The Helena Symphony will perform a two-part work at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Helena Civic Center.
Maestro Allan R. Scott will direct "Requiem" by Maurice Duruflé for the first half of the event. This piece will be performed in memory of former Symphony President Matthew Dale, a well-known Helena figure who died a few months ago. Scott described this as a “very peaceful work.”
The second part of the performance, the symphony will take on Peter Boyer’s "Ellis Island - Dream of America."
“The second half tells a story about immigrants," Scott said. "We have two actors and five immigrants who will be narrating their stories.”
This performance has a special twist, five of the seven narrators are Helena citizens who immigrated from other countries: Ersun Özer from Turkey, 10-year-old Isabel Pomerleau from China, Mayor Wilmot Collins from Liberia, and World Montana Executive Director Sasha Fendrick from Russia.
Two American born actors, Katy Wright and Mokey McNeilly, will fill out the roster.
“As I’ve worked here in Helena, I’ve tried to not be very political,” Scott said. “And really, I’m actually working to make this not very political. Immigration is one of the most hot button political issues, but I’m trying to strip back the politics and just show the basic humanity of this issues, which can be a divisive issue.”
Scott said that the piece is very moving, particularly the way the symphony has it planned. The story focuses on seven letters from Ellis Island, the most famous gateway for immigrants in American history.
Each of these seven letters will be narrated by one of the seven performers to the backdrop of the symphony. Additionally, a film strip will play alongside the narration making the experience auditory and visual.
“These stories may not be their own, but they might as well be,” said Scott. He explained that even though the names and dates are changed around, the five immigrants who now call Helena home have gone through many of the same hardships as the letters they will read Saturday.
An example Scott gave was Mayor Collins. “He is narrating the story of a Hungarian immigrant who escaped a civil war to come to America,” said Scott. “Collins himself left Liberia (his home country) because of a civil war.”
Scott said that Collins told him “it’s so similar it may as well be my story.”
Another example Scott gave was Sasha Fendrick who will narrate the letter of a Russian immigrant in the performance.
“While the facts and details might be different the thread and the feelings are the same,” said Scott. “And I’m really hoping to tap into that and show the humanity of these stories.”