Community musicians come together for holidays

Jessica Sheldahl

Santa will make an unusual stop this weekend on his yearly public relations tour. After he finishes with the children at the mall, he will make a special appearance for all the good little boys and girls at the Central Iowa Symphony performance.

The performance will also feature Concert Conversations, Central Iowa Brass Quintet, Central Iowa Symphony and art created by Iowans.

James Hannon, director of orchestral activities at Iowa State, is the new music director and conductor for the group.

Hannon, assistant professor of music, will hold Concert Conversations before the performance and give a presentation and answer questions about specific details of the music the audience is about to hear. Some topics of discussion will be the relevance of the music, which may not be traditional holiday pieces and also specific parts of the music to listen for.


Who: Central Iowa Symphony: A Holiday Portrait

Where: Ames City Auditorium

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $12 adults, $11 seniors, $5 students

“There’s a great variety of music,” says Christopher Hopkins, assistant professor of music and cellist for Central Iowa Symphony. “It’s not like other concerts with three large pieces. It’s more fun. It’s not like hearing Shakespeare, but more like hearing Sondheim.

“We wanted to do some musical snapshots of the holidays, not one set theme like 12 Days of Christmas or Rudolph, but rather little snapshots of holidays.”

He says the concert includes music everyone will recognize, as well as music from other countries. There is a balance between quiet, meditative pieces and joyous pieces, he says.

The orchestra brings in a wide variety of people from around the area for many different reasons.

“I think it’s a great thing there’s a community orchestra,” says Mark Duncan, junior in music and oboist for the Central Iowa Symphony. “It’s a great way to play semi-professionally. I plan on being in it as long as I can.”

Duncan says participating in Central Iowa Symphony gives him a lot of good performance experience.

Hopkins says he is involved with Central Iowa Symphony for a variety of reasons.

He says he does it for collegiality with Hannon, for the community, to get something back from the people he meets, community outreach and to keep in contact with standard music repertoire.

Hannon says the musicians in the orchestra have just as much or more training and experience as he does, and they are willing to question what he does. He says he learns from their experience.

“Ames is fortunate,” Hopkins says. “[Hannon] works very well with this group. The orchestra members really do enjoy working with him. I really think he’s going to take this orchestra places. I think the quality of this orchestra will get yet better.”

Because the concert is presented in cooperation with businesses from the Ames Main Street Cultural District and Octagon Center for the Arts, music is not the only art form that will be part of the show.

Octagon Center for the Arts will provide artwork with a winter theme created by Iowa artists for the audience to view along with the concert.

Hannon says they are doing the performance in partnership with the Main Street Cultural District to encourage families to spend the day shopping downtown, see a performance and then head to dinner at a downtown restaurant.

“It’s at four, so families can come,” Hannon says.

“It’s early enough that it won’t get into dinner or bedtimes for kids.”