Two Area Orchestras Come Together for ‘Symphonic Spectacular’


by News Bureau on Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 17, 2013 – The Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra will present its final concert of the season, “Symphonic Spectacular,” at 7:30 p.m. April 29 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

The concert will feature the combined sounds of the symphony orchestras of Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois together on stage, forming one large symphony orchestra.

The program will include the world premiere of the composition, “Two Brothers: A Musical Remembrance of Families Divided by the Civil War,” composed by the notable American composer, James Stephenson. Stephenson has had recent commissions from the Houston Symphony and Minnesota orchestras and has written works for trumpet player Branford Marsalis as well as principal players of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Stephenson’s arrangements have been performed, recorded and broadcast by virtually every major orchestra in the country, including the Boston Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, and New York Pops, among others.

A special narration for this composition will be provided by Christopher Goeke, chair of the Department of Music, and Frank Nickell, director of the State Historical Research Center in Cape Girardeau who recently retired from a 43-year tenure of teaching at Southeast.

The program will open with the rousing prelude to “Die Meistersinger,” by German composer Richard Wagner. This overture to his opera contains a number of tunes Wagner develops throughout the opera itself.

Next on the program will be the “Afro-American” symphony, by African-American composer, William Grant Still. Still was the first African-American composer to break through many racial barriers in the early 20th century by being the first African-American composer to have significant works performed by major American orchestras and opera companies and the first African-American to conduct a major American orchestra. His “Afro-American” symphony, composed in 1931, has as its inspiration extracts from poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar, the son of a Kentucky slave who was one of the first African-American poets to gain widespread acclaim. The symphony mirrors the poetry of Dunbar in its deep expression of sorrow and hope for a brighter future.

The second half of the concert will open with the world premiere of “’Two Brothers,” by Stephenson. The work was commissioned by a consortium of orchestras, with the Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra as its lead members. Other consortium members include the Owensboro, Westmont College and Yakima symphony orchestras.

According to program notes supplied by the composer, “’Two Brothers’ is a narrative tone poem telling the story of many families divided in allegiance during the bloodiest battle in U.S. history, the Civil War. The references in the narration cite many documented occurrences such as the Halsey brothers, the Culp brothers, the McIntosh brothers and a father who shot his very own son in the heat of battle. To support these heartbreaking tales, poetry is chosen from the era, including those penned by Whitman, Dickinson and others as well as diary entries from Union soldier Edmund Halsey. Also woven into the music are many musical elements from the day, including the Rebel Yell itself, bugle calls, camp songs and spirit songs from both sides of the conflict.”

The concert will conclude with the delightful and energetic “Capriccio Italien,” by the great Romantic composer, Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

The concert will be conducted by Southeast Professor of Music Sara Edgerton and Ed Benyas, professor in the School of Music at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. A pre-concert talk will be held at 6:45 p.m. in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall, which will be free to ticket holders of the performance.


Tickets may be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by calling (573) 651–2265. Tickets may also be purchased online at