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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The sounds of ‘Made in America’ will emanate from the Fox this weekend

Feb. 2, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 2, 2023 at 4:08 p.m.

By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

Like many who hail from the United Kingdom, James Lowe is enamored by the diversity of the United States. The people, terrain and music are eclectic. The latter inspired Lowe, who is the conductor of the Spokane Symphony, to curate “Made in America.”

The production, which is slated for Saturday and Sunday at the Fox, focuses on an array of styles of music, which emanates from America.

“It’s different perspectives on America and that’s what interested me,” Lowe said. “I’m not from around here and I marvel at how rich the cultural mix is in this country. People have come from all over the world here to this promised land. They bring their food and their music here and it benefits everyone.”

Sustenance is a recurring theme in Portland-based Sydney Guillaume’s latest New Work for Chorale and Orchestra, which is a co-commission between the Spokane Symphony and Eastern Washington University.

“Whenever I hear Sydney’s work, I feel extremely hungry,” Lowe said. “Food brings us together, whether it’s borscht from Eastern Europe or Haitian soup. Sydney is such a fine chorale composer, who brings so much color, energy and rhythm to the music. You’ll want something to eat while listening to this.”

William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 is a highlight. Still’s work combines jazz and blues in symphonic form.

“This was the first symphony written by a Black composer that was played by a major American orchestra,” Lowe said.

Still’s Symphony No. 1 broke the color line in 1930 courtesy of the Rochester Symphony.

“Still struggled incredibly hard to be taken seriously,” Lowe said. “But it became a very popular piece based on the blues. It’s a really great piece based on jazz and blues, which is the true music of America. Jazz and blues grew out of the soil here. It is America’s real folk music. How can we, in our community, not take blues and jazz seriously?”

Former Spokane resident George Frederick McKay’s lovely “From a Moonlit Ceremony” also will be performed. The late McKay, who founded the composition department at the University of Washington, where he was a professor for 40 years, grew up in Spokane before moving to Seattle a century ago. McKay composed works in various styles, including 70 orchestral and nearly 1,000 musical titles, including songs, chamber works and romantic violin and cello sonatas.

“McKay was an incredibly important composer,” Lowe said. “What he captured in his music was another perspective of America. He captured such energy.”

Spokane Symphony concertmaster Mateusz Wolski will perform Samuel Barber’s violin concerto.

“It’s a spectacular piece,” Lowe said. “It’s American even though it’s not jazz or bluesy. It’s European influenced. It’s America’s take on European music.”

Lowe is in his first full season with the Spokane Symphony since becoming the conductor and music director in 2019.

“It’s wonderful now since things are feeling back to normal,” he said. “It’s been a great season and it feels like it’s only going to get better from here.”

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