Orchestra's new director kicks off first season with 'all the hits' - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Orchestra’s new director kicks off first season with ‘all the hits’

Guest conductor Christopher Dragon motions as he works with the orchestra on a piece by the composer Mahler during rehearsal for the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, at NCHS. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – Christopher Dragon is clearly excited for the new concert season to get started.

He also admits to a few nerves before his first rehearsal with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra this week.

“There are always a few nerves leading into the first concert,” said Dragon, who took a break from preparing to talk with Oil City News at a downtown coffee shop. “It’s exciting to properly start and get to work.”

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“Every orchestra is completely different, no two are alike,” he said. “It takes a while to get to know the orchestra and see how things function.”

This weekend will be Dragon’s first concert with the orchestra since being named music director. A visa paperwork snag in his native Australia caused him to miss the Pops in the Park performance in August, which was intended to mark his official Casper debut.

Even with the visa issue, Dragon has made time in his packed schedule of guest and assistant-conducting several other orchestras to visit Casper numerous times since he was hired.

“I’ve really enjoyed coming to Casper and getting to know the community, which is what I always wanted to do,” said Dragon. “I didn’t want to come to Casper just to do concerts, that was never the idea of it.”

New WSO Christopher Dragon celebrates with orchestra supporters during an event on Thursday, May 24, 2019, at The Lyric. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

Dragon has been in high demand with many orchestras, and was recently promoted to resident conductor with the Colorado Symphony. But Casper is Dragon’s first job as music director, which means he is in full control of the orchestra’s direction.

“We’re starting the building process straightaway with this orchestra,” said Dragon.

“With the programs that I’m putting together, apart from being entertaining and enjoyable for the audience, I’m using them to build the orchestra as well.”

This weekend’s season opener features pieces with acclaimed soprano Elena Perroni, who will be accompanied by the orchestra on several well-known pieces.

“One of the best ways an orchestra can learn to listen to each other is by working with singers, because anytime you have a singer it requires so much flexibility,” he said.

As the season progresses, Dragon says he will continue to choose works that focus on fundamentals.

Some of those essential fundamentals include works by Brahms and Beethoven.

The year 2020 also marks Beethoven’s 250th birthday, for which Dragon has scheduled the return of piano soloist Stephen Lin to perform a Beethoven concerto with the orchestra in January. Dragon’s guest performance with Lin last January helped land his new job with the orchestra.

For the season opener, however, Dragon’s main aim was pure entertainment.

The pieces include works by American composers George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, along with several arias and pieces from light opera and show tunes. It’s a way to kick off the orchestra’s new era in a “fun and lighthearted” way.

“Even if you’re not familiar with classical music, I’m positive that people who come here without those experiences have heard some of these tunes before,” he said. “It’s full of so many memorable melodies.”

“It’s basically all the hits in one concert.”

The Wyoming Symphony Orchestra makes its debut with new music director Christopher Dragon and guest soloist Elena Perroni on Saturday, October 5, at the NCHS John F. Welsh Auditorium.

The performance starts at 7:30 p.m., and a pre-concert talk starting at 5 p.m. takes place at the Lyric. A post-show gathering takes place at the Backwards Tasting Room downtown.

For tickets and more information click here.