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

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

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

Harry Potter Enchantment: In Concert with the Nashville Symphony

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Concert with the Nashville Symphony

Musical magic filled the air at the Schemerhorn Symphony Center as the Nashville Symphony performed John William’s musical score to accompany the full-length film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. On Friday, January 6, a bus carrying 27 Central College students and me along with director Mitchell Lutch arrived in Nashville from Pella, Iowa, together with snow, snarled traffic, and single digit temperatures.  No matter, for the group, members of the College’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble, came to town to perform and sightsee, and the opening night of the tour couldn’t have been more thrilling as we attended a special “Harry Potter … Read more

Central College Christmas Candlelight Concert Cheers Community

The Friday night concert of the 42nd Annual Christmas Candlelight Concert at Central College in Pella, Iowa combined handbells, two choirs, the College Community Orchestra, and audience participation in an enjoyable mix of sacred and classical music.  This was my first time attending one of the three Candlelight Concerts presented each December by the Music Department of Central College: Friday and Saturday night performances on campus and a Thursday night performance at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. I purchased my ticket online which was very convenient; however, when I arrived to pick up my ticket at the “will call” … Read more

9 Tunes from Sousa to Shostakovich: The Southeast Iowa Band Sparkles in Fairfield, Iowa

Performing selections ranging from Sousa’s energetic The Thunderer march to Henry Mancini’s iconic Tango Americano and closing with the seductive Danzon No. 2 , the Southeast Iowa Band under the baton of Robert McConnell wowed its audience Sunday afternoon as part of the Sondheim Chamber Music Spotlight Series. First, a confession: I was unaware of the Southeast Iowa Band (SEIB) until I saw an email advertising this concert. I also had never set foot in the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover both the modern style and supurb acoustics of … Read more

Elvis Lives! Rockin’ with the Philly Pops, Dave Bennett, and Allison Blackwell

The King lived again in October as the Philadelphia Pops presented the World Premiere of “Elvis: The King’s Songbook” at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.  Featured artists Dave Bennett and his Quartet, along with vocalist Allison Blackwell, had the crowd singing and dancing along with their unique interpretations of classic Elvis tunes backed by orchestration performed by the superb Philly Pops’ musicians. When I learned about a month ago that one of my favorite musicians, Dave Bennett, would be performing an evening of Elvis tunes in conjunction with the Philadelphia Pops (and a “world premiere” performance to boot), … Read more