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Two Noteworthy Musicians Honored by SSO for Their Contributions to Orchestrate a Musical Community

South Shore Orchestra traveled the Middle East and the Egyptian dessert without ever leaving Valparaiso on a recent weekend performance in VUCA. Their audience and special guests were treated to an amazing performance of adventuresome and illustrious music that transported them to the pyramids and the tale of One Thousand and One Nights. The evening was highlighted by the recognition of two extraordinary musicians—one global and one local—for their lifetime achievements and personal footprints of unique contribution in the world of music.

President Pete Brannen with Maestro Troy Webdell created the South Shore Orchestra Lifetime Achievement Award to honor those who assist in orchestrating and educating a musical community through the richness and diversity of music, a mainstay of the SSO mission. Halim El Dabh and Florence Long were the first recipients of this award. Both were honored and presented with plaques at SSO’s season concert debut of Footprints in the Sand on June 3rd.

The evening began with the dynamic, percussive sound molded by composer Halim El-Dabh, noted ethno-musicologist from Kent State University. He is celebrated in the world of music for a lifetime of recording historic and cultural sound through global travel, then transforming into a unique symphonic narrative for musicians seeking challenge in transporting their audiences to new understanding through music. He is appealing to those studying and composing contemporary music, for his enthusiastic outlook and creative ingenuity.

Webdell had conducted an earlier piece by El Dabh and was intrigued by the possibility of designing an entire SSO performance focused on the intrigue of Middle Eastern culture. El Dabh’s cultural narrative was woven through three challenging symphonic pieces. It is just that type of challenge that intrigues charter SSO member Florence Long—something she has done throughout her lifetime with participation with multiple regional symphony and chamber groups, music education and violin performance for seventy years. During a recent rehearsal she smiled as she pointed out some particularly tricky twists in the Bacchanalia piece adding “this is what makes it interesting!”. Florence is also charter member of NISO. Brannen commended her for her dedication and commitment to enhance and inform through music and ever-supportive participation.

A piece co-composed by Charles Coven and El Dabh, added another animated cultural accent to the evening when Middle Eastern Dance Artist Asali Naimah, transfixed the crowd as she visually orchestrated the enticing percussive tempo and rhythm of The Belly Dance Classic, making the audience even more convinced of their “magical carpet tour” of the evening.

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The remainder of the program wove the dramatic tale of Scheherazade. “Lovely and visually cinematic” commented one fan Virginia Oram, VU music faculty member agreed that the Scheherazade was incredibly performed while violinist Stan Shepard was glad to have had the opportunity to play the Rimsky-Korsakov composition. Shepard added ”You used to hear this beautiful piece often, but it’s very refreshing to revisit!”. Maestro Troy Webdell commended the orchestra later in the week, “Thank you to each of you for an outstanding concert on Friday!! I think our performance of Scheherazade raised the orchestra to a new level of excellence!

The evening concluded with a free dessert reception at Pikk’s Tavern where Halim was serenaded with violin and a cheerful chorus of orchestra members and their families to honor his 90th birthday. Blackbird Café provided desserts.

The next chapter of SSO’s 2011 Global Expressions season include a Hovhaness Celebration of the Armenian American composer’s 100th anniversary on Friday, October 21 at Ivy Tech Auditorium Theater and Evita, a Unity Concert with over 300 musicians performing one of the world’s most beloved musicals in concert version at Highland High School on November 11th.

SSO will depart for Shanghai China as guests of the Confucius Institute on December 26th to perform six concerts throughout three provinces, returning on January 4th. Join SSO in their journey though music and culture! Visit their website for more information at southshoreorchestra.com.

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