UMSL marks Jubilee with specially commissioned symphony

Barbara Harbach, professor of music at UMSL, composed “Jubilee Symphony” to mark the 50th anniversary of the university. It will make its debut Oct. 9 in the Touhill. (Photo by Stephanie Zettl)

To mark its 50th anniversary the University of Missouri–St. Louis commissioned composer and UMSL music professor Barbara Harbach to write an original performance piece. Her creation will make its debut next month.

Jubilee Symphony” will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9 in Anheuser Busch Hall at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. The concert is free and open to the public.

Harbach only had to step outside her office to draw inspiration for the first movement, “Bellerive,” which takes its name from the Bellerive Country Club that became the initial location for the university. The clubhouse served as administrative, classroom and library space. It was torn down in 1978.

“The first building on the campus was the club house,” Harbach said. “The excitement of creating this new educational institution is portrayed by rhythmic energy and long-soaring and sustained melodies. A fugue evolves from these opening materials to become a conversation among the many partners that were needed to realize this dream.”

“Mirth Day Fiesta” is the second movement and was heavily influenced by Mirthday, the annual student carnival and spring celebration held on campus. It’s a unique event to the university.

UMSL’s nickname, Tritons, looms large in the third movement, “Tritons Ascending.” Triton is the mythological Greek god, the messenger of the sea, and the composition is dark and mysterious like the deep recesses of the ocean.

“The musical mood becomes noble and stately with the low brass bringing Triton to the surface of the waters,” Harbach explained.

Robert Howard will conduct the University Symphony Orchestra. This performance will be the group’s first concert of the 2013-2014 school year.

The orchestra will also perform Beethoven’s Second Symphony, a prophetic work that foretells Beethoven’s later symphonic output – particularly his Ninth Symphony.

In addition to 2013 marking a half-century for UMSL, the year also marks a milestone for Harbach, who has now called UMSL home for 10 years.

“St. Louis has been very good to me musically,” she said. “I have been able to interact with many of the excellent music faculty here at UMSL, as well as the many great musical friends from the St. Louis area. We have performed together, recorded CDs together, and made marvelous music together. I have had many commissions from friends and musicians in St. Louis and consider myself one of the most fortunate musicians to have such great colleagues!”

Harbach has a large catalog of works, including symphonies, operas, string orchestras, musicals, works for chamber ensembles, film scores, modern ballets, pieces for organ, harpsichord and piano; choral anthems; and many arrangements for brass and organ of various Baroque works. She is also involved in the research, editing, publication and recording of manuscripts of 18th century keyboard composers, as well as historical and contemporary women composers.

Harbach serves as editor of the WomenArts Quarterly Journal.

Media coverage:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Cityscape” on St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU
St. Louis Magazine


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