DuPage Symphony features trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden in ‘Modern and Melodious’

“Music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning … except its own,” said Leonard Bernstein.

DuPage Symphony Orchestra has been sharing the beauty and the deep meaning of classical music for seven decades already. It’s 70th anniversary season, called “Above and Beyond,” will conclude with the “Modern and Melodious” concert program at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 18, in the Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville.

This concert season is extremely important for the orchestra and for local classical music lovers. DuPage Symphony has not only survived through a long period of time, but it also has thrived and attracted many people to classical music during these years. For seven decades the orchestra has been transforming hearts, minds, and communities through music.

Its mission is to provide inspiration and cultural enrichment through musical excellence, educational programs, and community engagement.

Founded in 1953 by Russell Harvey, the DuPage Symphony Orchestra initially consisted of only 45 musicians. Now, there are 90 regular professional-level volunteer musicians in the orchestra. Under the baton of Maestra Barbara Schubert, DuPage Symphony Orchestra rehearses and performs year-round inspiring audiences at its every concert and event.

Acclaimed trumpet player Mary Elizabeth Bowden, a native of northern Illinois, is featured at the orchestra’s May 18 concert. She will join DuPage Symphony to perform the seldom-heard Trumpet Concerto of 1963 by Welsh composer Grace Williams. Another wonderful composition, called “Persist” by modern American composer Gala Flagello, will feature both Mary Elizabeth and DSO Principal Trumpet Garth Anderson.

“Mary Elizabeth is a very fine player, and we are so pleased to host her, especially as a former DuPage native who has always wanted to perform with the DSO,” said Amber Broderick, general manager. “The Flagello premiere and the Williams concerto have been on Mary's wish list for a long time, and we're delighted to present these two works to our audience.”

Bowden is a world-renowned musician. In the U.S., she has performed as a soloist with the Erie Philharmonic, Evansville Philharmonic, Chameleon Arts Ensemble (Boston), Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra, San Juan Symphony, and at Montana’s Big Sky Festival. In Europe, she impressed the audience presenting the Spanish premiere of James MacMillan’s “Seraph” with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria. In Germany, she debuted in Eisenach at the Wartburg Castle, and in France, she debuted at the Château de Courances. She also made her Russian debut with a performance in Sochi with famed trumpeter Otto Sauter’s hand-picked “10 of the Best” trumpet soloists from around the world.

This talented classical trumpeter is also a Gold Medal Global Music Award winner, Opus Klassik nominee, and Yamaha Performing Artist. Mary is currently assistant professor of trumpet at Shenandoah Conservatory.

The first piece that will be presented during that night will be Second Essay for Orchestra, Op. 17 by Samuel Barber, a famous American composer and educator of the 20th century. His music is full of lyricism and emotional expression.

“The present work, from 1942, is interesting right from the start since the title suggests a connection to literature and philosophy; this is the middle of three such works …” wrote Gary A. Greene, Ph.D. in his Concert Notes. “The Second Essay followed the intense choral masterwork Reincarnations, Op. 16, and Barber may have meant to continue that reflection on death and grief, especially during the war years, in this instrumental study.”

This composition will be followed by Concerto of 1963 by Grace Mary Williams that will feature Mary Elizabeth Bowden. Williams was one of the first professional Welsh composers of the 20th century to attain significant national recognition. Williams is now recognized as one of the greatest female composers of her time.

“This is an impossibly beautiful work, full of lyrical lines that seem to yearn for something just beyond reach,” Broderick said. “Williams evokes the misty Welsh landscape through muted tones and hushed harmonies, with the solo trumpet restlessly wandering and yearning, eventually taking shape and direction. It's a tremendously atmospheric work that will transport you and may even fill you with nostalgia for a place and time that you've never been to before.”

While Bowden will remain on stage, she will be joined by Principal Trumpet Garth Anderson to perform “Persist” by Gala Flagello. Written in 2020, this piece was originally composed in a commission by the Albany Symphony for two sopranos and chamber ensemble, but at the May 18 concert two trumpets will be substituted for the singers.

“After writing the text for ‘Persist,’ I realized that it read like a combination of a bedtime story and a call to action,” wrote the composer. “This reflects the way in which the poem and the opening of the piece came to me … We must support those who need a moment to rest and take care when the burden of change-making feels too great. My hope is that this piece gives strength and light to those who need it.”

After the intermission, the orchestra will present the music of Leonard Bernstein. In his “West Side Story: Symphonic Dances,” first performed in 1961, the composer united his classical training with jazz, Caribbean folk dance, and other elements. “Symphonic Dances” weaves together episodes from “West Side Story,” although not in their original dramatic sequence.

“Bernstein effortlessly captures the energy, verve, and grit of NYC gangs in his modernized adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, set against lyrical strains depicting Tony and Maria's forbidden love,” Broderick noted.

Bernstein’s “Candide Overture” will conclude this concert program. Voltaire’s satiric novel “Candide, or Optimism” was the basis of the musical comedy/opera that Leonard Bernstein produced in 1956. This composition will bring a happy mood and enthusiasm to the entire audience, and on this good note the orchestra will say goodbye, until its next season.

Main floor tickets are $38, $34 for age 65 or older, or $15 for students; tickets for the balcony are $43, $39 for age 65 or older, or $20 for students.

Tickets can be purchased on or through the DSO box office at (630) 778-1003 or the North Central College box office at (630) 637-SHOW.

Trumpet player Mary Elizabeth Bowden will join DuPage Symphony Orchestra's Principal Trumpet Garth Anderson in performing American composer Gala Flagello's “Persist.” Courtesy of Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
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