For its second production of the annual WinterArts festival, the artistic community of Fargo-Moorhead has chosen to highlight the life, works and influence of William Shakespeare, the famed English playwright and poet.

This year’s festival opens with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra’s third concert of their Masterworks Concert Series, titled “Romeo & Juliet.”

“We’ve never done a program with all ‘Romeo and Juliet’-themed pieces,” said Linda Boyd, executive director of the symphony. “Each one is famous in its own right, and hearing them back to back will be really extraordinary.”

Sticking to the Shakespeare theme, on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m., a recital from the symphony’s Chamber Music Series will feature Concordia faculty Deb Harris and Annett Richter performing music of the Elizabethan period, while symphony cellist Bill Comita will perform “After Reading Shakespeare” composed by Ned Rorem. This will take place at the Bluestem Center for the Arts.

Theatre B, which is collaborating with the symphony, will perform a variety of theatrical productions concurrently throughout the duration of Shakespearefest, most notably, a production of Bill Cain’s “Equivocation,” a play that Concordia faculty David Wintersteen describes as having a “beautiful, interesting and evocative script.” On Theatre B’s website, Wintersteen said “I love that this play puts Shakespeare into a historical context, and it puts Macbeth into a political and social context.”

Boyd said the collaboration should bring out the best of both mediums.

“We’re really excited because we’re partnering with Theatre B,” said Boyd. “We’ll have actors in the concert hall reading scenes from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ interspersed between movements.”

The program will feature works inspired by Shakespeare and composed by Sergei Prokofiev, Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, and Leonard Bernstein, alongside the premiere of a newly composed work for the symphony by Concordia faculty Dan Breedon.

“I worked on it the entire summer, but my mind was still revising up until the minute I turned it in,” Breedon said about “Heart’s Ease,” his new piece. “I was thinking, ‘How can I make this more effective? How can I do that better?’”

Breedon said having composed for Concordia’s ensembles and faculty alike, this premiere with the symphony came as a decidedly challenging undertaking.

“I was trying not to have [other composers] in mind, and I had more difficulty writing this piece than any piece I’ve ever written because I couldn’t fall back on the things I do easily. I had to be so careful to plan the overall form and its movement to high emotional intensity. I had to find the perfect setup.”

According to Breedon, the title of the piece comes from a drinking tune mentioned in Shakespeare’s play.

“I thought this was a very odd choice — why not a sad song?” Breedon said. “Until I realized that Shakespeare, ever the psychologist, understood well the power music can have to shield us, if even temporarily, from emotional turmoil by reminding us of things familiar, and a happiness of days passed.”

The symphony will perform these works Jan. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the symphony’s website, http://fmsymphony.org, or by contacting the symphony office at 701-478-3676. Student rush tickets will be available an hour prior to each performance for $5 with student ID.

The Theatre B production of Cain’s “Equivocation” will run from Feb. 5 to Feb. 28. Tickets are available at http://theatreb.org or by contacting Theatre B’s box office at 701-729-8880.

 

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