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Article updated: 12/12/2011 6:43 AM

Northwest Festival Orchestra holiday concert is Dec. 21 at Harper

By James Kane

The Northwest Festival Orchestra will perform a varied program of seasonal music including excerpts from "La Boheme" and "Many Moods of Christmas" for its holiday concert Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Harper College in Palatine.

Rounding out the program will be selections from "The Nutcracker" and other pieces appropriate to the holiday season, both religious and secular works. Dr. Verne Schwager, founder and conductor of the orchestra, which has about 56 members, answered questions about the performance:

Q. What's the theme of this concert?

A. "Holiday Magic" -- utilizing the special talents, sonic and vocal effects of a full orchestra and chorus in evoking the spirit and magic of the holiday season.

Q. What differentiates this performance from the many other holiday events happening right now?

A. The Northwest Festival Orchestra is the only fully professional ensemble in our Northwest suburbs. The chorus has been elaborated to include three outstanding soloists (sopranos Susan Dennis and Lindsey Poling, tenor Percy Martinez), who will present four well-known arias and duets from "La Boheme," which is set in Paris at Christmastime.

Q. How and why did you pick this particular music?

A. Traditional holiday favorites and some sacred selections complement the uniqueness of the opera excerpts, which -- to our knowledge -- have never been performed in our area before at Christmastime; thus the "Magic" resulting from the combination of traditional favorites, brilliant symphonic settings of carols accompanied by voices, and music associated with the holiday itself.

Q. Where does the orchestra get its members?

A. The orchestra consists entirely of young professional musicians all of whom have a degree, diploma, or certificate in instrumental performance. Each participant applies for membership and is accepted upon availability of an opening and according to a standard of excellence established by the resident conductor (Verne Schwager) and concertmaster (Yuriy Geyer).

Q. What's the long-range goal for the orchestra?

A. This symphonic ensemble is extraordinary and is dedicated to the young professional artist -- instrumental, vocal and soloist -- in the performance setting of our Northwest suburban communities. As such, the orchestra responds to a long perceived need for high level, professional caliber performances from the world of symphony, opera, and American musical theater -- all performed locally and affordably.

Q. How is the orchestra funded?

A. It's funded by donations from businesses, corporations, and individuals who enthusiastically support the performing arts in our community. Civic, state, and federal support have not yet been achieved, but is necessary if the organization is to continue and thrive in its present form. Contributions, which are tax-deductible, may be sent to 1009 S. Evergreen Ave, Arlington Heights, IL 60005.

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