East will meet West during the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s last concert of the season, One Thousand and One Nights.
Ian Tyson’s ode to Western Canada, Four Strong Winds, will be performed by the RDSO on Saturday at a sold-out concert at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s majestic Scheherazade will also be performed as will a popular Mozart violin concerto with a hint of the Orient.
The sweeping orchestral version of Tyson’s classic folk tune was arranged in 2007 by none other than the RDSO conductor Claude Lapalme, who is a prolific arranger.
His adaptation was performed many times by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, by whom it was commissioned, but Lapalme said this is the first time his own orchestra is tackling it.
Having largely created his own score, which is woven with Tyson’s familiar melody, he admitted, “It’s always kind of cool to think: I wrote that.”
While many Prairie children were taught to sing Four Strong Winds in elementary school, Lapalme only came to admire the tune later in life.
The Quebec and Ontario-raised Lapalme said he didn’t quite understand the “big buzz” about the Alberta performer when Tyson headlined the Northern Lights Festival in Sudbury when Lapalme was about 18.
“I remember thinking, what’s the big deal about this guy?”
But as Lapalme’s English skills evolved, he began to appreciate the melancholy lyrics of Four Strong Winds.
And he believes its bittersweet melody lends itself nicely to full orchestration.
“It was an easy piece to arrange.”
Guest violin soloist Aaron Au, from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, will help move the concert’s musical landscape further east to Vienna and Turkey, when he performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with a slightly reduced orchestra.
This concerto, with a hint of a Turkish melody in the third movement, was composed when Mozart was 19.
“It’s a fun piece,” said Lapalme — but tricky to pull off.
“It’s a bit awkward to play and it goes really high, but musicians have to play beautifully all the time so that nothing sounds out of place.”
Au agrees that conveying the lightness that Mozart intended while manoeuvering through his minefield of difficult note combinations “is the real trick — making it sound easy.”
The Lethbridge native trained at the University of British Columbia and later won a scholarship to study in Saltzberg, Austria, through the Johann Strauss Foundation.
The violinist, who is also a skilled viola player, is described as having a thoughtful and detailed style. “He’s very talented and a nice guy,” said Lapalme.
The RDSO is also taking on Rimsky-Korsakov’s epic Scheherazade — a work as popular with musicians as it is with listeners.
The colourful composition in four movements is considered a symphonic poem because it’s descriptive, said Lapalme.
It’s based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, about a Persian heroine who marries a bloodthirsty sultan and tells him nightly cliffhanger stories to save her own life.
Several of the stories — including Simbad’s voyage and the Kalendar Prince — are depicted in evocative music that conjures the fairytale adventures.
Lapalme said the “marvelous, quite unforgettable” work contains great violin solos and particularly spotlights musicians on clarinets and bassoons.