The concert at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center on April 28 demonstrated that the Dakota Valley Symphony under the baton of Stephen J. Ramsey continues to offer extraordinary artistic fare for the citizens of the south metro and beyond.

The concert began with the first-ever performance of a masterful orchestral piece written by Victor Zupanc, music director and composer at the Tony Award-winning Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. It included solos for Northumbrian smallpipes, played by Dick Hensold, and captured every nuance and created every mood called for by Kevin Kling's entertaining, often suspenseful reading of his children's tale, "The Burning Wisdom of Finn McCool." Kling is a noted author and storyteller who is often heard on National Public Radio.

Next were showstopping performances by the winners of the symphony's sixth annual young-artists' competition: Eden Valley High School sophomore Michelle Gomez and Burnsville High School senior Kristina Butler. Both young ladies are rarely found talents.

I could only marvel at Gomez's grasp of Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 33, by Saint-Saens. The touch of her bow on the cello's strings was nothing less than exquisite. Not surprisingly, her performance of the concerto drew extended applause. Ramsey told me afterward that "she was an absolute dream to accompany."

Butler's voice rang as pure as a bell throughout the concert hall in her performance of the Alleluia from Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate. Butler also received extended applause. St. Olaf College is getting a marvelous vocalist next fall, and it will be fascinating to follow Butler as her vocal instrument continues to mature while she pursues advanced studies.

Just before intermission, Ramsey's announcement of next season's concert series prompted dozens of people to rush to the box office to purchase season tickets. Featuring Latin American numbers and artists, the concerts will include "Latin Rhapsody," "Cuban Overture," and the timeless, hugely popular "Rhapsody in Blue." Also included are two performances of the "Messiah" (one a singalong), a four-chorus concert with orchestra and 200 singers, and the seventh annual young artists' concert.

The concert's second half was devoted to Brahms' Symphony No. 3. Before the orchestra performance, director Ramsey explained each movement, with the orchestra playing short passages to support his explanations — a nice touch, I thought. The performance evoked all of the warmth, beauty and grandeur that Brahms intended.

Jerry Goodrich is a Prior Lake resident.