Southwest Symphony Orchestra celebrates the music of Billy Joel in season finale performances

The Southwest Symphony Orchestra performs at the DSU Cox Performing Arts Center, St. George, Utah, Jan. 28, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — As their 40th performance season draws to a close, the Southwest Symphony Orchestra will be joined by nationally touring musician Michael Cavanaugh for a salute to the iconic songbook of Billy Joel. 

Lucas Darger, conductor and music director of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, said these energetic shows are the crown jewel of their spectacular anniversary season. Joel’s music appeals to fans of classical and rock ‘n’ roll alike, and Cavanaugh is a top-notch performer.  

“It’s the final performance of the season, so we’re trying to end it with a big bang,” Darger said. “It should be a lot of fun.” 

In his first Southern Utah performance, Cavanaugh will perform Joel’s hits with the backing of the orchestra plus a six-piece band. Shows are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings at the Cox Performing Arts Center at Dixie State University. Masks will be required, and because seating capacity is limited to allow for social distancing, patrons are encouraged to reserve their seats online as soon as possible. 

Cavanaugh is best known as the lead vocalist and piano player in the band for the Broadway jukebox musical “Movin’ Out,” based on Joel’s songbook. He was personally selected by Joel for the role and performed more than 1,300 shows over three years. 

Cavanaugh received Grammy and Tony nominations for his work in “Movin’ Out” and has created his own show that reinvents the modern pop/rock songbook and celebrates the timeless songs of both Joel and Elton John. He started touring in 2005 and has performed at various corporate, charity and sporting events worldwide.  

David Park performs with the Southwest Symphony Orchestra at the DSU Cox Performing Arts Center, St. George, Utah, March 5, 2021 | Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, St. George News

“He’s got a great pedigree,” Darger said. “He travels across the country doing this.” 

Collaborating with both a band and a stage performer like Cavanaugh is a very intensive process for the orchestra, Darger said, adding that the technical requirements are far more complex. They’ve brought in specialized audio equipment from Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. 

“This is something that we’ve been working on for a very long time,” he added. “We’re all very excited.” 

Despite the challenges of the past year, the 40th anniversary season has been filled with stellar performances. Shows featured such talent as David Park, violinist and assistant concertmaster for the Utah Symphony. The orchestra also performed with Marie Osmond for a special one-night engagement at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts. 

In the coming weeks, the orchestra will release their 2021-2022 season schedule, which Darger said he hopes will include a full slate of performances. Join the orchestra’s Crescendo Club for discounted season tickets, VIP performance access and more. 

The Southwest Symphony Orchestra is supported by a combination of ticket sales, grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations. Darger said the people of Southern Utah are extremely generous in their patronage of the performing arts. 

The Southwest Symphony Orchestra performs in Town Square Park, St. George, Utah, Oct. 30, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, St. George News

Created by a small group of musicians seeking a vessel for sharing symphonic music with the community, the Southwest Symphony Orchestra is now more than 70 performers strong and was recently awarded Best of State for the third consecutive year. Some members are professional musicians, and all are dedicated to the orchestra’s mission of bringing a premier symphony experience to Southern Utah. The musicians receive a small stipend for their participation, but it’s essentially a volunteer organization.  

“They’re very passionate about it, and they love what they’re doing,” Darger said. “It’s really a gem for our community to have an orchestra of this level in this small of a city.” 

Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.

•  S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •

Event details

  • What: Southwest Symphony Orchestra presents The Music of Billy Joel Starring Michael Cavanaugh. 
  • When: Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24, starting at 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: DSU Cox Performing Arts Center, 325 S. 700 East, St. George. 
  • Tickets: $32. 
  • Resources: Website

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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