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Bemidji Symphony Orchestra: Mahler's Fourth Symphony centerpiece of Sunday concert

Gustav Mahler relied upon his fascination with things of youth - magic and imagination - especially as they relate to life and what lies beyond.

The theme of the Fourth Symphony brings elements seen in the earlier works by Mahler as he brought together many of the tales from the German folk poem, "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" (The Youth's Magic Horn).

The Bemidji Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Beverly Everett will perform Mahler's Symphony No. 4 with soloist Jennifer Swanson at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov.14, in the Bemidji High School Auditorium. Tickets are for sale now at Lueken's Village Foods North: $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors and college students. There is no admission charge for children and students through grade 12. The doors will open at 2:30 p.m. for seating, and tickets will be sold at the door.

During the first movement, the audience hears the violin, which depicts a figure from German art; a skeleton who plays the fiddle and leads the Totentanz (death dance). But it is Mahler's reliance on a song he wrote as a solo piece, "Das himmlische Leben," a child's view of heaven which reappears during the first three movements and brought to fulfillment by the soprano solo in the fourth and final movement.

When Everett, BSO conductor and artistic director, approached Bemidji State University professor Jennifer Swanson to sing the words of the last movement, "Wir geniessen die himmlischen Freuden," (All heavenly joys are ours) she immediately agreed.

"For me it is thrilling to do this piece in my home town, and when Beverly approached me to sing it, I knew that the solo suited my voice and vocal range," Swanson said.

Swanson spends time apart from her teaching assignments to sing regularly in recitals and concerts and has participated in national and international competitions. She was a regional finalist twice for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Minnesota where she was awarded the Schuessler Vocal Fellowship.

"Soprano Jennifer Swanson's talent and musical sensitivity are the perfect fit for this piece," said Everett. "It is such a privilege to conduct Mahler; this is an extraordinary and special work. I hope the community realizes how fortunate we are to have an orchestra in a city this size that can take such a monumental work and produce it with success."

Both professional musicians took on the challenge of putting all the parts together successfully for a program of Mahler's shortest composition and smallest orchestration but most frequently performed symphonies. The piece in four movements will be played in its entirety without an intermission.

Vocal students from local high schools were invited to observe a master class by Swanson at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12 in the Thompson Recital Hall of Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts Complex on the campus of BSU. During the class, high school students will be able to observe Swanson working with her current voice students in addressing vocal techniques and musicianship. The master class will also include group activities that will involve all students in attendance by helping them with their own vocal techniques. As an added incentive, the Bemidji Choir, under the direction of Brad Logan, will hold an open rehearsal in the same hall before the start of the master class at 12 noon.