By Daniel Buckwalter


The Silva Concert Hall became a dance hall of sorts Thursday night, with diverse samplings of orchestral dance pieces offered by the Eugene Symphony Orchestra.

From the foxtrot feel of John Adams’ The Chairman Dances to the dark, treacherous portrait of the character Ulla Paske in The Little Mermaid, the symphony gave its live audience (and starting Nov. 7 its stream audience) a generous spectrum of dance images in a program titled Orchestra Dance Remix.

There was a trip to Latin America and a tip of the cap to Cuban music from Mexican composer Arturo Márquez (Danzón No. 7) as well as a respectful homage to the waltz from Maurice Ravel (La Valse) and the elegance of guest violinist Alexi Kenney in Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor.

I was struck most with Water Sings Fire — a 12-minute piece composed by Portland native Andrea Reinkemeyer, who teaches composition and theory at Linfield College.

The piece draws its inspiration from the short story When Water Sang Fire by fantasy author Leigh Bardugo, as it explores ambition and betrayal through Ulla’s transformation from obscure mermaid to a tempestuous sea witch with super-human powers, a sorceress originated by Hans Christian Andersen in his 1837 classic, The Little Mermaid fairy tale.

But this is not the Disney version of The Little Mermaid. The comic book evolution of the story and of Ulla’s character is far darker as she fights as Denmark’s representative for the super-hero team The Global Guardians.

Indeed, the music conjures images of pitch-black alleys and desolate landscapes. I could envision Ulla walking this ground, alone at night, and absorbing the motivations of everyone, including herself, that has led to this destruction.

In pre-orchestra notes, Reinkemeyer writes that in addition to exploring themes of ambition and betrayal, Ulla offers a voice to feminine identity as well.

“The themes resonate with societal changes that challenge our nation as we strive to give voice to the wronged and the disenfranchised,” she writes. “The work is dedicated, with hope and with gratitude, to ‘women who sing truth though the world rains fire upon them.’ ”

If September’s opening night was filled with emotion — and it was after 19 months away because of the pandemic — Thursday night’s performance at the half-filled Silva Concert Hall had a laid-back feel to it.

And that was nice.

Reinkemeyer was introduced to the audience by conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, Kenney was magnificent and Daniel Cho, the Conducting Fellow of the Eugene Symphony, got a turn at the podium to conduct Márquez’ piece.

The most charming moment for me was sitting next to a woman, Sharon Smith, who told me she was a violinist with the Eugene Symphony until retiring five years ago. She told me that she doesn’t make it back to Silva Concert Hall often. “I’d rather be up there playing than here listening,” she said. “I miss my music friends.”

Smith stood up at the end of the concert and lent her voice to a standing ovation for the symphony’s performance, and I couldn’t help but think that all of us have missed our music friends.

Orchestra Dance Remix — the virtual edition

What: An online replay of the Eugene Symphony’s in-person October concert

When: Available from 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4 through 10 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11

Tickets: Start at $20; information and purchase at