Though you’ve probably never imagined your dentist playing the violin, here in Des Moines it isn’t unusual.
The Des Moines Community Orchestra is filled with instrumentalists who have non-musical day jobs and play music at night. This ensemble, with around 60 members, has been performing since 1976. Its goal is “making classical music concerts accessible to everyone.” For its first concert of the season, the Des Moines Community Orchestra came to Sheslow auditorium.
Yesterday at 2 p.m., the orchestra started its “journey with wonderful music that is sometimes favorite and familiar.” The orchestra performed the first and second L’Arlesienne Suites by Georges Bizet, the Cello Concerto by Edward Elgar and the Celtic Concerto for harp and orchestra by Laura Zaerr. These pieces aren’t only beautiful, but also incredibly difficult. The ensemble formed a show of talent and passion that impressed everyone.
However, the orchestra takes its mission of accessible music seriously. The conductor of the group, Carl Johnson, who received his master’s degree from Drake, held a pre-concert discussion about the program. It explained much of the pieces’ backgrounds along with facts about the composers’ lives and inspirations for their music. For those who haven’t had much classical exposure, these talks are incredibly helpful. They give you phrases to listen for and metaphors to discover in the melodies.
Indeed, the music was filled with these subtleties. It was amazing to hear a group with part-time musicians playing professional repertoire. From the conductor to the cellos to the horns, every player was devoted to the music. This energy couldn’t be contained and spread throughout the auditorium, filling the audience with the same love of music. At the reception, players held enthusiastic conversations with viewers about their mutual passion.
The Des Moines Community Orchestra will hold a sing-along to Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 4 at the Grace United Methodist Church. There will also be two more events at Sheslow Auditorium: one is on Feb. 5 and the other on May 6. All of these events will have the pre-concert discussion and a reception after the concert.
Also, the group will be working with Ballet Des Moines on April 7 for “The Wizard of Oz.” Though the times for the ballet have yet to be announced, this promises to be an incredible performance by both groups.
In addition to the pre-concert discussions, the Des Moines Community Orchestra has also started a program that allows you to watch the dress rehearsals. Normally on the Saturday before a performance, this is an incredible opportunity for you to watch an orchestra and hear the music being created around you. For specific times, you can check the orchestra’s website at www.desmoinescommunityorchestra.org.
This orchestra is truly unique with its array of performers, impressive repertoire and opportunities for the public. There is no charge for any concert or sit-in.
Classical music can often be overlooked, but the Des Moines Community Orchestra has taken great strides to bring it back to life.