NORMAN — A celebration of near epic proportions unfolded Sunday afternoon as the newly organized Norman Philharmonic performed its inaugural concert at the Nancy O'Brian Performing Arts Center.
There were words of thanks for people and organizations that helped make this chamber orchestra possible, an expensive undertaking made all the more momentous when one considers it happened during a less than stellar economic
But the arts have always made their collective voices heard, and this 40-piece ensemble had a lot to say. The event opened in laudatory fashion with a fanfare played by seven trumpets from the front edge of the balcony.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of an ensemble such as this is its chance to play repertoire that large symphony orchestras might not always embrace. Ably conducted by Richard Zielinski, this concert celebrated the grandeur of the classical period, 1920s jazz, excerpts from a Pulitzer Prize winner and the world premieres of the “Norman Anthem” and a symphony titled “Forward.”
Mozart's overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” served as a lively curtain raiser, which then segued into excerpts from Norman Dello Joio's “Meditations on Ecclesiastes.” Members of the Oklahoma Festival Ballet added a visual component to Dello Joio's distinctive voice in a work filled with long-limbed melodies, captivating harmonies and busy rhythmic underpinnings.
Principal trumpet Karl Sievers demonstrated a beautiful sound and an easy technical facility that allowed for considerable expressiveness and nicely shaped phrasings in Haydn's “Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat.”
Haydn's classical proportions gave way to high-spirited jazz in George Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue.” Pianist Richard Dowling took a few more liberties with the solo part than one usually hears, and the accompanying ensemble wasn't always solid rhythmically. It was a treat, however, to hear the 1924 jazz version created for Paul Whiteman's band.