Symphony gears up for busy season

In February, the symphony will welcome back Gareth Johnson, a violinist who is presently Albany State University’s artist in residence.

In February, the symphony will welcome back Gareth Johnson, a violinist who is presently Albany State University’s artist in residence.

ALBANY — From the start, fans of the Albany Symphony Orchestra will notice that this isn’t their father’s symphony and Conductor Claire Fox Hillard likes it that way.

For nearly 50 years the symphony has been providing Albany with performances; each year tweaking and honing the shows to give the community something they can’t find anywhere else.

This year is no exception.

The symphony’s debut performance is one Hillard hopes will captivate both children and adults and bring something new to Albany while showing people that the symphony is more than Beethoven and Bach; it’s performance art.

Cirque De la Symphonie is one part musical performance and one part physical art in the form of some of the world’s best acrobats, dancers and contortionists in the form of world-renowned performance artists Cirque du Soleil.

There will be two shows, one at 2:30 p.m. and the other at 7:30 p.m. at the Albany Municipal Auditorium on October 27.

“We’ll have live concert music played by a professional symphony orchestra while professional performing artists do their routines. It’s going to be an amazing sight and one that you rarely get to see in Albany,” Hillard said.

The venerated Peppermint Pops is an Albany tradition that spans three decades.

This year’s version will feature the Boston Brass, one of the nation’s premier musical ensembles.

In addition to great music, Hillard says group members will teach a master class to share their knowledge and experience with students in the Dougherty County School System.

“Our thought is that if these professional musicians can get a student excited about music, or excited about performing, it could be a defining moment for that student,” Hillard said. “It’s important for us to have people provide some level of an educational component when they come here to play.”

Peppermint Pops will have two shows at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Dec.15.

In February, the symphony will welcome back on stage Gareth Johnson, a violinist who is presently Albany State University’s artist in residence.

Johnson is a junior and senior division winner of the coveted Sphinx Competition and was widely regarded as child prodigy when he first began playing violin at age 10.

He’s been called the Tiger Woods of classical music by the New York Times because of his raw talent, ambition and drive.

He’ll perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

The symphony will perform works from noted African American composers and Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome.

“We’re trying to show people that classical music wasn’t always written by dead, white European composers,” Hillard says. “There’s a wealth of music out there that has been composed by talented African-American composers as well.”


Narek Arutyunian, a clarinetist, will perform with the Symphony at their season finale in April.

That concert is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.

In March, the symphony will broaden it’s annual children’s concert into two shows designed to help teach kids and adults alike about music.

“Traditionally, this has been a concert for children in the school system to learn about the basics of music and the instruments,” Hillard said. “But this year, we thought we’d expand it and have a night concert as well and open it up to the entire community.”

The concert is a collaboration with Carnegie Hall and is part of a three-year curriculum called “The Orchestra Rocks.” This year’s curriculum is focused on rhythm.

A concert for the school system will take place in the morning on March 15, but the public concert is set for 7:30 p.m.

The Symphony’s season finale is set for April when young Armenian-born clarinetist Narek Arutyunian takes the stage alongside the symphony as its principal soloist.

The theme of the concert will be “Music with a French Connection,” and will feature French composer Jean Francaiz and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy. Ravel’s Bolero will cap the concert.

The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. on April 13, 2013.