The walls of the vast, empty concert hall seemed to go on forever. Row after row of vacant seats stare silently at the stage, each holding their breath for the evening to come. Soon, hundreds of people will pour in through every entrance, laughing and conversing before conductor, Julie Sorensen, commands the stage with the Idaho State Civic Symphony.
Jensen's Grand Concert Hall before the show
The gentle hum of the violin echoes throughout the massive hall. A spine-tingling chill falls over the room as one reverberating note is played. The violin picks up, moving faster and faster, quickening every heartbeat and stealing the breath of every being inside the Jensen Grand Concert Hall in Pocatello, Idaho.
But long before the show began, crowds gathered around an old pioneer wagon and several folks dressed in 19th century garb. The stars of the show (Wallace Keck, Tara McClure-Cannon, Austin Zollinger, Juanita Jones, Trenton Durfee, and Jen McCabe) stole the stage with dramatic readings from a historic pioneer journal, describing life on the trail as emigrants made their way across the Oregon Trail. The pioneers detailed the scenery on their journey, and everything seemed pretty flat... drab... and bland, until they reached
City of Rocks.
From left to right: Juanita, Austin, Trenton, Eva, Tara, Wallace
William Woodham (June 22, 1854) At noon we encamped near the so-called Monumental rocks. They are a cluster of rocks forming a sort of semi-circle. They rise to a great height and are of a light grey color and look like the ruins of some enormous structure. They are situated in an amphitheatre of mountains, with snow capped summits. The rocks themselves rise out of a little plain covered with velvet sod. A small stream issues from their base and glitters along down the valley. A sort of thin mist hangs in the air, giving a dreamy appearance to the whole scene . . . . All afternoon we travelled along the same valley among rocks of the most singular shapes, some rising to great heights like the spires of churches, others of a more tower like appearance. Encamped on a sage plain near a little creek with tolerable grass.
City of Rocks presentation behind the orchestra
Wallace and crew informed and entertained the eager orchestra-goers with their elaborate tales, historic outfits, and of course, the very impressive stage scene (complete with butter churner and ball-in-a-cup!).
A little game of cards to get things rolling
Jen brushing up on her part before the show
After the historic renditions, the music began. Opening with the Festive Fanfare (Randy Earles) and followed by Alan Hovaness's Mysterious Mountain symphony (1955). The three melodic measures preceded what brought Wallace and the City crew to Pocatello that day: Thom Hasenpflug's 2018 composition: A Silent City of Rocks.
Thom is an incredible composer and an avid outdoorsman who found great reprieve and inspiration at this beautiful national reserve. A Silent City of Rocks was complimented by a fantastic display of images that played on the screen behind the musicians. Photography from Keck, Hasenpflug, and others brought to life the meaning behind his composition.
Thom Hasenpflug speaking to the crowd
With six measures, like The Sun Rises on Twin Sisters and Ghosts of Register Rock, I found myself wishing the symphony would continue long into the night. Hasenpflug's music reverberated against the walls of the Jensen Grand Concert Hall and penetrated deeply into the hearts and minds of anyone in its presence. And as the images rolled across the screen, one felt immediately transported to a different place--among the boulders and tall spires of this geologic City. You could feel the history and sense the wonder that no doubt incited Hasenpflug's symphony and gain--if even for a moment--more understanding of what it must have been like to travel the trails toward Oregon so many years ago.
The stage was eerily beautiful
The event was an absolute success. With the combination of music, art, and history, it was nearly impossible to leave Jensen's Hall that night without a budding sense of inspiration, mystery, and a yearning to discover what else lies within the vast spires at City of Rocks.
For more information about City of Rocks, visit their site.
Some of Wallace Keck's wonderful photography on display at the event
Tara and Wallace near the outdoor display