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Release:Oct. 4, 2002


The Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra from the University of Iowa School of Music will present the first of two planned free concerts of music for children at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The performance will be conducted by UI graduate students Jean Montes and John Winzenburg and will feature radio personality Nancy Hagen, host of both the “Evening Program” on UI radio station KSUI-FM and “Morning Edition” on WSUI-AM, as narrator.

Philharmonia’s second children’s concert, including Tchaikovsky’s popular “Nutcracker” Suite, will be Nov. 24.

For the Oct. 20 concert, Hagen will narrate two pieces: Winzenburg will conduct a performance of “Drakestail” by Mario Lombardo, which is based on a French fairy tale, and Montes will conduct “Histoire de Babar, le petite elephant” (The story of Babar, the little elephant) by Francis Poulenc, which is based on the well known children’s classic by Jean de Brunhoff.

Winzenberg and the orchestra will open the concert with Rossini’s popular Overture to “The Barber of Seville.”

Rossini produced Italian operas at a feverish pace during the 1810s, turning out an average of three per year between 1811 and 1819. His operas swept across Europe, captivating audiences in virtually every country. His music was marked by wit, brilliant orchestral colors, a distinctive rhythmic drive and, above all, a highly individual use of dynamics which he appears to have invented, with his famous, cleverly orchestrated crescendos.

All of these qualities are evident in Rossini’s overtures, which have long been popular orchestral concert openers. One of his most popular overtures, that for “The Barber of Seville” even showed up in a famous Bugs Bunny cartoon. Surprisingly, it was not originally written to introduce a comic opera. Because he was turning out so many new works each year, Rossini became a notorious “thief” of his own material, re-using previous music as needed. Rushing to complete “The Barber of Seville” in 1816, he turned to an overture that had actually been used just the previous year to introduce a dramatic opera about England’s decidedly un-comic Queen Elizabeth I.

“Drakestail,” subtitled a symphonic tale for children, tells the story of an undersized duck with an oversized capacity for making money. On top of his wealth, the duck gains a reputation for being wise, kind, and just -- even lending money to the wicked king. The king, however, refuses to pay his debt, and Drakestail is forced to journey to the palace to collect his money.

With magic flute and horn in hand, he sets off optimistically and is joined along the way by his newfound friends -- the fox, the river, and an army of bees. When Drakestail arrives at the palace, the evil king tries to destroy him on three separate occasions, but the clever duck is saved by his friends. Drakestail vanquishes the king and the happy townspeople offer him the crown. He accepts their offer and becomes king, happy at the thought that the kingdom will now be ruled by a wise, kind, just, and wealthy mini-duck.

The music of Drakestail plays various roles throughout the work: describing a specific character, establishing mood and atmosphere, or underlying action of the plot. Not only does the work pose colorful technical challenges to the orchestra players, it also provides an enchanting tale for listeners young and old.

According to legend, Francis Poulenc was practicing the piano one day in 1940 when a young niece happened by. She didn’t like his choice of music and impulsively placed the book she was reading on his music stand. “Play this instead,” she insisted. The book was Brunhoff’s classic children's tale “The Story of Babar.” Poulenc began to improvise a musical dramatization of the story as he read it aloud to her, leading to his finished composition about Babar. Premiered in its original version for narrator and piano in 1945, “The Story of Babar” has since been arranged for orchestra.

Nancy Hagen is best known for her on-air work on the UI Public Radio station, WSUI/KSUI in Iowa City. She's local host of National Public Radio's “Morning Edition” and hosts the “Iowa Talk” organic growing series on WSUI. She can also be heard on Classical Radio KSUI's “Morning Program” from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays. In addition, she produces the Cedar Rapids Symphony broadcasts and contributes to “Know the Score” on KSUI.

An accomplished singer, Hagen has appeared with the Quad City Mozart Festival, Waterloo/Cedar Falls Metropolitan Chorale, La Fosse Baroque Ensemble, early music ensemble Fiocchi di Granturco, UI Opera Theatre and UI Symphony. A champion of new music, she has premiered a number of works and appeared with the UI Center for New Music, Midwest Composers Symposium and the Iowa Composers Forum. Fond of musical theatre, she was most recently seen as Kate in the Iowa City Community Theatre production of “Kiss Me Kate” in 2002.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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