Missoula Symphony honors Superheroes

Concerts celebrate composer Donald Johnston and others making history through music

On Stage

The Missoula Symphony’s 2022-2023 season continues Nov. 4 and 6 with “Superheroes,” focusing on the superheroes making history through music.

Superheroes – from the mythic to actual explorers – provide fodder for the Missoula Symphony.
Superheroes – from mythic to local, from famous to unsung – provide fodder for the Missoula Symphony.

Among these superheroes is Donald O. Johnston, the former distinguished professor of composition at the University of Montana. Johnston, who was born in 1929 in Minnesota, taught music theory, composition and literature from 1960-1993, and was honored with the title Composer-in-Residence.

His works are praised for possessing “logical, well-balanced formal construction, piquant harmonies and the striking rhythm.”

Join the Symphony as they honor Johnston and others with this powerfully crafted concert, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6, at the UM Dennison Theatre.

The concert begins with a commanding piece, Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, written by Joan Tower, who was praised by The New Yorker as “one of the most successful woman composers of all time.”

Johnston’s Symphony No. 4, “Lewis and Clark Symphony,” adds a sense of adventure to the concert repertoire, as the piece exemplifies the brave spirits of the early explorers and soundscapes of the West.

As part of Julia Tai’s commitment to music education, the Missoula Youth Symphony will share the stage with Missoula Symphony musicians in Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia in a side-by-side performance. This will be the first time the organization has programmed a concert featuring the young musicians from the youth symphony performing alongside their MSO counterparts.

Rounding out the program are two more paeans to superheroes: Jean Sibelius’s atmospheric Lemminkäinen Suite – a symphonic poem about the Finnish mythological hero – and John Williams’ Superman March.

“Superheroes come in many forms,” writes James Randall in the program notes, “and our concert testifies to their diversity: some local, some national, some unsung, and some extraterrestrial. They all, however, reflect us – our fears, our hopes, and our collective desire for rescue and redemption.”

For tickets for this concert and the remainder of the 2022-2023 season, visit the symphony’s website.