ALBANY — The Albany Symphony Orchestra is bringing back its popular Peppermint Pops and adding a Swingin’ on the Flint pops concert in a 2017-18 performance season that will be its most packed in recent years.
Ticket packages for the Paul Peach Masterworks Concert series, as well as the Sunday afternoon chamber music series and a pair of add-on concerts, are on sale starting Monday. The Platinum and Gold packages include admission to the post-Masterworks concert Conductor’s Circle receptions.
“We still have individual tickets for sale,” Symphony Executive Director Joelle Fryman said. “And we have tickets for the add-on concerts — the Picnic on the Flint swingin’ concert as well as the Peppermint Pops matinee.”
The Masterworks series, which was three performances last season, is back to the traditional four with the return of the Peppermint Pops on Dec. 16. The series is named for Dr. Paul Peach, an Albany doctor who died in December 2015. Peach had moved to Knoxville, Tenn., after retiring from his medical practice.
“He was a past (ASO) board member, a wonderful patron,” ASO Music Director Claire Fox Hillard said. “He has seen to it that we’ll get to do those concerts in the future. We thought it was only appropriate to recognize him.”
“It acknowledges his contribution,” Fryman said.
The support from Peach was a financial shot in the arm for the symphony at a time when arts organizations, always under the gun for funding, are facing particularly challenging times. Earlier this month, the Macon Symphony Orchestra announced that its fall concert would be its last.
“Like what happened in Macon, others (arts organizations) can do likewise,” Hillard said. “It shows how precarious it can be.
“The (ticket) packages are a way that we can project what our support is going to be.”
“When you see something like that (Macon symphony) happen, it hits close to home,” Fryman said. “It makes you sit down and re-evaluate and makes you more aware than you already are. That’s why we say it’s wonderful that Dr. Peach did feel the need to continue his support, but we can’t sit on our laurels.
“We need the support of the community. We need to fill our auditorium. We’re working very hard to present the community with opportunities that are new and different and for younger generations as well as older generations.”
That will start this season Oct. 28 with the first of the Paul Peach Masterworks (all four concerts in the Masterworks series are at 7:30 p.m. at the symphony’s home, the Albany Municipal Auditorium), a Latin infused concert with a spotlight on percussive sounds that will feature music from “Carmen” as well as the musical “West Side Story.”
“We were able to buy some percussion equipment, thanks to budgeting for that,” Fryman said. “We’re going to highlight that. Plus, it will be a lot of fun. Kids will really like that. It’s a Latin theme, but a lot of percussion. It’s going to be electric.”
That concert will be followed by the return of the Peppermint Pops, which will feature the orchestra providing the soundtrack to a short animated Christmas movie and the traditional audience sing-along.
“The one thing I’m adding is live music with film,” Hillard said. “There’s a short animated film called ‘The Snowman,’ which we’ll have the film, but the orchestra will provide the soundtrack. We want to see how that works. One of the trends with orchestras around the country is to do full-length movies with live orchestra, a lot of the Spielberg and (John) Williams films, like ‘E.T.’ and ‘Home Alone,’ the Harry Potters — I found a brochure for silent movies — ‘Casablanca.’ You can get ‘E.T.’ and all the dialogue is there, but when it comes time for music, you just put it in.
“We want people’s reaction to it, but my gut feeling is it’s going to be well-received because it’s so different. People hear these lush scores and don’t think about where the music comes from. They’ll see, ‘Oh, we have that right here.’”
Earlier that Saturday will be an add-on Peppermint Pops matinee aimed at families.
“That’s one we’re really excited about,” Fryman said. “On the day of the Peppermint Pops, we’re doing a matinee performance in the morning. Starting at 10 o’clock, we’re going to be doing an ‘instrument petting zoo.’
“We’re working on the education aspect and working more and more on anything that’ll add that educational aspects to a younger generation and also allow those parents of children to participate. It’s hard to pay for a babysitter and get tickets, so this allows you to bring your child, come and enjoy the symphony. It (the matinee) is only a 45-minute concert, and that way it introduces children to the symphony and it also allows them to participate.”
Fryman said she thinks the “zoo” and film will add to the experience for the youngsters.
“This day and age, kids watch TV all the time, so it’ll be neat for them to have that experience but also get a feel for where that music comes from,” Fryman said. “They’ll be playing with the cello, see the cello on stage, hear where the music comes from. It’s just neat to make all those connections.”
The third Masterworks concert, set for Feb. 17, features women in music. The symphony will be joined by guest performer Hannah White, a 17-year-old violin virtuoso. One of the pieces to be performed was written by Georgia native T.J. Cole, a composer who’s related to retired Albany doctor Chappell Collins. The orchestra also will perform a symphony by Amy Beach, a 19th century composer who was a contemporary of Brahms.
“It’s a Gaelic symphony,” Hillard said. “So it predestines our St. Patrick’s event a little bit.”
The symphony is looking to make its St. Patrick’s Day party an annual fundraising event after the success of the first one last year. A location hasn’t been set for it yet.
“For some reason, there’s never been a consistent St. Patrick’s Day event in town,” Hillard said, adding performers for the event have not yet been determined.
The final Masterworks concert is April 14 and will feature Spanish-themed sounds, some Beethoven and ASO principle flutist Elizabeth Goode. “A professor at Valdosta State, she went to Yale,” Fryman said.
The annual Carnegie Hall Link-Up with local schools will be back May 11. Hillard said it will include a new curriculum called “The Orchestra Swings.”
“It uses swing, but it’s about improvisation,” Hillard said. “It teaches kids about spontaneous creation.”
The season will wrap up May 12 with a swing concert at the Veterans Park amphitheater called “Swingin’ on the River.”
“The Arts Council is sponsoring a swing class this fall, and we’re working to partner with them in the spring to get some couples in there swinging by the river,” Fryman said. “We mentioned it to the Kiwanis (Club of Dougherty County), and we had a couple people come up and say, ‘Awesome! I’d love to do that.’”
With both the Peppermint Pops and Swingin’ on the River, the orchestra is partnering with Second Harvest of Georgia.
“We’re going to be taking canned food donations,” Fryman said, and offering a $5 ticket discount for food donations. “We plan to do that with different organizations in the future. We want to partner with the community and do what we can.”
The symphony also will have two 4 p.m. Sunday chamber music concerts on Nov. 12 and Jan. 28. Performers are yet to be announced, and they are scheduled for First United Methodist Church of Albany. Those two concerts will each have a post-concert reception at no cost.
Hillard and Fryman said the goal is to make the symphony accessible to everyone.
“We want to make sure that everyone knows that this type of music and this experience is accessible,” Fryman said. “It’s not elitist. It’s not just for old people or young people. It’s for everyone, and you can find some enjoyment in some aspect. We’re really trying to appeal to everyone.”
Ticket packages range from $89-$230, and individual Masterworks concert tickets are $35 for reserved seating, $25 for general admission and $10 for student/child. Chamber concert tickets, which include the post-performance reception, are $20, general admission, and $10, student/child. Tickets for the Peppermint Pops matinee and Swingin’ on the Flint are $15, general admission ($10 with the donation of a canned good).
Tickets go on sale Monday and may be purchased online at albanysymphony.org or at the ASO offices at 308 Flint Ave. Contact the symphony at (229) 430-8933.
Platinum: Four Masterworks and two chamber concerts (reserved seating, same-seat renewal, Conductor’s Circle and post-chamber concert recpetions) — $230
Gold: Four Masterworks and two chamber concerts (General admission, Conductor’s Circle, chamber receptions) — $197
Silver: Four Masterworks and two chamber concerts (General admission, chamber receptions) — $125
Bronze: Four Masterworks (General admission) — $89
Masterworks concert: Reserved, $35; general admission, $25; student/child, $10
Chamber concert (includes post-concert reception): General admission, $20; student/child, $10
Conductor’s Circle (reception after Masterworks concert): $20
Peppermint Pops matinee: General admission, $15; with donation of canned good, $10
Swingin’ on the Flint: General admission, $15; with donation of canned good, $10