Albany Symphony Orchestra: Brave the Elements

Aug 05, 2014

The Albany Symphony Orchestra takes on fire, air, water and earth in its upcoming season

By Jim Hendricks, Albany Herald

ALBANY — The changing seasons should be in view in Southwest Georgia when the Albany Symphony Orchestra launches its 2014-15 season in late October, and symphony officials are hoping patrons will “Brave the Elements” for a subscription series that will emphasize the what once was thought of as the four basic elements — fire, air, water and earth.
Music Director Claire Fox Hillard, conductor of the symphony, said the theme for this year’s series actually worked back from the final concert of the year, which was scheduled to coincide with the Native American Festival in April at Chehaw.
“When you have four concerts, you think about things in fours, like the seasons,” Hillard said Thursday. “Sometimes I like to have a unifying theme. I already had plans to do the Native American thing, which was sort of earthy.”
The Albany Symphony Orchestra will again be under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Claire Fox Hillard for its 2014-15 series, “Brave the Elements.” 
He said he also knew that he planned to do something water-related with “Thronateeska,” a work by longtime Albany Symphony performer Steve Landis that will premiere at the ASO’s February concert. With Cirque de la Symphonie symbolizing air at the December concert, it all came together.
“It’s a way to talk to people about the concerts without having to use a lot of terminology,” Hillard said.
And involving local groups like Chehaw and the Flint RiverQuarium enables the symphony to “partner with others in a meaningful way,” he said. “It’s partnerships and doing what the Chamber of Commerce is talking about now, with the One Albany.”
Unlike last season when the orchestra split its concerts between the Albany Municipal Auditorium and Darton State College, the symphony will perform all of its concerts at its downtown home in the Municipal Auditorium at 200 N. Front St. That also will be the site of its annual Family Concert in March.
Meanwhile, the smaller Sunday afternoon ensemble performances will resume at the Albany Museum of Art, located off Gillionville Road at 311 Meadowlark Drive, adjacent to Darton State College.
At 6:30 p.m. — an hour before each orchestra concert at the Municipal Auditorium — Hillard and the evening’s guest performer will conduct a pre-concert notes presentation in which they will informally discuss the evening’s performance and take questions in an informal setting.
 Kadisha Onalbayeva, pianist, will perform with the Albany Symphony Orchestra at its opening concert of its “Brave the Elements” series at the Municipal Auditorium. The concerts starts at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 25. 
The first in the full orchestra series at the auditorium will be at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 25. “Fire” will include the “Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel de Falla, Franz Liszt’s symphony poem “Prometheus,” and the virtuosic fireworks of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 1.
Steinway artist Kadisha Onalbayeva will be the solo pianist, performing on Municipal Auditorium’s Steinway piano.
That will be followed at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 with “Air,” which will showcase Cirque de la Symphonie appearing with the symphony in a holiday celebration. The selections will include favorites from “The Polar Express,” “Flight to Neverland” from “Hook,” music from “The Nutcracker,” “The Skater’s Waltz,” and a traditional holiday song sing-along.
Eight artists from the cirque troupe will be accompanied by the symphony in what is described as a spectacular display of aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen.
Cirque de la Symphonie aerialists will perform with the Albany Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 for its holiday concert “Air.” 
The 2015 second half will open with “Water” at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 28. That concert will feature the world premiere performance of “Thronateeska” by Landis.
Hillard said Landis composed the piece specifically for the Albany Symphony with the ensemble enhakē as soloists.
Hillard said Landis was a student at Gainesville, Fla., when he started performing with the symphony. Even when he moved further away — this fall he’ll be attending the University of Missouri at Kansas City — he returned to play with the orchestra. Hillard said he loves the river and the town.
“He’s been coming here for eight or nine years,” the maestro said. “He just loves Albany.”
“Thronateeska,” Landis said, “is cast in three continuous sections and explores the impact that the Flint River has had upon the region and the environs of which the river is comprised. The geological features of flint and its use in local pre-Columbian History inspire the first section.
“The second section pays homage to the delicate and simple beauty of Spider Lilies in bloom, unique to the Flint River Basin. Moreover, the Flint River has influenced the course of human history for thousands of years; the final section is a survey of these events as perceived by the river.”
In addition, this concert will include Bedrich Smetana’s “Moldau” (River) and Beethoven’s depiction of nature — Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral.”
Joseph Firecrow, native American flutist, will perform April 11 with the Albany Symphony Orchestra for “Earth,” the symphony’s final concert of its 2014-15 “Brave the Elements” series.
The series will wrap up with “Earth” at 7:30 p.m. on April 11, a date that coincides with the weekend of Chehaw’s annual Native American Festival. “Earth” will feature Native American flute player Joseph FireCrow in a multimedia composition by Jim Cockey titled, “The Gift of the Elk.” This piece, Hillard said, is based on the traditional story of how the Native American flute came to the Northern Cheyenne people, a simple tale with a profound message of receiving and returning those gifts that are given to people by the universe.
Ferdé Grofe’s colorful and dramatic “Grand Canyon Suite” also will be performed.
The museum series at the Albany Museum of Art will start before the “Elements” series. Each of the museum concerts, which features small ensemble groups, is at 4 p.m. on a Sunday.
Kazakh Quartet, a string quartet, opens the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s Symphony@the Museum series Sept. 28 at the Albany Museum of Art. (Special photo)
Those performances start on Sept. 28 with the Kazakh Quartet, a prize-winning string quartet from Almaty, Kazakhastan, that was founded in 1988.
That will be followed Nov. 9 with the Montanari/D’Antonio Duo, an Italian flute and guitar duo that has been performing since 1996.
On Feb. 15, another pair of performers, the Anderegg/Funderburk Duo, will play. Violinist Francesca Anderegg will be accompanied by collaberative pianist Brent Funderburk.
The museum series concludes March 8 with The Guidonian, which Hillard said has been acclaimed by New York Times reveiwers for their “expertly played” performances with “meaty lower brass textures.” The Guidonian Hand is seen as America’s leading trombone collective.
At 7:30 p.m. on March 20, “The Orchestra Moves,” a special non-subscription performance for music enthusiasts of all ages, will be conducted at the Municipal Auditorium.
Hillard says it will be an interactive, multimedia event that explores movement within music (melody, rhythm and harmony) and how music moves those who listen to it.
An hour before the concert, those who attend can visit the “Orchestra Petting Zoo,” which offers them a chance to see, touch and even play all of the musical instruments used by the symphony.
Single tickets range in price from $10 (active student) to $30 (premium) for Municipal Auditorium performances and $10 (active student) to $15 (adult) for the museum concerts.
Packages also are available. The All-in-One series includes the eight Municipal Auditorium and Symphony@the Museum concerts and costs from $50 (active student) to $150 (premium).
A package for the four-concert Municipal Auditorium series is available for $30 (student) to $110 (premium), as is a package for the four performances at the Museum of Art for $30 (student) to $50 (adult).
Symphony supporters may also do so at various levels ranging from $250 to $10,000. Those supporters receive tickets to all performances and incentives such as program book ads, discounts on symphony a la carte performances, recognition and tickets to a fundraiser, depending on the support level.
Brochures and full ticket information are expected to be available this week. The symphony’s website is

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