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Opening program of the Symphony season offers a variety of works

by Kumari CampbellPEI Symphony Orchestra conductor James Mark

It is always with heavy hearts that Prince Edward Islanders bid “Adieu” to their all-too-short summers. Yet, the long fall and winter months are not without their own particular joys—one being the performance season of the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra. Few occasions in winter are more delightful and invigorating than the signature Sunday afternoon performances of the PEISO. And the upcoming season promises to be no different than its predecessors.

I recently spoke with PEISO conductor, James Mark, who outlined his plans for the 2004­/2005 season. As is the case each year, he and the Symphony’s programming committee try to design a program that includes a wide variety of music, genres and styles, in an effort to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. This season’s opening concert is entitled “Fall Fanfares” because it begins with three fanfare pieces from St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. On a recent visit to Italy, Mark was able to visit the cathedral and envision how the composition by Giovanni Gabrieli for antiphonal brass instruments should sound.

The fanfares will be followed by a suite from Holberg’s Time for Strings by Edvard Grieg. Also on the program will be a composition by the award-winning young Canadian composer, Kelly-Marie Murphy. Mark explains that, “Not all of our music is by classic composers. We try very hard to include contemporary music as well, and most of [that] is Canadian.”

The featured music of the concert will be a composition by Anton Dvorak, in honour of the centennial of his death this year. Says Mark, “Dvorak’s Symphony No.5 in F, opus 76 is not heard often but is a very pleasant piece of music. I’m sure our audience will not be disappointed.”

James Mark, who has been conducting the PEISO since 2000, lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, where he teaches music at Mount Allison University. Prior to assuming the position of conductor, Mark played principal clarinet with the PEISO, and also the Charlottetown Festival Orchestra. As only fifty percent of the PEISO consists of Islanders, and the remaining members travel from the other Maritime provinces, rehearsals for the four annual concerts only take place on the weekends of the concerts. “These are very intense rehearsals,” says Mark, “and I get the music out to the members a month in advance, so that they can get familiar with it prior to the concert weekend.” He adds, “The symphony really enjoys coming together and playing concerts.”

Hopefully they will continue to do so—if only for the sake of Islanders who enjoy attending their concerts on those cool Sunday afternoons in the fall, winter and spring.

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