From The Times Record News - Wichita, KS - October 30, 2004|
'Giant' performance by symphony Saturday night
David slew Goliath with the wave of a conductor's wand Saturday night, as David Amram took to the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra podium as guest composer and conductor.
His "Giants of the Night," a concerto for flute and orchestra, was performed for only its third time, and Wichita Falls symphony-goers were there to witness its gargantuan success.
Some may have attended wondering how Amram would pack an Allegro con Brio dedicated to Charlie Parker, an Andante Cantabile penned for the conductor's friend and famous author Jack Kerouac and an Allegro con Gioia in memory of Dizzy Gillespie into one symphonic performance. Such naysayers were brought to their knees with the first pebble of sound from Wichita Falls native Pamela Youngblood's flute.
Commissioned and premiered by famous Irish flutist SirJames Galway, "Giants of the Night" is the musical voice of its movements' namesakes. The concerto was previously performed by the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans and by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in Pittsburgh. No doubt this Giant won't sleep long before being resurrected for even more performances.
"This is a piece to celebrate the different styles of art as well as the friendship of these three great people I met in my youth," Amram told the audience. He said Charlie Parker taught him in 1952 that he could play jazz on a French horn, and be a symphonic composer as well. He also mentioned Kerouac's and Gillespie's influences when performing with them in ensuing years, summing up with a description of the three movements as "a contribution to the orchestral repetoire, which is what Sir James Galway hoped that we could do together."
The most moving portion was devoted to Kerouac. That poet's journeys across the plains, through the Deep South and across the mountains of America's Midwest became painted landscapes through the voice of Youngblood's flute. Kerouac' s knack for merging cultural voices into a landscape of poetic rhythms and blues and syncopation and primal screams were echoed in the passage dedicated to him. This majestic movement wrapped sounds around all the world that Kerouac tried to wrap his own arms around.
Amram also led the orchestra in a set of themes and variations on "Red River Valley." Again the sounds of Youngblood's flute filled the air. If birds were watching the Red River Valley couple saying their sad ados, this is what they would sing.
Amram told the audience that Pamela Youngblood was "a composer's dream to work with." It was obvious that each individual in the Wichita Falls symphony felt the same way about this man -- who brought them a giant of a piece and led them in performing it with gigantic success.