The Mahler Story Begins

One thread I will be exploring on this blog involves an upcoming performance of Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the Oregon East Symphony and Chorale in Pendleton, Oregon. The OES, 200 miles from Portland, 260 miles from Seattle and 300 miles from Boise has long been nicknamed “The Most Remotely Situated Full Symphony Orchestra on the Planet.” Pendleton is a town of 17,000 that sits at the end of a 65 mile long desert plateau near the feet of the Blue Mountains. The economy is driven largely by wheat farming and the annual rodeo “Pendleton Round-Up.” The Round-Up is one of the four largest  rodeo events in the world, and each October the town swells to over 80,000 people for a week as the world’s leading rodeo athelets compete. Pendleton is the county seat of Umatilla County, which has the distinction of having one of the lowest per-capita incomes of any county in the continental US.      



 So, how does a tiny community in the middle of nowhere, 200 miles from it’s nearest pool of professional musicians, with limited financial resources come to support an orchestra that can tackle one of the longest, largest and most complex works in the repertoire? How does an orchestra born amidst the arts budget cuts of the 1980s survive, evolve and transform for 20 years in the heart of cowboy country? Stay tuned to find out. 

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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