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Dan Kocurek conducts the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band which launches its 30th season with a Halloween themed concert. Photo by Christopher Briscoe

Symphonic band kicks off with 'Deathly Hallows'

With Halloween just around the corner, the Rogue Valley Symphonic Band promises audiences themed music that evokes images of trolls, witches, sorcerers and more.

“Deathly Hallows” kicks off RVSB’s 30th season at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, in the Music Recital Hall, 450 S. Mountain Ave., at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Tickets are $12, $10 for seniors, $8 for students, and can be purchased at roguevalleysymphonicband.org, at Paddington Station, or at the door.

The show takes Halloween all the way with conductor Dan Kocurek and band members in costume at the concert. There’s incentive for audience members to masquerade, as well.

“Anybody who wears a costume gets in free,” Kocurek says.

A highlight of the show includes “Alex and the Phantom Band,” composed in 2003 by David Maslanka. It tells the story of Alex, who is searching for a flute to give his father as a birthday present. In the tale, he’s swept into a musical dream world where instruments play themselves, and he learns about all the instruments of the band. The piece was commissioned as a young persons’ guide to the orchestra. Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Jordan Barbour will narrate.

Also look for Henry Purcell’s “Funeral March for Queen Mary,” Steven Stucky’s elaborate arrangement that features winds, brass, percussion, piano and harp.

“In the Hall of the Mountain King,” by Edvard Grieg, is familiar as the iconic melody in the final piece of “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.” The music is played as the title character Gynt, in a dream-like fantasy, enters the troll Mountain King’s hall, where there is a great crowd of gnomes and goblins.

Up next is “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner. Part of the second opera of Wagner’s Ring cycle, the “Ride” depicts the Valkyries greeting each other and singing their battle cry.

“Scheherazade” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is a Russian favorite based on “One Thousand and One Nights,” also known as “The Arabian Nights.” The winding melody celebrates the fictional wife of a sultan and the narrator of the “Arabian Nights” tales.

John Williams’ “Harry Potter Symphonic Suite” concludes the show. This medley is based on themes from the box-office hit “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Through the imagery of Williams’ music, Potter fans will recall some of their favorite scenes.

RVSB partnered with Paddington Station and Tree House Books in Ashland to provide prizes for the best costumes in categories for children and adults. A costume contest will be held at intermission.

Kocurek says he enjoys programming, one of the aspects of his role as artistic director for RVSB. He’s set out to make the 30th season a memorable one.

There are three ticketed concerts during the 2018-19 season, all at SOU’s Music Recital Hall.

“Ecstatic Waters,” Steven Bryant’s composition for wind ensemble, computer and amplified solo instruments, will be presented Feb. 17.

“We’ll be adding special effects, played through speakers on stage,” Kocurek says. “And there will be an amplified clarinet solo with added reverb. It will be an exciting and impressive number.”

The overture from “Dancer in the Dark,” composed by Iceland’s Björk Guðmundsdóttir, also is slated for a February program.

“For that number, I want the band to memorize the music,” Kocurek says, “because it starts in the dark.”

Lighting is added gradually as the piece progresses.

“Variations on America” will be the final concert in May, and will showcase the winner of the inaugural James Collier Young Artist Competition.

“This first year we are opening the competition to high school students,” Kocurek says. “The winner will receive a cash prize of $500 and an opportunity to solo with the band. In the future, we hope to expand it to college students as well.”

Kocurek came to the Rogue Valley in 2015 to take a job as director of bands and trumpet professor at SOU. Before that, he was lead trumpet in the Dallas Brass. He is co-principal trumpet with the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra, plays for OSF productions, and tours internationally.

Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland.

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