Spotlight Columns

Folsom Symphony transitions with ‘Out of this World’

By From page B2 | May 21, 2014

Music reflects historical change on various levels. In less than two weeks, Peter Jaffe will guest conduct the Folsom Symphony and give us a foretaste of what to expect in the fall season when he officially takes over the baton of Michael Neumann, emeritus musical director.

According to my sources at the symphony, rehearsals are going well and the members of the symphony were impressed that Maestro Neumann came personally to introduce Maestro Jaffe to them. That is rare in musical circles when big transitions occur.

The Folsom Symphony closes out the season on May 31 and June 1 with a concert dedicated to music inspired by space and science fiction.

“Out of this World” will feature popular music by Gustav Holst, John Williams, Josef Strauss, Richard Wagner and others. Look for a few “heavenly surprises” as well.

One of the fun things about music is to listen for what inspires other composers.

For example, in Holst’s “The Planets,” the theme for Mars was an inspiration for the “Klingon” theme in the first “Star Trek” movie. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The concert will kick off with three movements from “The Planets” — Mars, Venus and Jupiter.

“Mars” was written just prior to the outbreak of World War I. In astronomy, this planet represents the Roman god of warfare. In this work, Holst sought to express the stupidity of war.

“Venus” was composed after the beginning of the War to End All Wars. It was intended as a complimentary piece to “Mars” and hosts a message of peace and goodness.

“Jupiter” represents the king of the gods. And this piece stands as one of Great Britain’s most regal works. This piece is noble, joyful, and hopeful. Everything the British Empire perceived itself to be at the beginning of the 20th century.

From the planets, the symphony then takes us through the galaxy with “Star Trek Through the Years.” Arranged by Calvin Custer, this work starts with the theme from the original television series, to “Deep Space Nine” and then travels at warp speed to the Star Trek movies and beyond. When I hear this piece, I fancy a tad of “Jupiter’s” nobility as humankind journeys to the stars.

Journeys within are explored with Howard Shore’s “Fellowship of the Ring” from the “Lord of the Rings Suite,” and Williams’ “March” and “Love Theme (Can You Read My Mind)” from “Superman.”

Williams is a great lover of leitmotifs — that is, themes for the characters in the movies. Listen for the music that is just for Superman and Lois Lane when they are alone together.

“The Music of the Spheres” is a beautiful waltz. Strauss composed it in 1868 at the request of Austrian medical students for their annual ball. The opening is vaguely Wagnerian and otherworldly, giving way to rich three-quarter time, heady festivity and playfulness.

Those naughty Victorians certainly loved their waltzes.

Closing out the concert from “Das Rheingold” is Wagner’s famous “Ride of the Valkyries.” You may remember it from “Apocalypse Now” – and think of helicopters in Vietnam. To Wagner, this work conjured up images of the beautiful Rhein Maidens on horseback bearing the souls of brave fallen soldiers up to their reward in Valhalla. Interesting contrast, n’est pas?

Music is a living organism. It conveys the range of emotions in the human condition. As such, it teaches us not only about what its composers saw in their day and age, but it can teach us about our own times as well.

Enjoy the ride and let your imagination soar. Maestro Jaffe and the Folsom Symphony won’t disappoint.

“Out of this World” will be performed on Saturday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, June 1, at 3 p.m. at the Harris Center/Three Stages Theater on the Folsom Lake College campus, located at 10 College Parkway in Folsom. Tickets for both performances are available, but are expected to sell out quickly. For tickets call (916) 608-6888 or visit Also visit

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Susan Laird


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