From The Sunday World-Herald (Omaha, NE), Oct. 19. 1986

From Bach to 'American Suite'

Symphony's 'Discoveries' Are Success

By Kyle MacMillan
World Herald Staff Writer

The Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra took on an ambitious program Saturday night, and for the most part performed it successfully.

The program ranged from Bach to contemporary American music. Bruce Hangen, music director and conductor, said in his introduction that the "element of discovery was so much a part of this program."

The highlight of the evening was the world premiere of David Amram's "American Dance Suite." The orchestra performed at its peak as it played the 15-minute piece, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

Before the piece, Hangen invited Amram on stage to comment on his work. "This won't be the first and last performance of this piece, thank heavens," Amram said.

'Celebration of Culture'

He said he will conduct the piece -- which he described as a "celebration of our American musical culture -- with the Montreal and Toronto symphonies.

Amram brought a Cheyenne flute to play the round dance motif from the first movement of the suite and a penny whistle to play a few bars of the Irish jig from the third movement.

Because of the history of the American Indian culture in the Omaha area, Amram said he chose Cheyenne music for the first movement of the piece.

He used a Cheyenne round dance, a hand-game song and two war dances. He developed these melodic lines and played them off each other using classical musical devices.

Slow Dancing

For the second movement, Amram said, he tried to produce the mood of slow dancing to the blues. He did this, be explained, not by using traditional blues rhythms and harmonies but with his own dissonant, uneasy, and poignant harmonies.

The lusty, ebullient third movement started out with a nine-count slip jig called the "Irish Fox Hunt." He then introduced some Cajun folk music that he said had its origins in Brittany.

Amram juxtaposed the two melodic themes contrapuntally and then brought back the Cheyenne theme for the final tour de force.


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