job. Since we didn’t know each other very well (Ms. Ramona came to us from Kansas City Ballet), we wanted to make sure we did a great job for the dancers and everyone in attendance. It also turns out that the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra is the only live orchestra among the 4 other IBC locations around the world and MSO is also not a full-time ballet orchestra. That fact alone shows our orchestra in a special light since playing for the ballet is a very difficult task and takes a mighty talented and dedicated group of musicians to successfully pull it off. I feel very lucky to be part of MSO and proud to be one of its leaders. In the end, the Opening Ceremony was a lovely combination of music, presentations by Mayor C.A. Lumumba and other dignitaries, all 100 competitors presenting their country’s flags, and lots of wonderful dancing! It was definitely the night to remember!