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  • Writer's pictureLinda Donlin

Inside the Music

Music has always been an important part of my life. I have played in weekend bands, have sung for countless weddings, funerals and community theater productions, and am a soprano in the Bismarck-Mandan Civic Chorus and our church choir. It was only natural that my art would reflect my love of music. I am currently working on a series of paintings called "Inside the Music," which will be shown at The Capital Gallery in Bismarck this Fall.

My intention is to illustrate the performing arts from the musician's perspective. Most art depicts musical performances from the audience perspective, which is to be expected, as the artist generally is coming from that point of view. I hope "Inside the Music" will capture the intensity, the teamwork, the expertise and the passion that musicians put into their performances as they work with their directors and each other to deliver the best possible musical experience -- for the audience and for themselves.

The centerpiece of this collection is a large (36"x 48") painting of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Beverly Everett, the musical director of BMSO, was excited when I approached her with the idea, and she graciously facilitated my attendance at one of the orchestra's rehearsals so I could observe and take photos. As I started painting, I decided that the piece needed to be more than a literal interpretation of the orchestra playing in the Belle Mehus auditorium, it needed to capture the feelings of the director, the musicians and the audience, as well as the spirit of what they were playing.

While sketching it out, I decided to use the Maestro as the focal point, from the angle of a musician sitting in a chair on stage and looking up at her for direction. However, from that angle, the ceiling of the Belle took up a full third of the painting. I then had the idea that I wanted to show the heavens opening to hear the beautiful music. As I worked with my palette knife forming sky and clouds, it came to me that the composers of these classical pieces must certainly be smiling down as their music lives on through the generations. So in went the faces of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Hayden.

Rather than painting the musicians in their actual seats, I decided to have them surround the conductor and the audience, demonstrating how they work together to deliver a performance from deep within, hoping to touch the hearts of all while paying homage to the composers listening from above. And as I believe most artists are when they perform, not grounded or anchored by earthly limitations, they are instead absorbed in expressing the soul of the piece.

The beautiful architecture of the historic Belle Mehus auditorium, with its wonderfully restored plaster and gold leaf accents, was a treat to add to the painting -- in my style and using a palette knife with thick layers of paint, giving the piece extra dimension.

And finally, for a little bit of fun, I added suggestions of some of the BMSO board members' faces in among the audience. One of the hardest things was coming up with a name for the painting, and I had many great suggestions from social media friends, but in the end I decided that "The Heart's Passion Awakens the Soul" captured what the piece is all about.

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