Senses fill with Pride

Flint RiverQuarium will be the first organization recognized during the symphony's 2010-11 season, which opens Sept. 11.

File Flint RiverQuarium will be the first organization recognized during the symphony's 2010-11 season, which opens Sept. 11.


ALBANY -- OK, quiz time. What does an alligator and a violin have in common?

Here's a hint -- it includes bowls of water.

Give up? Well, try this one. How do a planetarium and a guitar fit together?


Well, if you take all those things, throw in an art museum, college and local chorale groups, some Albanians talented in the areas of art, musical performance and classical music composition, a professional orchestra and a big dash of creativity and innovation, you get the coming Albany Symphony Orchestra season.

For the symphony's music director, Maestro Claire Fox Hillard, it all boils down to pride, but not just any pride. Pride in the community.

"It gets to me. People say, 'Oh, we have an art museum?' 'Oh, we have a symphony?'" Hillard said in an interview last week. "We need to promote what we have, and the pride in what we have ... this whole idea of the pride of the community."

And that is the theme for the 2010-11 symphony subscription series -- "The Pride of Our Community ..."

The series consists of four subscription performances and the annual holiday Peppermint Pops. In each of the subscription performances, several points of pride regarding cultural and natural resources are highlighted in musical performances that will be accompanied by a great deal of visual flair.

Organizations that will be featured in concerts during the season are the Flint RiverQuarium, the Albany Museum of Art, the Wetherbee Planetarium and Albany and Americus colleges and universities.

The season opens Sept. 11 with "Water Music," which will place emphasis two blocks east of the symphony's Municipal Auditorium home at the RiverQuarium. It will also bring to mind Southwest Georgia's most valuable natural resource -- water, both in the forms of rivers and underground aquifers.

Accompanying the symphony will be Thomas Sherwood, principal percussionist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He will be playing water percussion instruments that will add an unusual musical sound to the symphony's conventional instruments.

"It's putting forth the notion that music is the organization of sound," Hillard said. "I knew the piece. I had seen him do it in Atlanta. It's the kind of piece that you can't program without the performer. You don't just go out and learn it."

The performance will also bring a visual arts element to the 7:30 p.m. concert. Sherwood's water bowls are lighted from beneath, which will result in reflections that become part of the performance.

Sherwood will be featured when the symphony performs "Water Concerto" by Tan Dun, a Chinese composer who may best be known for his Oscar-winning score for the 2001 film "Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon."

"It shows the importance of water in Chinese culture," Hillard said, noting that the resource is just as ingrained in Southwest Georgia culture and life. "It's a fitting way to work it (water) into the offerings."

Scott Loehr, executive director of the RiverQuarium, said he was excited about the symphony's decision to incorporate other arts and cultural organizations into its program this season.

"The RiverQuarium is delighted to be participating with the Albany Symphony's Pride of Our Community series," Loehr said. "It's just another example of the riches of the cultural resources and the cultural opportunities of our community.

"I'm looking forward to the performance. I can't wait to see it."

The opening concert will include performances of Handel's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor" and Czech composer Bedrich Smetana's "The Moldau," a tribute to the river known by that name to German-speaking Czechs such as Smetana.

Hillard said that in recognition of the concert's date, the symphony will open with Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings." The haunting composition has become associated with 9/11, he noted.

"It's a uniquely American piece," he said. "It's sort of become an international piece of mourning."

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Municipal Auditorium at 200 N. Jackson St. It is preceded at 6:30 p.m. with Conversations with the Conductor, also in the auditorium.

Season tickets are:

Dress Circle -- Adult, $177; senior and military, $157; student, $42;

First Balcony and Orchestra -- Adult, $152; senior and military, $132; student, $37.

For an additional $50 per season, ticketholders can also join the Conductor's Circle. Members can get refreshments and drinks at intermission and after the concert at the Carnegie Library next door to the auditorium, as well as meet Hillard and guest performers at the post-concert gathering.

For information on individual concert tickets, contact the symphony office at (229) 430-8933.

Here's a quick rundown on the rest of the concert season:

"HEAR A MASTERPIECE OF ART," Oct. 16: Spotlighting the Albany Museum of Art, the symphony will be accompanied by classical guitar soloist Robert Sharpe, an Albany native and Westover High School graduate who has degrees in guitar performance from Columbus State and Yale universities and who is currently studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Sharpe will perform Concierto de aranjuez by Rodrigo.

Also featured will be Ottorino Respighi's "Botticelli Triptych" consisting of three musical representations of masterpieces by Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli: "Spring," "The Adoration of the Magi," and "The Birth of Venus." These paintings will be projected as the orchestra performs.

PEPPERMINT POPS, Dec. 11: Spotlights the Albany Chorale and area high school choirs. A community tradition initially sponsored by Bobs Candies, this year's performance will again be at the Albany Municipal Auditorium with a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. and an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. Admission will continue to be a canned good for the Southwest Georgia Food Bank.

"THE PLANETS," Feb. 19: Highlights the Wetherbee Planetarium at the Thronateeska Heritage Center. The performance features Gustav Holst's "The Planets." Accompanying the performance will be high definition, 3-D animation from NASA projected over the orchestra. This concert will also feature a part of Albany's musical heritage -- three short compositions by Albany-born composer Wallingford Riegger. One of these, "Dance Rhythms," premiered at the Albany Municipal Auditorium on March 4, 1955 by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thor Johnson as part of the Albany Community Concert series.

"MUSIC FOR LENT," April 9: The final concert of the season will focus on Albany State University, Darton College and Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, along with the Albany Chorale. Vocalists from these institutions and the Chorale will combine to perform Beethoven's only oratorio, "Christ on the Mount of Olives," which concludes with "the other" famous "Hallelujah Chorus." The orchestra will also perform Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Overture."

Hillard said the emphasis on pride in the community even extends to the symphony's promotional material. The symphony began a tradition seven years ago of selecting an artist from Southwest Georgia to create artwork used to promote each season.

This year the art of Aaron Reed, like Sharpe a graduate of Westover High, is featured. The symphony's season brochure, program booklet, and website will all utilize creations by Reed, who now resides in Atlanta and runs his own company, Prisma Fine Arts. He is annually featured in shows throughout the Southeast.

Information on the symphony season can also be found at the orchestra's website, www.albanysymphony.org.