Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, virtual for now but remaining flexible during pandemic

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The Massachusetts-based Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Tianhui Ng, in a pre-pandemic photo.

“The Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra continues its 83rd season on … Nov. 27 … with a virtual concert [that includes] includes Rossini’s … Barber of Seville Overture, contemporary composer Mary D. Watkins’ Soul of Remembrance, and Schubert’s ‘Great’ Symphony in C Major,’ ” writes Clifton Noble Jr. in Monday’s (11/22) Republican (Springfield, MA). “The concert … will be made available … via stream on a smartTV or other internet-connected device, or via Zoom for a community watch party and post-concert talkback…. The PVSO has risen with alacrity to the challenges of the COVID pandemic, [remaining] fiercely committed to keeping the music playing. ‘I recall comments by the president of the League of American Orchestras earlier in the pandemic,’ [Music Director Tianhui] Ng said, … ‘that we went to bed one day and woke up the next, finding that we were all helming media organizations and not just musical organizations…. We planned for every one of our concerts this season to be flexible in format so we can jump right back into the concert halls once conditions are right.’ … In 2014, Maestro Ng gave the east coast premiere of [Mary] Watkins’ opera Dark River with the Mt. Holyoke College Orchestra.”

November 23, 2021

Rock Hill Symphony music director steps down to protest absence of COVID rules for audiences

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“The conductor and music director at the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra is out, in protest over COVID-19 safety precautions,” writes John Mark in Friday’s (11/19) Herald (Rock Hill, SC). “David Rudge, appointed to those inaugural roles in 2018, issued a statement Thursday afternoon expressing concerns that there won’t be masks or safety precautions mandated for audience members for the rest of the season. ‘This was one of the most difficult decisions of my professional life, but my vision and sense of responsibility for the well-being of everyone involved, was not shared by the majority of the board,’ Rudge said. Rudge said the refusal of the board to require masks for audience members comes as other orchestras in South Carolina either require them or vaccinations of attendees. Rudge states concern for unsafe working conditions for musicians and staff, and audience safety…. The symphony board released a statement Thursday that it voted the night prior to accept Rudge’s resignation…. The symphony website offers guidelines for audience members. Masks are strongly encouraged…. A holiday concert will come Dec. 11. Elisa Koehler is the listed conductor for that show.”

November 23, 2021

A whirlwind schedule for St. Louis Symphony Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress

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“When Stephanie Childress took to the podium to rehearse the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra on Nov. 13, she was only recently back from Paris, where she debuted as conductor with the Orchestre de Paris, afterward tacking on a quick side trip to London to see her family,” writes Daniel Durchholz in Sunday’s (11/21) St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri). “The day before she left St. Louis, she ran a half-marathon in Forest Park…. Childress, who is 22, was hired by the SLSO in March 2020…. ‘A lot of my colleagues were very hard hit, especially young conductors who are trying to start their careers,’ she says. ‘I felt very privileged and very grateful to have this position.’ … Childress’ own path to her current position includes being a [violinist] in the National Youth Orchestra in the U.K. for three years…. In September 2020, she took second prize at La Maestra, an all-female conducting competition in Paris…. As a young person, and a woman of both talent and accomplishment, Childress is part of a rising tide in classical music, and indeed many other realms, in which an old-boys network is slowly … opening up opportunities for those who deserve them.”

November 23, 2021

Houston Symphony and Orozco-Estrada: “Nutcracker” excerpts, music by Price and Bottesini, “Andrés Fest” in March 2022

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“Soon after Andrés Orozco-Estrada arrived in Houston from Colombia for his first season as music director at the Houston Symphony, he started noticing the ads for ‘The Nutcracker.’ The following year, the same thing,” writes Andrew Dansby in Monday’s (11/22) Houston Chronicle. “ ‘ “The Nutcracker” was never a big thing in theaters in Colombia,’ he says…. ‘I’ve come to appreciate it as a beautiful piece of work.’ .… His history with Tchaikovsky’s music allows him to see it ‘the opposite of how many people know it. I approached the music first.’ … This weekend … he leads the Houston Symphony through a program anchored by excerpts from ‘The Nutcracker.’ … Orozco-Estrada has also [programmed] a trio of works before the Tchaikovsky excerpts: ‘Dances in the Canebrakes,’ by Florence Price; Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto [with soloist Gil Shaham]; and Giovanni Bottesini’s Gran duo concertante…. The Bottesini work will feature Houston Symphony principal bass Robin Kesselman…. The show is part of Orozco-Estrada’s farewell season with the Houston Symphony…. The Houston Symphony last week announced plans for ‘Andrés Fest: A Symphonic Celebration,’ running March 18-27…. The symphony will perform pieces closely connected to Orozco-Estrada’s tenure here along with some world premiere commissions.”

November 23, 2021

Aucoin’s opera “Eurydice,” aiming to engage with those who have experienced loss

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In Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 play Eurydice, “Ruhl’s … reimagining of the Orpheus myth … centers on the perspective of Eurydice,” rites Michael Andor Brodeur in Saturday’s (11/22) Washington Post. “On Tuesday, the operatic adaptation of Ruhl’s play, composed by Matthew Aucoin … makes its Metropolitan Opera premiere…. The perspective of the myth isn’t the only thing that’s different…. The character of Orpheus is split into two singers…. Eurydice … has her sojourn in the underworld further complicated by the appearance of her dead father, …who does not appear in the original myth…. Aucoin considers himself a fan of the long lineage of operatic Eurydices…. He loves the Gluck, he enjoys performing ‘Possente spirto’ from Monteverdi’s ‘L’Orfeo’ and he declares full geek status for Harrison Birtwistle’s mind-bending 1986 opera, ‘The Mask of Orpheus.’ … The opening of ‘Eurydice’ by L.A. Opera in February 2020 … managed to get all six of its performances [in] before the pandemic.… Aucoin [hopes that] bringing ‘Eurydice’ back to life at such grand scale is an effort not just to reimagine the myth [but] ‘serves as a kind of portal for anyone who has experienced loss,’ he says, ‘to engage with it and not flinch and turn away.’ ”

November 23, 2021

Review: Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s Mozart/Brahms/Elgar “InsideOut” concert

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“Symphonic music was designed to be heard by people sitting in a large, resonant hall,” writes David Wright in Sunday’s (11/21) New York Classical Review. “So why would you trade your favorite seat in Row P for one not just onstage, but inside the orchestra itself? That’s exactly where the audience was Saturday afternoon at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Manhattan, seated among the players for the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s ‘InsideOut’ performance of music by Mozart, Brahms and Elgar, with music director David Bernard conducting. Was this a Walter Mitty fantasy of being one of the rosin-stained wretches in row three of the second violins? … The answer is: It’s New York. Here we live by the Gospel of Being Where the Action Is…. Ticketholders [sat] in one of the clusters between the string sections or behind the woodwinds…. From my seat between the second violins and the violas, that magical transition [in Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Haydn] when the reedy little theme blossoms into the first variation, with its soft throb and swirl of the full orchestra, was like going from narrow screen to CinemaScope.”

November 23, 2021

Portsmouth Symphony’s six-concert “Up Close and Personal” chamber series at local jazz club

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On December 12, the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra will perform the second of six chamber music concerts this season at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, located in a restored 1905 former YMCA building in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The concert is part of a new “Up Close and Personal with the PSO at Jimmy’s Chamber Music Series” exploring jazz and classical music. Concert tickets include food and drink. The December program will feature the PSO Brass Quintet tracing a history of brass music from post-Civil War New Orleans to modern and post-modernist styles. Additional concerts in the series include “Rhapsody” (Jan. 2022), “Respiro di colori” (Feb.), “Strings + One” (April), and “Intimate Voices” (May). The Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra’s 65 musicians include local professionals, educators, amateurs, and advanced students, all of whom are required to be fully vaccinated. Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club requires proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours in order to attend events; masks are highly encouraged until patrons are seated.

November 23, 2021

Tallahassee Symphony taps Mary Saathoff as director of philanthropy

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Florida’s Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra has appointed MARY SAATHOFF as its first-ever director of philanthropy. Saathoff served as president and CEO of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra in Texas for several years, stepping down in 2017, and has been a development officer at Texas Tech University and the owner of a private business. During her tenure as CEO of the Lubbock Symphony, Saathoff raised over $3 million toward the orchestra’s endowment, secured over $650,000 for capital projects, and led successful fundraisers. The new director of philanthropy position at the Tallahassee Symphony is made possible by two long-time supporters who wish to remain anonymous.

November 23, 2021

New executive director at Monteux School and Music Festival

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The Pierre Monteux Memorial Foundation has named STAN RENARD as executive director of the Monteux School and Music Festival in Hancock, Maine, effective with the 2022 season. An alumnus of the school, Renard is a violinist, violist, arts manager, orchestra conductor, and founder and arranger of the Bohemian Quartet. Renard is currently visiting associate professor and coordinator of arts management and entrepreneurship at the University of Oklahoma, and associate professor of music marketing (on leave of absence) at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He holds a doctorate in musical arts from the University of Connecticut as well as a doctorate in international business from Southern New Hampshire University. He is also a member of the Yamaha Master Educator Collective, Music Business & Entrepreneurship Group. The Pierre Monteux Memorial Foundation trains aspiring symphony conductors and orchestra musicians through an intensive summer program, the Monteux School and Music Festival. Renard will succeed Marc C. Thayer, who is now CEO of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Illinois.

November 23, 2021