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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

There is life for the Spokane Symphony after Yo-Yo Ma

The Spokane Symphony, still riding high after a triumphant performance with Yo-Yo Ma, will celebrate home during this weekend’s Masterworks concerts at the Fox.  (Spokane Symphony)
By Ed Condran The Spokesman-Review

There are two ways to look at performing after Yo-Yo Ma opened the season last week with the Spokane Symphony.

How do you approach a follow-up a concert after the iconic cellist blew away a capacity crowd at the Fox? Or is the take “let’s ride the momentum” of such a historic event?

Spokane Symphony conductor and artistic director James Lowe is running with the latter.

“We’re all still quite giddy after Yo-Yo Ma’s performance,” Lowe said. “He has this incredible joy. The way he makes music. It’s just wonderful. There are no technical worries working with him. It’s just pure music. For all of us it was a special occasion. As they say, Elvis may have left the building but that’s not so for Yo-Yo Ma. His spirit still lingers.”

So the Spokane Symphony will start the Masterworks series on an incredible high when Lowe and the symphony perform Saturday and Sunday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.

“A Place Called Home” is the theme and it’s inspired by the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, who suffered from homesickness during the mid-1890s in New York while creating “From the New World.” Dvorak pined for his native Prague.

“The piece we will perform was written while he was living in New York,” Lowe said. “He was brought over to America from Bohemia to teach American composers.”

Dvorak proved to be prescient and progressive while assimilating in New York. “Dvorak believed the future of American music was in the hands of those who were Black and Native Americans,” Lowe said.

Speaking of the latter, Lowe added a traditional Salish hymn and “Old American Songs” by Aaron Copland to the program. Dvorak was also selected since he was from Prague, which has a river, the Vltava, which runs through the center of the city just like the Spokane River flows through the heart of town.

The program also includes “My Fatherland No. 2 (The Moldau)” by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, and “Chokfi’ ” by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, a contemporary Chickasaw composer and pianist.

“It’s all about home this time out,” Lowe said. “Home is significant for everyone.”

It’s season four for Lowe as conductor of the Spokane Symphony. “But it doesn’t feel that way due to the pandemic,” Lowe said. “This feels more like my second season.”

It also feels exhilarating for Lowe and the Symphony since they’re still basking in the afterglow from Ma’s Spokane debut.

“Yo-Yo Ma has that kind of impact,” Lowe said. “There was no better way to start things off and we’ll just try to keep the momentum goin