Most Americans over age 55 remember where they were when they heard the news of John F. Kennedy's assassination. So does Thierry Fischer.
"I remember exactly the story," the Utah Symphony's Swiss music director said. "I was 6 years old, in the French Alps skiing with friends." The news took a few days to reach him, but "even being 6, I sort of knew who Kennedy was. Even at my age, in the middle of the Alps, people talked about it."
The Utah Symphony will pay tribute to Kennedy this weekend, on the 50th anniversary of his death. The program includes Stravinsky's "Elegy for JFK," with mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis singing the text by W.H. Auden, and Peter Lieberson's "Remembering JFK," with narration by actor Edward Herrmann. Fischer said it's a "wonderful coincidence" that the orchestra's seasonlong exploration of Carl Nielsen's symphonies reaches its fourth installment in these concerts celebrating the spirit of Kennedy. Symphony No. 4, nicknamed "The Inextinguishable," is "really about life," Fischer said. "Life goes on whatever happens. â¦ It gives me strength every time I conduct it."
The concerts will begin and end with music of Benjamin Britten in honor of the late composer's centennial: the seldom-performed "American Overture" and the more familiar "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." The latter is usually heard on concerts for young people, but Fischer said he welcomes the chance to show off the Utah Symphony. "The orchestra is playing very well at the moment," he said.
When • Friday and Saturday, Nov. 22 and 23, 8 p.m.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $18 to $55 ($5 more on concert day) at http://www.utahsymphony.org
Learn more • Fischer and Nielsen scholar Mogens Mogensen will chat about the music with Utah Symphony VP Toby Tolokan onstage at 7 each night.
Clothing drive • The orchestra is collecting winter clothing and cash donations for The Road Home homeless shelter before this week's concerts. Bring them to the Abravanel Hall lobby. Donors will receive "Utah Symphony bucks" to use on future ticket purchases, and monetary donations will be met with a $15,000 matching grant from Chevron. Visit http://www.theroadhome.org for details.