FullHouse fh-header fh-header fh-header

Theresa Britt, Jey Ping, and Garrett Thompson are part of the ensemble that will debut Van der Stucken’s Ein Kleiner Walzer at the Van der Stucken Music Festival this Friday evening. Photo by John Reeve. Link to video of performance


Frank Valentin Van der Stucken, 1858-1929

The Van der Stucken Music Festival will be held Friday evening, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. in St. Joseph Hall, 207 West San Antonio Street, Fredericksburg. Professor Larry Wolz, the new Fredericksburg Community Orchestra, and the Hermann Sons Chorus under the direction of Mark Hierholzer will perform. Free admission.
Anyone interested in supporting the new Fredericksburg Community Orchestra with funding, volunteering, performing, or joining the board can contact Theresa Britt at theresa.britt@yahoo.com.


webmaster: phil@fullhouseproductions.net

A night of firsts

by Phil Houseal
April 13, 2011

Link to video of performance

Link to Fredericksburg Community Orchestra Facebook

This Friday evening you can listen to a 100-year-old composition by a Fredericksburg native that has never been heard - not only in Fredericksburg - but in the United States.

April 15 will be a night of firsts for performers as well as guests at the Van der Stucken Music Festival.

It will mark the world premier of the Fredericksburg Community Orchestra, which will perform the Texas and national premier of a piece of music composed by Fredericksburg’s native son Frank Valentin Van der Stucken exactly 100 years ago.

Even Dr. Larry Wolz - Professor of Music History and Voice, and Head of the Department of Music History and Literature at Hardin-Simmons University, author and recognized authority on Van der Stucken - has never heard this piece performed. “I’m afraid I don’t know a great deal about Ein Kleiner Walzer,” he said of the Van der Stucken composition. “It seems to be a piece in the tradition and style of the Viennese waltzes of the late 19th century - think Johann Strauss.”

Wolz’s research reveals the piece was written for entertainment purposes originally, not as a concert work. It was the last of Van der Stucken’s orchestral works to be published and is for strings only. It was actually written after Van der Stucken left the U.S. and went to live in Germany. There are few copies available in the United States, although Wolz was able to send a score to Theresa Britt.

Britt - recent Fredericksburg transplant, violin pedagogist, and Suzuki string teacher - has assembled a chamber group to perform an abridged version of the waltz.

“In spite of the name, it is not a ‘little’ waltz. It’s kind of a big piece,” she explained. “It is actually quite forward thinking. I’m impressed by the kinds of sounds that it has - kind of like circus music in the last part, with first violins working up on the high wire.”

Britt is also founder of the Fredericksburg Community Orchestra, which will make its debut as well. The new orchestra really is the extension of an old idea in Fredericksburg. According to Kenn Knopp, co-founder of the Friends of Van der Stucken, author, and lecturer on the history of the settlers in the area, organized music has always played a valued role in the lives of local citizens. Indeed, Van der Stucken was born in Fredericksburg in 1858, and is acknowledged for helping establish international credibility for American composers in the late nineteenth century.

“Fredericksburg always had people in chamber music, recitals, and plays, and any number of orchestras,” Knopp said. “Saturday night was dedicated to public dancing, and Sunday afternoon was for chamber music.”

As other sources of entertainment developed, many of the community groups went away by the 1940s and 50s.

The new orchestra is ready to restart that history. (Disclosure: This column writer has played a small role in reviving the community orchestra. Even before Britt arrived, she and I were laying the groundwork for the group. I wish I could say my incentive was for artistic or historic reasons. But the truth is I wanted to play in an orchestra. )

“For me, the challenge is trying to mesh a diverse group of people of different ages and ability,” Britt said. Members of the group include her Suzuki students, some adult beginners, as well as orchestra veterans. “It is an interesting group, and the form will depend on the repertoire. It has been a challenge, but I am sure it will come together just fine.”

That coming together begins Friday night, with new sounds from an old composer.

“This is going to be a neat event. It is a very challenging piece. But it’s a charming piece and the most interesting one I am playing right now.”