Two major symphony orchestras will join forces today when the Southeast Missouri Symphony and the Southern Illinois Symphony perform together on the Bedell Performance Hall stage.
The joint program, "Pictures at an Exhibition," begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available.
Southeast Missouri Symphony conductor Sara Edgerton said she and Ed Benyes, conductor of the Southern Illinois Symphony, have been discussing a joint performance since 2009.
"About a year and a half ago Ed came to Cape to judge a concerto and aria competition," Edgerton said. "He started talking about this idea of collaborating to do a very large program."
Edgerton said the idea appealed to her, not only because of the musical possibilities, but because "we want to reach out to other art and cultural organizations. I was very excited."
It took a while to work out the details of the performance, which will feature 96 musicians.
"Over the months we talked about pieces we'd like to do and who would play what," said Edgerton. "Our orchestra members will be sitting side-by-side with each other and will learn and gain a great deal from this collaboration."
The orchestras have united for three rehearsals in preparation for the concert, the first at Carbondale, Ill., on March 21 and twice more Sunday in Cape Girardeau.
This will not be the first time that Benyes, who will share conducting duties with Edgerton, has raised the baton on the Bedell stage.
"He has conducted orchestras here in the summer," Edgerton said. "He really likes the hall, and he likes the idea of collaborating and doing a very large festive performance.
The selections for this concert were chosen because they were composed with large orchestras in mind.
Opening the performance will be Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" from "Die Walkure." Fans of the 1979 Vietnam War film "Apocalypse Now" will recognize the music from the beach attack scene.
The orchestras will be joined by St. Louis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster David Halen for Max Bruch's "Concerto in G minor for Violin and Orchestra." Halen will perform as featured soloist, playing a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin made in Milan, Italy, in 1753.
Halen will be performing at the River Campus for the second time. The award-winning musician previously played with the local symphony in the fall of 2008, shortly after the campus opened.
"I've known and admired his playing for many, many years," Edgerton said.
A university news release describes "Concerto in G minor" as "one of the most performed of all violin concertos," adding that it "combines beautiful melodies, technical fireworks and a lush orchestral accompaniment."
The second half of the concert features "Pictures at an Exhibition." The piece was originally written by Russian composer Modest Musorgsky, inspired by an exhibition of paintings by artist Viktor Hartmann, a friend who had died suddenly. "Pictures at an Exhibition" is Musorgsky's musical portrayal of 10 of Hartmann's paintings. French composer and orchestrator Maurice Ravel later orchestrated the masterpiece for a massive symphonic orchestra.
The story behind the composition of "Pictures at an Exhibition" will be among the topics discussed at a pre-concert talk by Dr. Robert Fruehwald of the Southeast Missouri State University music department. The discourse begins at 6:45 p.m., and all ticket holders may attend.
Tickets are available at the River Campus box office or by calling 651-2265.