Dearborn Symphony Celebrate 50 Years with Ode to Joy!

Alta Dantzler

Amy Petrongelli

Brian Carter

Stephen West

DEARBORN — The award-winning Dearborn Symphony will mark 50 years of bringing classical and pops music to the community Friday with a Golden Jubilee beginning with dinner at 6:30 p.m. the 19th District Courthouse, catered by Opus One.

The building’s artistic mural “Justice is Blind” in the reception rotunda and expansive views of the courtyard will serve as the backdrop for the black-tie optional event.

The celebration continues at 8:30 pm at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center when the Dearborn Symphony, under the baton of Maestro Kypros Markou performs a concert that culminates in Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” with the iconic “Ode to Joy.” Dinner reservations are $100; concert tickets ranging from $15 to $30 in balcony, box and lower level are available by phoning (313) 565-2424. Go to for more information.

The concert begins with Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” The year was 1942 and in an effort to foster patriotic spirit, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conductor Eugene Goossens commissioned fanfares by American composers to open his concerts. In his behest to Copland, Goossens wrote “It is my idea to make these fanfares stirring and significant contributions to the war effort.”

Inspired in part by a 1942 speech where Vice President Henry Wallace proclaimed the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man,” Copland’s “Fanfare” has become a mainstay of American music, appearing in film and television, with arrangements ranging from a “boogaloo style” by Woody Herman’s band to rock by Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Next up is Overture to “Fidelio,” Beethoven’s sole opera, based on Jean Nicolas Bouilly’s “Leonore” or “Conjugal Love,” a story drawn from real incidents during the French Revolution. It’s the story of a loving wife who saves her husband, Florestan, who has been thrown into prison by a political rival.

From the fanfare-like opening bars, the Overture alludes to many aspects of Fidelio’s plot —the power of political authority, the gloom of Florestan’s dungeon, romantic intrigue, hope, heroism, and exaltation.

Beethoven’s awe-inspiring “Ninth Symphony” is a fitting send-off for the Dearborn Symphony’s celebration of 50 years. A work featuring the timeless melody “Ode to Joy,” it represents Beethoven’s musical expression of universal brotherhood. Heard in triumphant moments of the human spirit from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Olympic Games, it sets the bar for the transformative power of live musical performance.

Beethoven had long wanted to incorporate a choral ending to a Symphony and had contemplated setting Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” (written in 1785, on the eve of the French Revolution) to music. Many people, including Beethoven, knew that due to political necessity, “joy” was really a thin disguise for “freedom.” A massive undertaking, Beethoven’s introduction of a chorus and solo singers in the final movement gives the piece the searingly optimistic finale to end all finales, with the message that all mankind will be brothers.

Leonard Bernstein was so inspired and moved by Beethoven’s “Ninth” that he said, “We cannot listen to this ‘Ninth Symphony’ without emerging from it changed, enriched, encouraged, and to the man who could give the world so precious a gift as this no honor can be too great and no celebration joyful enough; it’s almost like celebrating the birthday of music itself.”

Vanguard Grand Chorus, under the direction of G. Kevin Dewey and four soloists will join the orchestra to perform“Ode to Joy.” Soprano Amy Petrongelli earned a master’s degree in voice performance at University of Michigan. She has received many vocal awards and scholarships including the Jessye Norman Graduate Fellowship in Voice Performance, and U-M Friends of Opera Scholarship Award. She also was a vocal fellow at Tanglewood this past summer. She has performed in numerous opera productions; this performance marks her second appearance with the Dearborn Symphony.

Mezzo-soprano Alta Dantzler earned her master’s degree and began doctoral studies at Eastman School of Music; she completed her doctorate at the University of Texas. While at Eastman she appeared in many concert and operatic performances, from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” to her favorite role to date, Mrs. Lovett in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd.” She has been concert soloist at Carnegie Hall and with numerous orchestras and opera companies across the country. In 2005 and 2007 she was a district winner and regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Tenor Brian Carter, doctoral candidate at U-M, was described by the San Francisco Classical Voice as “a young performer who could sing the sword out of Wotan’s tree” and has gained national attention as a singer with Wagnerian potential. Carter appears frequently in concert and operatic performances.

Bass-baritone Stephen West has appeared with many of the finest opera companies in the world, including the Met, La Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, the San Francisco, Seattle and Washington operas, among many others. He has performed with leading symphony orchestras such as the LA Philharmonic, the Boston, Atlanta, Montreal, Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood and the Hollywood Bowl and has collaborated with many world-famous conductors, including James Levine.

West has received many awards, including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, two National Awards from the Metropolitan Opera, and two prizes from the VII Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. He also is a professor of music in voice at U-M.

The Dearborn Symphony has partnered with local restaurants to offer a 20 percent diners’ discount for symphony ticket-holders on concert nights. Advance reservations are recommended at Andiamo Dearborn, Big Fish, Ciao, Crave, The Dearborn Inn, The Hewnry, Kiernan’s & Silky’s, and La Pita.