FARGO - One of the themes of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra's current season is showcasing local talent as soloists instead of bringing in outside guest artists.
Saturday's concert did that in the most moving ways.
The third Masterworks concert of the year opened on a bittersweet note with the string section playing "Arioso" from Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3. It was a touching tribute to Mary King Osterfield, a longtime violist who played with the symphony through last year, when she was 99.
As some performers wiped away tears, symphony Executive Director Linda Boyd Coates took the stage to recall the late teacher's wit. After a recent blood transfusion, King Osterfield remarked in her Irish accent, "I don't know where the blood came from, but the first thing I said was, 'Uff-da.' "
While King Osterfield was remembered onstage, no one in the crowd will forget pianist Jihye Chang, the featured soloist. Dressed in a violet evening gown, Chang looked as elegant as she played, each flourish on Frederic Chopin's romantic "Concert No. 2" sparkling like a jeweled necklace.
She's called Chopin "the poet of the piano," but it was Chang's beautiful playing that wooed the audience. As soon as she finished, the crowd sprang for a standing ovation as she got a hug from her beaming husband, concertmaster Ben Sung.
The evening ended with the most physically moving piece, the rousing ballet "Petrouchka" by Igor Stravinsky. The number calls from all parts of the symphony reflecting the characters in the puppet love triangle before ultimately ending on a quiet note as the ghost of the titular dejected character would appear above the stage, mocking survivors.
But it was the audience that got the last laugh Saturday, leaving with smiles and fond memories of wonderful music and musicians.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533