Maestro headlined with LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra at April 17 concert.

by Donavan Barrier


LAPORTE, Ind.– LaPorte audience standing ovations and applause honored conductor Gary Thor Wedow and his accomplishments at his “in the spotlight” concert heralding the maestro’s return home to lead the LaPorte County Symphony Orchestra for a welcome home concert April 17 at the LaPorte Civic Auditorium.

The LaPorte native brought with him Kellie Motter, soprano, and Edward Graves, tenor, all sharing their craft and muse for the community Wedow grew up in, and surroundings and support which nurtured his musical interests.

The concert included works by Mozart, Handel and various traditional American songs adapted to classical style music.

At the end of the night, Mayor Tom Dermody honored Wedow with a surprise announcement deeming April 17 as “Gary Thor Wedow Day.”

Mr. Wedow’s command of the orchestra entrance the audience and myself.

His humble personality renders invisible his command of concert musicians with the ferocity of a lion. The movements and signals of his hands guides the orchestra with such power and grace, it reminds me of the ebbs and flows of a river. In one instance, his gestures are calm and smooth, and the next, they are mighty and forceful as the orchestra matches intensity. The musicians become an extension of the maestro. What Wedow expects, the orchestra delivers, as the LaPorte County Orchestra delivered Saturday. For the April 17 concert, the orchestra was reduced, and spread out due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the adjustments for safety did not stop them from filling the hall with a wonderful sound.

Ms. Motter’s soprano voice nearly made me weep, I was so touched.

During the overture of “Let the Bright Seraphim” from Sampson, and a rendition of the traditional American lullaby “Little Horses,” her voice soared through the air like an eagle. She emits youthful radiance, which afforded both of the aforementioned songs a dash of wittiness that I enjoyed immensely with fervor.

Her talents are limitless.

Later in the night, she performed “Regnava nel Silenzio,” a song from Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” where she captivated me with a somber and sad mood. The song is the telling of a story of a young woman’s encounter with a spirit who advises her not to love the man she is falling for. The performance was surreal, and I felt a sense of dread for this character she portrayed. Her performance of the piece had the power to make me experience the same terror the song emotes. She has a mastery of all of her songs, and I was so pleased with her performance.

Mr. Graves is a vocal talent equal to Ms. Motter, yet in his own style and means.

His rendition of “Sound an Alarm,” from Judas Maccabaeus, was warm in notation and masculine in delivery. I was so captivated; I nearly wanted to sound an alarm at his command. Later, during his performance of “Tombe degli avi miei” from Lucia, he matched Ms. Motter’s intensity with his own. In this aforementioned piece, the protagonist finds his love in the arms of another man, and seeks comfort and advice from his dead ancestors whom he talks to in the family tomb. His frustration and despair made me feel just as badly as he.

At the end of the performance, Ms. Motter and Mr. Graves came together to sing “Ragtime’s” “The Wheels of a Dream.” It was a wonderful finale to the concert, even prompting me to shed one or two tears. The singers, Maestro Wedow and the LaPorte County Orchestra exhibit the sound of success, saving their best musical moments to bring audience ovations. The crowd’s cheers were almost deafening, as like me, they were enthralled. Saturday’s wonderful performance provided cherish musical memories from our notable Laportean, now rooted in New York.

I chatted with Mr. Wedow and the featured vocalists following the concert.

Ms. Motter will be joining Mr. Wedow at the Des Moines Opera House, and Mr. Graves will be heading to California to perform with the San Francisco Opera. Saturday’s unforgettable concert with the LCSO remains a treasured example of a small community talent inspiring others while continuing to appreciate and share his own accomplishments with audiences.

Visit for more information on future concerts, which will continue to feature both limited ticket in-person seating and streaming opportunities for patrons.

Donavan Barrier is a 2019 graduate of Purdue Northwest who works in broadcast communications and journalism, including work with local PBS station WNIT in South Bend. He can be reached at