The Southern Nevada Symphony Orchestra is a dream fulfilled for its growing number of musicians and their appreciative sold-out audiences. The 3-year-old orchestra has hit its stride. On Saturday, Feb. 18, SNSO performed its winter concert, “Voices of Glory,” at Mesquite’s CasaBlanca Resort Showroom. The venue is the only one in town with stage space, lighting and sound system that can accommodate the burgeoning 70-plus member orchestra.
The guest voices of the concert were three professional operatic tenors, Mark Giovi, Marco Varela and Maximo Marcuso. To the delight of the audience, after singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” they went “off program” to perform Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” a signature piece of legendary tenor, Luciano Pavarotti.
The concert program ranged from classical favorites and a popular circus march to the premiere performance of an original composition, “Praise and Glory,” written expressly for SNSO by composer Tim Olt. Conductor Selmer Spitzer selects a wide variety of music that pleases the audience and features solos by his skilled musicians. Violinist and co-Concertmaster Walter White beguiled all with his solo passages in Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”
True to the concert title, the tenor voices amplified the intensity of Olt’s orchestral work. The three tenors provided the stirring vocal climax to the composition based on Psalm 150, celebrating glory through music. Early in the piece, Pastor Adolf Kunen read the final psalm of King David that calls man to praise God with music and instruments. SNSO and the tenors combined to create an emotional musical experience for the audience. Spitzer has spent over two years working to stage this performance and his pride in all his musicians was evident as he beamed and bowed at its completion.
Another highlight of the evening was an extraordinary soprano saxophone solo by Lindsey O’Connor, performing “Concerto in D Minor” by Alessandro Marcello. Written for oboe and strings, Marcello’s concerto was later transcribed by Bach for the harpsichord and recently transcribed to feature the soprano saxophone. Ms O’Connor deftly performed this engaging Baroque-era classic. O’Connor is a paraprofessional instrument coach with the Clark County School District, which has the largest fine arts department in the US, with over 47,000 students enrolled in secondary music programs. She recently coached the music students at Moapa Valley High School. She also performs with the Red Rock Saxophone Quartet, appearing at Smith Center, Las Vegas, on March 29.
Encouragement of young musicians is part of SNSO’s mission. Co-concertmasters Walter White and William Rhoden are local music instructors, with White teaching at Moapa Valley High School, and Rhoden teaching orchestra and guitar at Hughes Middle School in Mesquite.
Young musicians Lizzbeth Martinez, Andy Tan, David Vogel, Kitana Lopez, Cassadee Reber, and Angelina Langston from the Mesquite schools are full-fledged orchestra musicians. White’s young Moapa Valley student, Jozelynn Guzman, joined the orchestra this season. The young musicians play side-by-side with their adult peers in the orchestra.
With Las Vegas, entertainment capital of the world, just down the road, some might think SNSO would be brimming with professional musicians. That’s not the way SNSO was intended, and it doesn’t characterize the musicians who are unpaid members of the orchestra. Dr. Spitzer, a retired music professor and conductor, put together this community orchestra, drawing musicians of all ages from Mesquite, Moapa Valley, and St. George. With the backing and enthusiastic support of a nucleus of local residents he formed SNSO, focusing on a mission to share their compassion and dedication for music with everyone. Their purpose is to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to experience live music through professional concert performances.
The orchestra’s growth is a remarkable tribute to Spitzer and the high quality of its musicians who are ready and willing to stretch their skills and mastery of multiple instruments. For example, pianist Rita Hermie was a piano instructor for over 20 years, but had only junior high experience in percussion when she was tapped to be the principal musician for that section.
She has also taken on responsibility of arranging and modifying new works tackled by the orchestra.
Music lovers who wish to enjoy this exceptional symphony orchestra should plan to attend their next concert at the CasaBlanca on April 8. See their website at www.snsymphony.com for more information.