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Idaho State-Civic Symphony to play BYU-Idaho grad-penned piece as part of upcoming concert

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POCATELLO — The Idaho State-Civic Symphony is gearing up for a special concert filled with music inspired by the horrors and triumphs of war.

The concert, “Tales of Sorrow and Triumph,” features pieces written by Prokofiev, Gould and John Williams. Along with these well-known pieces, the concert is also highlighted by a piece, “My Name is Mitka,” written by Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate Jordan Roper.

“The tragedies and triumphs of war have inspired composers to create some of their greatest work,” said the symphony’s Maestra, Dr. Julie Sorensen. “Whether written as responses to personal experiences, or as tributes to heroes or victims, music shows us the power of the human experience. Friday’s program features pieces that reflect musical responses to some of history’s most poignant events, and we are hopeful that when the audience leaves the hall that we will have inspired them and restored their faith in humanity.”

“Mitka” was specifically inspired by the story of Mitka Kalinski, a concentration camp survivor who spent eight years of his life as a child slave working on the farm of a Nazi officer. He weathered many trials, drawing the strength to keep going through making music on an accordion he acquired.

Though he nearly gave in on multiple occasions, Kalinski survived long enough to be freed by U.S. troops. Eventually, he was brought to the U.S., where he met his wife, started a family and currently resides in Reno, Nevada.

Jordan Roper

Roper initially heard about Kalinski’s story from his aunt and was inspired, not only by the events of his life, but also by the man he grew into despite those experiences.

“This man has a good life, loves his family, his family loves him,” Roper said. “Everybody in town knows him and loves him, even after all the atrocities that he’s suffered.”

Writing a piece that told Kaslinski’s story through music was a difficult challenge. Roper said he needed to find a way to convey a full range of emotions, from despair to hope, while at the same time crafting music that would recall Kaslinki’s culture and heritage.

“I wanted to come up with a theme that sounded like the Jewish culture, but that wouldn’t be too on-the-nose or too trite and cliched,” explained Roper. “I came up with a theme that I felt sounded Jewish, contained a lot of sorrow and kind of told the story of what Mitka went through. But then I had moments in the piece of hope and I had the last chord end on a major key so it would sound like it ended triumphantly.”

“My Name is Mitka” has already been performed publicly by the Cheyenne Wyoming Symphony and the Reno Philharmonic, with Kalinski attending the Reno performance. The piece is accompanied by video clips and fits together well with the rest of the pieces that will be performed.

“Tales of Sorrow and Triumph” will be preceded by a question-and-answer session with Roper and Sorensen. Roper said that those who attend the concert will have an experience that is well worth the time.

“To talk about this story then hear the music and pair it with John Williams’ amazing ‘Schindler’s List’ and the other amazing pieces and be able to have a question-and-answer session is just going to be an amazing evening,” Roper said. “And to have it be there right in Pocatello… if someone came, you’re not going to regret it. Hearing these stories, hearing the music – these are things that can change the way people look at life every day.”

The Idaho State-Civic Symphony will perform “Tales of Sorrow and Triumph” Friday, March 13 at 7:30 pm in the Stephens Performing Arts Center in Pocatello. The question-and-answer session before the concert will begin at 6:30 pm. You can get tickets by clicking here or calling the Stephens box office at (208) 282-3595.

To hear more of Roper’s music, check out his Soundcloud page. For more on Mitka Kalinski’s life, click here.

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