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Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra to showcase famous animal stories in weekend concerts

The Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra will be opening its 65th season with "Animalia." The concert will showcase the tunes from famous animal stories including Old MacDonald, Babar the Little

Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra performs a concert
The Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra will be opening its 65th season with "Animalia," a concert all about the animal kingdom.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo
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WILLMAR — Elephants, bears and penguins, oh my!

This weekend, the Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra is going to the animals with a pair of concerts — "Animalia."

The show, the first of the orchestra's 65th season, will showcase music from favorite animal tales both old and new. There will also be many family-friendly activities before and after the shows, all tied to the animal theme.

Both the cities of Benson and Willmar will be hosting the orchestra this weekend.

The Benson concert will take place at 3 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Performing Arts Center in Benson. And, at 3 p.m. Oct. 9, the concert will take place in the Willmar Education and Arts Center. Tickets are $15 for adults, and all those 18 and under are free.

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Tickets for the Benson concert can be purchased online , at the Benson Education Office or at the door. Willmar tickets are available on the orchestra's website and at the door.

"I invite everyone to come," said WASO Music Director Stephen Ramsey.

All the music in "Animalia" will be about the animal kingdom. There will be a performance of Leroy Anderson's version of "Old MacDonald," which will feature a lot of barnyard banter between the instruments. The piece had its debut with the Boston Pops.

Erica Dischino / TribuneStephen Ramsey conducts the symphony orchestra during a dress rehearsal Tuesday for the Willmar Area Symphonic Concert scheduled Sunday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.
WASO Music Director Stephen Ramsey has directed the orchestra for the past six years. He invites everyone to attend "Animalia."
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

The showpiece for the concert will be the "History of Babar the Little Elephant" by Francis Poulenc. The piece will be narrated by Paul Knapper, an area performer. The story was written by Jean de Brunhoff in 1931 and follows the adventures of Babar in France and around the world. Poulenc completed the piano and narrator version of the story in 1945, and the orchestral version was finished in 1962 by Jean Fracaix.

"It is ridiculous and wonderful at the same time," Ramsey said of the story about an elephant that adopts human mannerisms and experiences. "It is another way of looking at human emotions."

Children in the audience are welcome to bring along their favorite stuffed animal to the concert, and will be invited to parade them around as the orchestra plays "Entry of the Gladiators March" by Julius Fucik. This march is well-known at circuses.

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The concert will conclude with the "The Story of Mumble the Penguin" from the movie "Happy Feet." It is a story about a penguin that just wants to dance. The score by John Powell and arranged for orchestra by Jack Bullock aims to get the audience's toes tapping as well.

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For those attending the Willmar production of "Animalia," there will be fun pre-concert activities.

Starting at 2 p.m., there will be a live llama and alpaca to meet and greet. Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center will have "Skins, Skulls and Scat" for fingers to explore, and the Monarch Joint Venture will teach about the Monarch butterfly. People will be able to create origami butterflies.

Photos and art of animals from the Little Crow Photography Club and Shalese Sands will be on display. Barry Bear from the Willmar Stingers will be on hand for photos. There will also be a door prize for tickets to the Minnesota Zoo, and students can enter their name to win a virtual tour of the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo for their class.

 The Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra performs a concert for third-grade students Friday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center.
Following the concert, WASO will hold an instrument petting zoo, giving children a chance to handle and play some of the instruments.
Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

"There is so much going on with it," said longtime WASO member Bob Whitney.

At both the Benson and Willmar concerts there will be an instrument petting zoo. The goal is to perhaps spark a love of music and find the next generation of WASO players.

"The opportunity for kids to handle instruments, to make their very first sounds on an instrument," Ramsey said, is worth the time and effort.

WASO hopes music lovers of all ages will attend "Animalia" for an afternoon of fun music and activities.

"We want people to come and listen," said Barb Holmgren, longtime WASO member. "It is for everybody."

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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