Ogden is finally getting its very own theme song.
And that theme is an important one: The story of a place, basically located in the middle of nowhere, that suddenly found itself smack dab in the center of everything.
The world premiere of a new piece of music — inspired by this railroad town that became known as Junction City — will be presented this weekend in downtown Ogden. Jens Kruger’s “Crossroads Ogden” will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, in Peery’s Egyptian Theater.
Tickets are $35 to $75; ages 16 and younger are admitted free, but all audience members must have a ticket.
Saturday’s concert will offer music by bluegrass/folk trio The Kruger Brothers, joined by Chamber Orchestra Ogden and featuring dance by Imagine Ballet Theatre.
“‘Crossroads Ogden’ is unique and different from anything that’s been done in Ogden,” said Michelle Tanner, executive director of Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music (OFOAM), which commissioned the work of music. “It’s like a progressive classical piece, based on the banjo as the lead instrument.”
Tanner said the musical work “Crossroads Ogden” is about 40 minutes in length. She said it offers a “sort of” chronological view of Ogden, from her earliest inhabitants to modern day.
The seeds of Saturday’s concert were planted some 13 years ago, when Tanner first saw Jens Kruger play his banjo at a festival organized by her brother in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“That was my inspiration for starting OFOAM,” Tanner said. “It was The Kruger Brothers who inspired me to say, ‘We can do this in Ogden.’”
Indeed, The Kruger Brothers — a North Carolina-based trio that got its start in Switzerland, featuring brothers Jens and Uwe Kruger and bassist Joel Landsberg — were the first band Tanner booked, back in 2008, for her brand new Ogden Music Festival. They group has returned to the state a time or two.
Then, about five years ago, Tanner approached Jens Kruger — who’d begun composing classical music — about doing a commissioned work for Ogden.
“I said, ‘You should write a piece about Ogden,’” Tanner recalls. “His answer was, he looked up in the sky, mystically, and said ‘I can just hear it.’”
In his composer’s notes, Jens Kruger says he imagined what it must have been like when trains — “these Beasts of Steel” — were “steering the fate of this country.”
Writes the composer: “The roaring sound like thunder, steam and smoke, the scream of the whistle, the clanging of the bells in the midst of shouting conductors; a seemingly never-ending stream of travelers passing through a town in the middle of nowhere that to its own surprise became the center of the universe.”
“Crossroads Ogden” was originally going to be presented earlier this year as part of the May 2019 transcontinental railroad sesquicentennial celebration. However, various delays — including some health problems for Jens Kruger — pushed the premiere date back into November.
“And now here it is, just in time to cap off a year-long celebration of the sesquicentennial,” Tanner said.
Tanner says she’s glad they didn’t schedule “Crossroads Ogden” during the events immediately surrounding the May 10 celebration.
“I think it would have gotten lost in the shuffle of everything else going on,” she said.
Jens Kruger’s commissioned piece will premiere in the first half of Saturday’s concert. The second-half set will feature what Tanner describes as a “more relaxed set of music” featuring The Kruger Brothers.
As a trio, The Kruger Brothers have been performing together since 1995. They relocated to the United States in 2002 and are now based in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
“They grew up playing music from the albums their dad would bring home, albums that were the soundtracks to westerns,” Tanner said. “Today, some consider Jens the best banjo player in the world.”
In addition to Saturday’s “Crossroads Ogden” concert, OFOAM is also offering a “Friends of Crossroads” meet-and-greet event on Friday, Nov. 1, at Imagine Ballet Theatre in downtown Ogden. Attendees of this exclusive event will have an opportunity to meet The Kruger Brothers, choreographer Raymond Van Mason, and other artists involved in the weekend’s concert.
The Friday celebration will feature music by the Joe McQueen Quartet, as well as food and beverages from Roosters Brewing Co., Craftburger, Maddox, Beehive Cheese, Pepsi, and Grounds for Coffee. Admission is $25.
Tanner said the “Crossroads Ogden” music is an amazing gift for the people of Ogden.
“When it’s all said and done, Jens said this piece of music will belong to Ogden,” she said. “He said this isn’t about them as musicians, it’s about having a piece of music — for Ogden — that will belong to Ogden.”