KEARNEY – Kearney Symphony Orchestra will open its 117th season next week by premiering a piece that showcases the talents of several University of Nebraska at Kearney faculty members.
The orchestra, comprised of UNK students, faculty and alumni and other musicians from across the area, will present “Exploring Horizons” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in UNK’s Fine Arts Recital Hall. The performance features two celebrated orchestral works – Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, commonly known as the “Unfinished Symphony,” and the “Triumphal March” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” – as well as a world premiere from composer Robert Gross.
“Modlin Songs,” the new work by Gross, includes three songs inspired by poems from UNK associate professor and Reynolds Chair of Poetry Brad Modlin. Each poem – “Irises,” “My Cousin Sets Me Up with the Woman She’s Sure Is the One” and “The Neutron Bomb, Afterward” – is about love and anxiety.
“As with many of the poems I like to write and read, these are both light and dark, a little bit embarrassed, a little bit amazed,” Modlin explained.
Using Modlin’s poetry as lyrics, the songs will be performed by UNK faculty soloists Sharon O’Connell Campbell, mezzo-soprano; David Nabb, saxophone; and Nathan Buckner, piano.
“I feel like each movement has a character who has a vivid inner dialogue, as is reflected in the text,” said Kearney Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor Alison Gaines, an assistant professor and Ronald J. Crocker Chair of Orchestra at UNK. “There are moments that have melodies and harmonies that sound like popular music that you hear on the radio, moments that remind me of film music, plus many more moments of contemporary classical music. Each of these moments and movements is inspired by the text – the inner dialogue of each character.”
Both Gaines and Modlin are grateful to Gross for composing a piece that combines multiple art forms and academic areas.
“I’ve enjoyed hearing Robert Gross’ original compositions before, and I’m honored by what he has done,” Modlin said. “It will be a wonderful surprise to hear these poems, to hear how Gross and the musicians create emotion through music. I know what’s there when I read the poems to myself or an audience, but what new layers of meaning might music bring? What don’t I know about my own words? I’m excited to hear and see how the vocalist interprets them.”
Individual tickets for the in-person performance are $13 for adults, $10 for UNK faculty and staff, $5 for youths ages 11-18 and free for children 10 and younger and UNK students with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased at the UNK Theatre Box Office from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour prior to the performance.
Audience members are invited to a “Pre-Concert Talk” with Gross and the Rev. John Gosswein from 6:30-7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building, Room 263. The “Pre-Concert Talk” is free and open to all concertgoers.
For those who cannot attend in person, the concert will be livestreamed on the KSO website – unk.edu/kso – where you can also access a digital concert program and listen to “Intermission Interviews” with Gross and Modlin.