Each spring, the Flathead Valley shakes itself awake, prompted by the melting of snow and the return of red-breasted robins hunting worms in the grass.
Spring is a time of renewal, when bears emerge from their dens with new cubs, when trees and flowers grow new buds, and when those who celebrate their Christian faith focus on Easter.
In short, it’s the perfect time to start a new seasonal tradition at the Glacier Symphony and Chorale, said music director and symphony conductor John Zoltek.
Glacier Symphony and Chorale will present its first Easter Festival, a three-day event showcasing major works that include both the symphony and the choir, on April 6, 8, and 9.
“About a year or so ago, I was thinking of ways in which we could sort of change up the symphony season a little bit,” Zoltek said in an interview last week. “The idea came from my thought of instead of just ending a symphony season with the final concert kind of thing … maybe it would be great to create the beginnings of what I hope will grow to be something more substantial.”
The idea is create a festival at which musicians will concentrate on the repertoire for symphony and chorus pieces. Zoltek said the Easter Festival will of course include the sacred repertoire of songs, but would also combine it with secular pieces as well.
Each night of the festival will be a different concert, Zoltek said. First, on Thursday, April 6, acclaimed pianist Ketevan Kartvelishvili from the country of Georgia will perform a solo program. Her recital will include music from Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Aurandt, and she will offer an audience discussion following the performance.
Then, on Saturday, April 8, the symphony and chorale join forces for “Eternal Light,” a presentation including pieces from Wagner, Lauridsen, and Mendelssohn. Zoltek noted that the Mendelssohn piece is his Symphony No. 5 (The Reformation), which celebrates the important Lutheran event of the same name.
The evening takes its title from the Lauridsen piece called “Lux Eterna,” which means “eternal light” in Latin. It’s fundamentally a large chorale work with orchestral accompaniment, Zoltek said, but it plays with the Latin text and modern sensibilities about music, making it a foundational piece.
The final piece of the Easter Festival is Sunday, April 9, when the symphony, chorale, and Kartvelishvili take on “Beethoven’s Chorale Fantasy.” The program includes the ever-peppy Hungarian March from Berlioz; Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1; Faure’s Pavane; and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy in C Minor.
“It’s uplifting, a precursor of (Beethoven’s) Ninth Symphony,” Zoltek said.
It’s a big start for a first year, but Zoltek hopes the festival takes on a life of its own, growing into a regional event that not only locals enjoy, but out-of-valley visitors travel here to experience.
Easter Festival could become a flagship event in the valley, just like the GSC’s Festival Amadeus, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this August.
There are also many pieces the GSC could focus on that they’ve not been able to perform before, Zoltek said.
“It’s also very exciting for myself and (chorale director) Micah Hunter because it allows us to consider some of the bigger works for symphony and chorus,” he said.
Easter Festival aims to be a regular part of the spring, which gives the valley a landmark for the seasons and also provides an exclamation point on the GSC season.
“I think it’s time for us to do something like this. It just kind of replaces what would normally be just the end of our season,” Zoltek said. “It’s pretty exciting and we’re hoping to be embraced eventually by the community.”
The Glacier Symphony and Chorale Easter Festival takes place at the Flathead High School performance hall. The April 6 performance starts at 7:30 p.m.; the show on April 8 starts at 7:30 p.m.; and the April 9 performance is slated for 3 p.m. Tickets are available at www.GSCmusic.org or by calling 406-407-7000.