Albany Symphony taking holiday flight with Cirque

Dec 11, 2014

By Jim Hendricks, Albany Herald

ALBANY — The high-flying Cirque de la Symphonie will join the Albany Symphony Orchestra on Saturday for its holiday performance of “Air,” part of the symphony’s “Brave the Elements” concert series.

Contrary to any of the rumors you may have heard, I am not going to be involved in any of the acts,” ASO Music Director Claire Fox Hillard said.

That wasn’t the case last time the symphony performed with a cirque group. Hillard was tied with a rope and cirque performer stood behind him.

Then there was curtain, like an old-fashioned shower curtain, and it came down for like five seconds and when it came back up, gosh darn if that coat wasn’t off me and on the cirque person,” he said. “We did two performances and both times I have no earthly idea (how it was accomplished). There was a knot on that rope.”

The presence of Cirque de la Syphonie, a group of eight gravity-defying performers, brings the “Air” segment of the symphony’s “Brave the Elements” theme to life. Following October’s “Fire,” the ASO will have shows focusing on the remaining two “classic” elements — water and earth — in the new year.

The Cirque performers will do aerial feats, hula hoop, contortion, balancing, juggling and illusion under executive producer Bill Allen, who will join Hillard at the Albany Municipal Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Saturday — an hour before the concert starts — for pre-concerts notes and questions with early-arriving audience members.

“It’s pretty amazing stuff,” Hillard said. “Even after that last performance, you see it and you say, ‘That’s not possible.’ But you’re only a few feet away and they’re doing it. They say it’s all just balance points and physics, but I don’t know. “ Still, the feats of derring-do won’t overwhelm the orchestra’s performance of Christmas and Hanukkah music.
“What I like about this Cirque Symphonie group is their objective is to show off the art of Cirque, but also they’re very concerned about showcasing local orchestras,” Hillard remarked. “They’ll do their acts on maybe two-thirds of pieces on the program and there also are orchestra-only ones where it focuses just on the orchestra.

“So it’s not just the orchestra is just accompanying cirque performance.”

Bill Allen’s objective, he said, “is to bring more people to the concert hall, maybe because of the Cirque, but also to showcase local orchestras and help them build audiences. It’s really a collaborative event.”

The holidays music will feature familiar carols and songs, some with a different take. There also will be the traditional sing-along with members of the audience.

Hillard said the selections will include a traditional performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker,” but also “some selections from Duke Ellington’s ‘Nutcracker Suite.’ And then we’re doing some music from ‘Polar Express.’

“We’re doing ‘Journey to Neverland’ from John Williams’ score from ‘Hook.’ Then there’s the traditional ‘Sleigh Ride’ and we’re doing the sing-along as well as one of our pieces. And we’re doing the Hanukkah medley as one of ours and some other holiday favorites.”

Audience members are being asked to bring a canned nonperishable food item for donation to a local food bank “to make it meaningful for people, but also to help out,” Hillard said.

The concert and performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Albany Municipal Auditorium, located at 200 N. Jackson St. The informal Pre-Concert Notes with Hillard and Allen is at 6:30 p.m. and is open to anyone with a ticket for the show at no additional charge. Tickets for the concert range in price from $15 to $30 for adults and $10 for students. Senior citizen and military discounts are available.

For information or to purchase tickets, contact the Albany Symphony offices at (229) 430-8933 or visit


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