The Southern Symphony Orchestra returns for a ‘Caribbean Adventure’

The Southern Symphony Orchestra tuned to their instruments for the “Caribbean Adventure” concert on Friday night, Oct. 23, and played together for their first live performance together since the coronavirus shocked the world.

Each fall, Missouri Southern hosts an internationally themed semester with this year being the Caribbean Semester. Events, guest speakers, and activities focus on the theme each year and the “Caribbean Adventures” concert Friday night followed the theme, paying homage to Caribbean music.

Dr. Canès Nicolas, the Southern Symphony director and conductor, was born and raised in Haiti and shared his cultural influence through the music of the concert in the Caribbean themed program.  

Guest conductor, Jean (Rudy) Perrault, director of orchestras and professor of music at the University of Minnesota Deluth, is also from Haiti as well as a friend and former teacher of Nicolas.

“He’s probably the person that made all of this you see here possible,” said Dr. Nicolas. “We have been fortunate, and it’s been a privilege to have him on our campus… he gave two presentations for the Caribbean semester,” and was involved with the orchestra and music classes through the week as well.

The concert was tenderly dedicated to the late Julio Racine who was a composer, conductor, flutist, teacher, mentor, counselor, and role model to many in his lifetime. He passed away on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. A moment of silence was observed in his honor before beginning the concert.

He was a reliable advisor and mentor to Dr. Nicholas and encouraged him to advocate for Haitian music and culture in which he did during the Friday night concert.

The symphony orchestra preformed the Fidelio Overture by Ludwig van Beethoven, arranged by Todd Parrish, which was played in honor of Beethoven’s 250th birthday. The remaining songs were all associated with Caribbean or Haitian culture, influence, and individuals. Latinoit O, a Hatian Folk Song arranged by Julio Racine was also performed. It was followed by, Marassa E lou, a Hatian Folk Song by Werner Jacgerhuber, featuring guest soprano soloist Kendra Switzer. She is an adjunct professor of music at Southern and native of Joplin, Missouri who has performed in many local community and professional productions. The “Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 11 No. 2,” by Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who is known as “The Black Mozart,” was directed by guest conductor Perrault. The remaining three pieces include Danza No. 4, by Ludovic Lamothe, Koze Dantan (Old Times Story), by Christopher Ducasse, and Conte Haitien (A Haitian Tale), by Fére Laguerre, arr. by John Jost.

About 50 guests were in attendance for the concert to support friends and family in the Symphony orchestra.

Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy the live experience and production.

Dr. Keith Tally, professor of saxophone, music industry, and music technology at Southern was in attendance.

“Dr. Nicolas does a great job in programming and it’s nice to have someone here from the Caribbean here in the Caribbean semester and it’s a wide variety of styles and it was great to have a guest artist down, as well,” said Tally

Ann Davy, violinist and concertmaster was also glad to be a part of that and sharing the Caribbean culture with attendants of the event both in person and through online streaming.

“It was really great to get back together again. We were so many months without being able to play together…music is truly an international language,” said Davy. “The arts are very important, whether its music or theatre, it just kind of broadens the horizon of people.”