News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

October 10, 2010

Stephanie Salter: Turn off your TV — real life is happening in the Valley

TERRE HAUTE — I have written this column before. Only the names of the events have been changed to update the story.

The story is titled, as always, “You Can’t Find Anything to Do in Terre Haute?” It is subtitled, “The lie that just won’t die.”

This time around, I started thinking about the lie as I left Tilson Music Hall late last month after the Terre Haute Symphony had knocked the socks off of several hundred of us who’d come for the 2010-2011 season opener. The symphony’s slogan this year is “Great Music! Close to Home,” and that’s exactly what the orchestra served up in the first of its five concerts.

The initial half of the program featured a fine march by Hector Berlioz and a contemporary piece by a young composer, Simon Proctor, that spotlighted an ancient and exotic instrument called the serpent. The serpent was played by Douglas Yeo, a guest artist from the Boston Symphony.

But it was the second portion of the concert that resurrected my notion about the lie that won’t die. Little old Terre Haute’s symphony tackled a piece of music that orchestras twice its size would fear, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

A Mahler fan, I have heard the Fifth performed live about a half-dozen times by big-city symphonies with internationally known conductors such as Michael Tilson Thomas and Leonard Slatkin. I’ve listened scores of times to full recordings of the work under the baton of such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan and Giuseppe Sinopoli.

Because of this, I must confess, I figured I’d better lower the bar for David Bowden and the Terre Haute Symphony. But I didn’t have to. Indiana’s oldest continually performing symphony orchestra hit a grand slam with Mahler’s Fifth. I was as wrung out and exhilarated at the end of their performance as I’ve ever been after hearing this piece. And the passionate standing ovation the orchestra received indicated I was not alone.

A couple of weeks later, as the lights came up on a compelling production of “The Baltimore Waltz” at Indiana State University’s New Theatre, I thought again about the lie that just won’t die.

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