Symphony Orchestra opens with bang at the annual Pops concert

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Thunderous bass drums and applause signaled the beginning of the Dixie State University Symphony Orchestra’s performance season at the Ancestor Square Friday night.

Under the direction of Paul Abegg, symphony conductor and associate professor of music, the orchestra performed its annual Pops concert to a crowd of hundreds.

The event began with a rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and the crowd saluting the flag at half-staff to honor recent flood victims.

The arrangement of musical selections included familiar patriotic tunes, a “James Bond,” movie theme compilation, Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” and a preview of its Halloween-themed show.

Abegg said he was thrilled for the symphony’s debut performance. The orchestra normally has five weeks of preparation, but this year it only had three.

“It’s impressive that this early in the semester we can have something ready to go,” he said. “It is ambitious, but the orchestra always rises to the occasion.”

   This is the second year DSU and the city of St. George have partnered to produce the family-friendly event for southern Utah music lovers.

Among the evening’s highlights was a preview of “Danse Macabre,” by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, which will be performed during its first concert on campus Oct. 24.

“Something unique about this piece is the composer calls for the violinist to mistune the instrument to give it that demonic sound in the opening,” Abegg said.

Cassidy Jones, a sophomore music major from Leeds, was concertmaster for the evening and played the violin solo for the song.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “I like [‘Danse Macabre,’] because it’s different. It’s kind of scary sounding.”

Jones said she was excited for the night that marked her return to the stage. She suffered a work-related injury to her left arm two months before the end of her freshman year at DSU, which severed nerves and an artery, and nearly ended her musical career. 

After a long recovery process and serving a mission for her church, she said Friday’s concert was especially important to her.

Jones said she would like anyone who plays a musical instrument to know they are welcome to join the orchestra.

“It’s something that is so much fun and enjoyable, even if you are not a music major,” she said.

The DSSO will perform five more major performances throughout the school year, including a Christmas concert combined with the choir. It will feature a special reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” by Kristin Williams, President Biff Willliams’ wife.

The orchestra requires six hours of rehearsals every week and countless hours of practice.

“There is always one little thing that can be fixed,” Abegg said. “But when you get to the time of the performance, the intent isn’t the details and the mechanics; it’s the music and the feelings.”

“[DSSO] is fun to listen to,” he said. “[It does] great concerts and we want students to come.”

DSSO’s next performance is Oct. 24 at the Cox Auditorium.