Allison Wordes—Staff Writer
Everyone found something they could savor during Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra (NISO) eclectic winter pops concert on Saturday, Jan. 27. Familiar songs that audience members recognized include selections from the movies Schindler’s List, Fiddler on the Roof and Phantom of the Opera.
This performance provided “a full menu of romantic music,” according to conductor Dr. Christopher Stanichar, who emerged from the side doors of the auditorium in a smart white jacket and a navy-blue vest.
The Celebrity Conductor event, also a highlight of the evening, is NISO’s most important fundraising performance. Four individuals create their “persona” based on their career, dressing to make themselves stand out in the crowd.
“When they get into it, they are so clever,” said Karen de Mol, NISO organizer. The guest conductors were introduced–spiffily dressed as a pink faerie princess, a truck parts manufacturer, a slice of bacon, and “Sir Cumference,” a math teacher sporting the pi symbol on his jersey and brandishing a Viking horn. These fully costumed NISO supporters racked up “votes” at a dollar each during the time before the performance and during intermission.
The winner was Nathan Frens from Sioux Center, who claimed he smelled like bacon because of his career as a Plant Manager. His bravery to wear a bacon costume and embarrass his children won him the honor of “guest conducting” the piece “Caravan” with a plastic pig as his baton. NISO raised over $15,000—more than they have raised in any past year with a fundraiser.
The soloist of the night, Jessica Mathaes, swept in and charmed the audience with Svendsen’s “Romance, Op. 26” on her 200-year old violin. Her artistic flairs included delicate trills and raising her eyebrows to emphasize high notes.
“Anything you can do with violin—she can do it!” Stanichar said. “She’s really top-notch.”
Mathaes is a native of Northwest Iowa who has had a broad experience in her career as a soloist, recording artist, educator and concertmaster. She has been featured with multiple orchestras, including the National Music Festival orchestra.
“She’s a tremendous solo artist,” said Dr. Bradley Miedema, music director and NISO coordinator.
One fascinating aspect of her experience includes traveling as a music ambassador for the US to Singapore with her music. She has also released several albums of solo music in the past ten years, two of which were for sale at the concert.
NISO performed two tangos, one of them featuring an accordion.
“If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on,” Stanichar said, quoting the 1992 film Scent of a Woman.
The performance tastefully concluded with a medley from Phantom of the Opera, which created an upbeat finale with the steady drum beat and the voices of the trumpets.