ALBANY – The Albany Symphony Orchestra is getting ready for a new performance season that will see the symphony performing at different Albany venues.
“We are shaking it up a little bit, going into different areas of the community,” ASO Executive Director Joelle Fryman said. “We’re trying to fulfill that mission of outreach.
“The Municipal Auditorium is still our home, but different venues work really well for different concerts, and we’re taking full advantage of those opportunities. We’re really excited because they also lend themselves to partnerships.”
Those partnerships will start with the season’s first Saturday-evening Masterworks concert, “The Sound of Change.” It is set for 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2 at Old Mt. Zion Church, 326 W. Whitney Ave., and will feature nationally known Ann Hobson-Pilot as guest harp soloist.
“We’re excited to be working with the Albany Civil Rights Institute for the Nov. 2 concert with Ann Hobson-Pilot,” Fryman said. “She is a dynamic woman, and she’s done so much in general and in the music world for African-American women.”
Hired in 1969 by the Boston Symphony as assistant principal harpist and principal harpist, Hobson-Pilot was the first African-American woman to be in a major symphony orchestra.
“I was privileged to see her perform in Detroit when I went to a League of American Orchestras concert,” Fryman said. “It was just amazing to hear her story and watch her perform. With someone like her coming to Albany, we’re working on a master class with Albany State (University) and a reception. We really want it to be community building.”
Fryman said she anticipates a strong turnout for the concert.
“We feel and it will be a packed house,” she said. “We can sit probably 250, but I wouldn’t wait to buy at the door. We’re encouraging people to purchase in advance.”
That concert also will mark the return of Grace Note. On Saturdays before masterworks concerts, the symphony conducts a morning dress rehearsal. The rehearsal is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis and admission is whatever the individual attending wants to pay.
“That morning from 10 to 11:15 a.m., we’re inviting the community to the arts inclusion program, the pay-as-you-can program,” Fryman said. “You can come to Old Mt. Zion Church and experience part of what you would at the concert. It’s a dress rehearsal. If you can’t get tickets or don’t want to go out in the evening, Grace Note is a great option.”
Grace Note was started last season, when Hurricane Michael forced the rescheduling of the season’s first concert in October to April. That resulted in the season opener being the December Peppermint Pops concerts, which don’t have a Grace Note session because of the Peppermint Pops’ Saturday morning matinee. The Grace Note turnout was good for Chris Brubeck and Triple Play, but the spring concerts’ Saturday-morning dress rehearsal didn’t draw as well.
“The hurricane really threw us off the entire season,” Fryman said of Grace Note. “We had amazing momentum going into the season, then we had to backpedal a bit. It was an uphill battle, but it’s one we’re going to continue to fight because we really do believe in the program.
“We even had people coming from Americus for it. We want our community to take advantage of what’s being offered because other communities see the value in it. It’s here, it’s free and it’s amazing. Ann Hobson-Pilot is world-renowned. You don’t want to miss that.”
The season will actually start with smaller Symphony Sunday concerts.
“We’re starting out in September with our Symphony Sundays,” Fryman said. “We have Symphony Sundays every month we don’t have a major concert (or event).”
The Symphony Sunday performances, which will feature various members of the ASO, are set for 2 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 22, Oct. 13, Jan. 26, Feb. 23 and May 10 at Pretoria Fields Brewery, 120 Pine Ave.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can to maintain a presence and to remain in the forefront of people’s minds,” Fryman said. “Also, we’re reaching out to the community to people who ordinarily would not come.”
In the future, the ASO may also move some of those Sunday concerts to other venues. “Last year was a pilot program,” she said. “This season, we want to solidify it, and hopefully next year we can expand.”
The popular Peppermint Pops holiday show, a Masterworks performance, will return with morning and evening performances on Dec. 14. It also will be at a different venue – Albany State University’s West Campus Theater, 2400 Gillionville Road.
Joined by local singers and dancers, the symphony will perform Engelbert Humperdink’s musical of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” Performances will be at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
“It’ll be a little different,” Fryman said. “It’ll be a full live orchestra with opera singers and dancers and an orchestra pit, and it’ll be a lot of fun. We’ll have the morning matinee, and we’ll have the instrument petting zoo.”
The instrument petting zoo, a free event that starts an hour before the Peppermint Pops matinee, is an opportunity for kids – and many of their parents – to try out symphonic instruments. Symphony members volunteer to show the young concert-goers how to use the instruments.
The third and final Masterworks concert of the season will be at 7:30 p.m. April 4 at the Albany Municipal Auditorium at 200 N. Jackson St., where pianist Do-Young Kim and south Georgia university choruses will join the ASO for “Beethoven’s 250th Birthday Bash.”
“It celebrates Beethoven’s 250th birthday,” Fryman said. “We have an amazing young concert artist coming in to play for that.”
A Grace Note dress rehearsal will be available to the public at 10-11:15 a.m. at the Municipal Auditorium.
Before the April concert, however, the ASO will have a second collaboration with the Albany Civil Rights Institute and with the Albany Museum of Art for the annual “Lift Every Voice” Black History Month concert.
“We’re honored to participate in that again in late February,” Fryman said. “Not only are we trying to do new things, we’re trying to build on what we’ve already done. We’re really working on collaborations and partnerships.”
On Friday, March 13, the symphony will conduct its primary spring fundraiser — the 4th annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. It’s set for 7 to 10 p.m. at Pretoria Fields.
“Details are in the works, but it’s always a fun time,” Fryman said. “Last year’s raffle winner got an all-expenses-paid trip to Ireland. Tickets will go on sale Jan. 1.”
The three Masterworks concerts will again be preceded at 6:30 p.m. by Know the Score, with ASO Music Director and Conductor Claire Fox Hillard and guest performers offering insight to each evening’s concert and answering questions from the audience. That is free with concert admission.
After each of the Masterworks concerts, audience members can interact with performers and enjoy refreshments at the Conductor’s Circle. Admissions to that social event is included in some season ticket packages and also can be purchased as an add-on.
“Tickets are on sale now,” Fryman said.
“You can get them on the website (albanysymphony.org), you can call our office, or, if you prefer to send things in the mail, we have a season subscription sheet we can send you. We’re trying to streamline and get people to use the website.”
Season ticket prices range from $65-$150. Individual tickets are $25, general admission; $35, reserved seating, and $10, student, child and military general admission. Individual Conductor’s Circle admission is $20.
Contact the symphony at (229) 439-8400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The ASO office is at 308 Flint Ave. in Albany.