P O W E L L, W y o. - The Northwest Civic Orchestra and Master Chorale open their fall season Saturday, Nov. 4, with featured soloist Jonah C. Kliewer, father of conductor Jan Kliewer, in a Ralph Vaughan Williams work. The Northwest College Choir joins the Master Chorale for the evening, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Nelson Performing Arts Center Auditorium in Powell.
Baritone Jonah Kliewer is professor emeritus after 23 years as chair of the music department and professor of choral music at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan. His retirement hasn't slowed down his love of performing-he continues to sing with Conspirare, a professional choir in Austin, Texas, and with "On With the Show," a mixed quartet performing show tunes. He's also in demand as a soloist for oratorios, cantatas and community events in Kansas. Jonah Kliewer earned his bachelor's degree from Tabor College, his master's degree from Kansas University, and his doctorate in music arts in church and choral music from the University of Southern California.
Conductor Jan Kliewer said this marks the first time in his professional career he's featured his father as a soloist.
"People who know me understand the history here," Kliewer said. "I grew up in a musical family but by the time I went to college, I was looking for careers that didn't have anything to do with music. Now I see it was inevitable. My father was a major influence in my life even though I came kicking and screaming to a career that follows in his footsteps. It seems fitting that on my personal journey as a conductor I should at some point direct a performance spotlighting my father."
Jonah Kliewer will join the orchestra and chorale in two musical settings composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams - one for a William Shakespeare text and the other for words written by George Herbert, a poet and contemporary of Shakespeare.
"These two works performed back-to-back make an interesting study of the writing of two contemporary 17th century poets interpreted musically by the same composer," Jan Kliewer said.
The elder Kliewer is the featured soloist in "Five Mystical Songs," the setting given to the Herbert text. Herbert was primarily a religious poet, Jan Kliewer said, and the spiritual message of his words is reflected in an "incredibly beautiful setting." Shakespeare's play "The Merchant of Venice" is the source for Vaughan Williams' "Serenade to Music," written for 16 vocal soloists and orchestra.
The evening opens on a rousing note with the orchestra playing one of Felix Mendelssohn's best-known works, "The Reformation Symphony." The fifth of the composer's 12 symphonies uses as its theme in the last movement the famous Lutheran hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God."
Tickets to the concert cost $7; seniors pay $5, and admission is free to NWC students and children under 12.