ALBANY — Music can have a healing effect, if for no other reason than as a brief respite from troubles. After the January disasters in Albany and Southwest Georgia, officials with the Albany Symphony Orchestra — and a founding member of an international horn quartet that will perform with the orchestra — say they are hoping Saturday evening’s “German Romantics” concert can provide that.
Last week, symphony officials said that the organization is offering free tickets to residents of the area who suffered losses in the Jan. 2 and 22 storms, and to the workers and volunteers who have flocked to Albany to help residents recover.
When the symphony’s 2016-17 series was planned, Saturday’s concert — three days before Valentine’s Day — was seen as a way to combine that day of romance with German romance music. Now, it has taken on added meaning, an opportunity to get some normalcy back after a start to a new year that has been anything but normal.
“We’re encouraging people to make it a romantic evening,” Mari Wright, executive director of the Albany Symphony, said last week. “It’s just a little bit of pleasant escape. It starts early and it’s over early. They can get dinner before the concert, then enjoy the music, or go to the concert first, then get dinner.”
In addition to the complimentary tickets that are available by calling the symphony office at (229) 430-8933, the ASO will collect donations for a storm relief effort known as Grow Albany, which is working to replant trees at Tift Park and other areas of the city that were knocked down by the high winds.
Charles “Skip” Snead, a professor of horn at the University of Alabama and an original member of the TransAtlantic Horn Quartet that will perform with the symphony, said in a phone interview last week that he is looking forward to visiting a city he’s familiar with, though he wished circumstances were better.
“Needless to say, those of us in Tuscaloosa certainly understand (the devastating wind damage), and I’ve been thinking about the folks in that community,” Snead said. “It’s a very rough time, rough experiences to go through. Those have devastating impacts on the community, and I’ve thought of you folks often. I was born and raised in Georgia, and my niece lives in Albany. I know folks there, and I’ve always felt closely associated with that community.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to come to Albany and make some music for you all down there. I’ve got a great affinity for that community. When the opportunity to come to Albany presented itself, there were all kinds of special reasons — musically, personally, professionally — to come.”
The quartet, comprising Snead, Jeff Nelson, Abel Pereira and Leslie Norton, “represents different parts of the world drawn together into one professional ensemble. The goal of the group has been to promote and move forward the standard horn quartet repertoire as a concert medium, which contains some wonderful pieces of music,” he said
With the symphony, the TransAtlantic Quartet will perform Robert Schumann’s Concertpiece for Four Horns and Orchestra, and Jeepers for Horn Quartet by Michael Kallstrom.
Snead said the Schumann work is “one of the most beautiful pieces out there.”
Also on the program will be works from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” including the well-known “Wedding March,” and “Overture from Der Freischutz” by Carl Maria von Weber.
Wright said she is excited to have the quartet in Albany.
“They’re all professors of music and extremely talented,” she said. “I think this is going to be a great concert.”
The quartet’s lineup has changed since its debut with a membership of two American and two British musicians.
“Our premier concert was in London in 1998,” Snead said. “It (the ensemble) consists of players from both sides of the Atlantic.
“The TransAtlantic Horn Quartet, since its inception, has always tried to represent the highest quality horn playing that’s available. I certainly have a great amount of respect for my colleagues in the group.”
Snead, who is director of the School of Music at Alabama, has performed throughout the U.S. and internationally as a soloist and as part of ensembles, making appearances in Egypt, with the Alexandra Symphony; the United Kingdom, both with TransAtlantic and with the British Horn Society; Cuba, and Romania, with that nation’s state orchestra.
Nelsen, who joined the quartet in 2006, is a professor of horn at Indiana University and was a longtime member of the Canadian Brass. He has appeared as a featured soloist on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. He’s performed with the philharmonics in New York and Los Angeles and is a past-president of the International Horn Society.
The two newest members are Norton, professor of horn at Vanderbilt University, and Pereira, principal horn player with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.
The principal horn player with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, which she has been a member of since 1990, Norton has played with the Rochester Philharmonic and Atlanta Symphony, among others, and is a founding member of the Alias Chamber Ensemble, which benefits charitable organizations.
Pereira, from Portugal, made his solo debut at age 11 and has performed with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Frankfort Radio Symphony, London Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic. He’s also won numerous European competitions.
Because each of the members has a demanding schedule, Snead said, the “goal is to try to get together about twice a year and do some rehearsing and performing.”
“We will be together about eight days in preparation for coming to Albany,” he said. “We will be in an intensive set of rehearsals beginning … Sunday. The culmination of our week will be in Albany.”
The symphony is conducting outreach this season with guest performers, and that will be the case with the TransAtlantic Horn Quartet. On Thursday evening, the group will perform a full quartet recital at Albany State University.
Snead said he wishes the circumstances the Albany community is facing were different, but he said he hoped the performances would help with the healing and recovery process.
“One of the things is, as much as no one would have wished for this timing and the recent events in the community are tragic and unfortunate, I do hope that this concert can be a positive experience and a wonderful moment and can provide at least a bit of a healing opportunity for the community,” he said. “We’re very much in hopes that in some small way we can bring a musical contribution to Albany that will bring some smiles and joy and happiness.
“To what degree we can play some small part, we’re pleased to have that opportunity.”
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Albany Municipal Auditorium, with Concert Notes — an informational question-and-answer session about the program featuring ASO Music Director Claire Fox Hillard and members of the quartet — at 6:30 p.m. Concert Notes is free with concert admission. Individual general admission tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students. To purchase tickets or for information, call (229) 430-8933 or visit www.albanysymphony.org.
Storm survivors and storm recovery volunteers who would like complimentary tickets to the concert should contact Wright at the symphony office phone number.