Des Moines Symphony’s Season Finale Soars

Des Moines Symphony American Gothic and Bolero

The Des Moines Symphony ended its 2016-2017 season with a (percussive) bang with works by Hindemith and Ravel bookending the world premiere of a commissioned video accompaniment to the Grant Wood-inspired American Gothic for Orchestra followed by cellist Matt Haimovitz’s brilliant performance of Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor. The Symphony, conducted by Joseph Giunta, concluded its 79th season May 14, 2017, with the seventh program in its Masterworks Subscription Series. The concert was recorded for later broadcast on Iowa Public Radio Classical on June 18-19 (http://iowapublicradio.org/post/2015-symphonies-iowa-listing-full-top-notch-concerts). In the meantime, however, this video teaser produced by the Symphony gives … Read more

Spring it on, Des Moines Botanical Garden!

Approach to the Des Moines Botanical Garden

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Iowa’s capital city to enjoy the natural wonders hidden within the geodesic dome and walled gardens of the Des Moines Botanical Garden. The Des Moines’ downtown area has plenty to offer the casual visitor, even on a Sunday afternoon when government offices and many businesses are closed. This past Mother’s Day I found myself in the city with time to spare before a symphony concert at the Civic Center, so I was able to explore the Springtime offerings at the Des Moines Botanical Garden. It was only my second visit to the … Read more

7 Things the Jack Daniel Distillery Doesn’t Do

Jack Daniel Distillery Tennessee Whiskey tasting

The Jack Daniel Distillery, located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, only 46 miles (74 km) from Huntsville, Alabama and 74 miles (119 km) from Nashville, is the oldest registered distillery in the United States. On its hilly tree-covered grounds—in a dry county, no less, which prohibits most sales of alcohol—you’ll find an informative museum where you can sign up for tours that take you through the entire Tennessee whiskey making process, ending with an opportunity to sample variations of the smooth whiskey itself. As maker of the top-selling whiskey in the world—Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Label Tennessee Whiskey—the distillery uses … Read more

Jazzing the Night Away: Luther College Jazz Band and SuperLutherSax Combo Wows Campus Crowd

Luther College Jazz Band, Ben Ostrem soloist

The Luther College Jazz Band, under the direction of Jon Ailabouni, gave a solid performance Saturday evening, April 29, 2017, in the Center for Faith and Life on campus in Decorah, Iowa. The eight-member SuperLutherSax ensemble also entertained the audience with three jazz standards. An excellent video of the entire performance is available at Luther College’s website; just click the link below: Luther College Jazz Band Performance April 29, 2017 The performance opened with the bouncy tune Moose the Mooche written by Charlie Parker and arranged by Lennie Niehaus. This melody featured the five-member-strong saxophone section, consisting of Ben Rieckhoff … Read more

Digging the Rhythms of the “America’s Roots of Pop” Concert Featuring the Dave Bennett Quartet

The Dave Bennett Quartet: Tad Weed (piano), Kurt Krahnke (bass), Dave Bennett (guitar), Pete Siers (drums)

Covering music from a wide swath of the 20th Century—starting with the jazzy instrumental tunes of Benny Goodman and Count Basie through the rockabilly rhythms of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis right up to the legendary styles of Johnny Cash and the Beatles—the Dave Bennett Quartet’s intensity and enthusiasm shone brightly in this 2-hour concert, part of the Mitchell County (Iowa) Concert Association’s 2016-2017 Season. The 2 1/2 hour drive through steady rain to the northern Iowa town of Osage (not far from the Minnesota border) proved tedious, but the treasure at the end of the road spurred … Read more

Fantastic! Des Moines Symphony’s enchanting performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique

Des Moines Symphony

Led by Conductor Joseph Giunta, the Des Moines Symphony’s Masterworks 6 concert “Beyond the Score: Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ coupled an educational, multimedia program with the full performance of this 5-movement symphony that showcased the orchestra’s excellent woodwind section. Outside it was just another gray and rainy April afternoon, but inside the spacious Des Moines Civic Center the audience at the April 2 matinee concert was treated to over two hours of musical entertainment which included the multimedia program “Beyond the Score” produced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. My first stop was the Concert Prelude Talk given by Arlene DeVries in … Read more

March Madness in February: The music of “March King” Karl L. King in Concert

Barnum & Bailey Circus Band, 1917, Karl L. King Conductor

The Karl L. King Municipal Band of Fort Dodge presented a technically impressive concert of King’s compositions as well as a couple of tunes showcasing cornetist Tim Miller, all under the direction of Conductor Jerrold P. Jimmerson and Assistant Conductor Dr. David Klee. On a recent Sunday afternoon I drove the 150 miles from my home to Fort Dodge, Iowa, enjoying record high temperatures with the top down on my convertible as I sped along northwest on Interstates 80 and 35 and state highway 20, where empty fields stretched on both sides of the roadway as far as my eyes … Read more

Valentine’s Day gifts for your beloved music lover

It’s your choice: you can spend a lot of money on music-themed Valentine’s Day gifts, or you can be creative and personalize an experience for your Significant Other for little or no outlay.  Either way, on this day the cliche “It’s the thought that counts” is certainly true! Cheap thrills (free to less than $30) The gift of time. Take off the afternoon or the entire day, ditch the cell phones, and spend some uninterrupted time together listening to music. Let your S.O. pick the tunes and the food to order in. Create a playlist of “your” songs. Bonus points … Read more

Oscar nominees for Best Original Score 2017

LA LA LAND movie Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

Granted, this post involved travel only insofar as I drove to various movie theaters to watch the Oscar nominated films. That technicality aside, I have to admit there’s something incredibly magical about the way a soundtrack, or even a single song, evokes the essence of a movie years or even decades after you’ve seen the film (I think of Star Wars, Out of Africa, the James Bond films…). Here is this year’s list of nominees culled from http://oscar.go.com/nominees/ : MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) Jackie (click on title for trailer) Music by Mica Levi   La La Land   Music by Justin Hurwitz   Lion  Music … Read more

3 B’s + 4 Saxes = Des Moines Symphony’s Cathedral of Sound Concert

Des Moines Symphony Cathedrals of Sound concert

Under the lively baton of guest conductor JoAnn Falletta, the Des Moines Symphony ably performed selections from Brahms, Bruckner, and Bolcom during the 4th Program of the 2016-2017 Masterworks Subscription Series. A special treat featured the Oasis Quartet made up of saxophonists from Iowa, Texas, and Ohio. Winter Sunday afternoons are tailor-made for classical concerts, and this Sunday proved no exception as the auditorium of the Des Moines Civic Center echoed with the sound of strings, brass, and percussion, intermixed with the amazing sax sounds of the Oasis Quartet. After snagging a “Back In” parking space on a nearby street … Read more