Posts Tagged ‘Vermont Symphony Orchestra’

vso summer festival finale

July 10, 2011

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s successful (no rain!) Summer Festival Tour came to a triumphantly smoky conclusion tonight at the Trapp Family Lodge concert meadow. The fireworks finale punctuated another perfect evening for outdoor music, with sunset-washed rolling green hills in the background and several hundred fellow picnicking concertgoers all around.

A refreshingly crisp riesling topped off the experience – summer never tasted so good.

vso summer festival tour

July 2, 2011

vso during intermission

For the last month or so a regular topic of conversation with friends has been the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Festival Tour: Where to meet? What time? And, maybe most important of all – who’s got the wine for the picnic?

Each summer the VSO packs up to take the show on the road – “the only orchestra that tours the state every year”, according to executive director Alan Jordan.

My reference points for the outdoor symphonic experience before moving to Vermont include the Hollywood Bowl concerts I cherished so much when I live in Los Angeles. Warm summer nights, world class music played outdoors – all tucked into a compact bandshell, lit up like a bright, glowing gift waiting to be unwrapped. The Bowl is the off-season summer home for members of the LA Philharmonic – though the high “regular season” quality of the music certainly made a good case to question the “off” in off-season.

And, years before I moved to LA, I frequently got together with highschool friends for regular summertime outings in my hometown to see the Denver Symphony Orchestra (predecessor to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra) in their series of summer concerts at City Park. Same formula: starry skies, potluck picnics, and punchy classical hits like the Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture and basically anything by Gershwin to round out the musical part of the experience.

It’s very much the same story for the VSO, but instead of migrating to a single summer locale the group’s seasonal home is actually the entire state. And nothing musically is lost in the translation from indoor (regular season) to outdoor (off-season).

This year’s tour kicked off with a big BOOM! last night at Sugarbush Resort in Warren – you know, the new lodge/spa that looks like an enormous barn (complete with silo) right at the base of Lincoln Peak:

sugarbush resort

I got off work later than planned and arrived at the concert a few minutes into the program, with the final bars of Antonin Dvořák’s lively Carnival Overture already resounding into the parking lot and surrounding hills. Boo-ya! In arriving at that moment, with the performance of that piece in progress, I felt as if I was the very person Dvořák envisioned in his description of the Overture: “The wanderer reaches the city at nightfall, where a carnival of pleasure reigns supreme. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in the songs and dance tunes.” 

vso's glowing bandshell

The theme of this year’s tour is “Symphony Royale”, with music all somehow relating to the theme of royalty: a medley by Edward “Duke” Ellington, another one from The King and I, Meyerbeer’s Coronation March, and many other favorites along those lines. I can’t tell you exactly how the Dvořák Carnival Overture ties in – maybe there’s a musical reference in there somewhere to a “Carnival King”? (If you know, let me know with a comment here and I’ll share it with everyone.)  Nonetheless, musically if not entirely thematically(?), the work’s raucous celebration fit right in to set the stage for the festive occasion.

One highlight of the very pleasing evening of music was the Kalendar Prince, a sensuously exotic moment (2nd movement) of orchestral lushness from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful suite, Scheherezade. The bassoon solo was sumptuous and beckoning while the muted horns and trumpets painted a deep backdrop of portent, and majesty. And you just can’t go wrong at a summer concert with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and a little splash of firework-punctuated Sousa to round out the program.

The VSO’s Summer Festival tour is just getting underway. Here’s where you can catch up with them next:

  • Friday, 7/1 – Sugarbush Resort, Warren (last night)
  • Saturday, 7/2 – Hildene Meadowlands, Manchester
  • Sunday, 7/3 – Grafton Ponds, Grafton
  • Monday, 7/4 – Shelburne Farms, Shelburne
  • Thursday, 7/7 – Mountain Top Inn, Chittenden
  • Friday, 7/8 – Quechee Polo Grounds, Quechee
  • Saturday, 7/9 – Three Stallion Inn, Randolph
  • Sunday, 7/10 – Trapp Concert Meadow, Stowe

the grand finale

what yo-yo said

May 25, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma and me (photo by Ty Robertson)

On the eve of his Burlington appearance in late April, Yo-Yo Ma was the guest of honor at the reception we had at the radio station. Around 60 folks came, invited by both us and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra to enjoy some personal time in his company.

When I wrote about that event I mentioned one of the things that struck me was the short conversation we had (in fairness – he did all the talking) as we walked up the long hallway on his way out of the building. He talked about the importance of public broadcasting – radio, specifically – and of its undeniable worthiness for public funding. I still think about that conversation.

The next night, Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Jaime Laredo joined my colleague Walter Parker on the Flynn Center stage for Musically Speaking, the pre-concert talk. I wanted to share some of the highlights of that interaction – there were many, here are some of the most memorable ones:

Walter Parker: “At our reception last night you mentioned you met Jaime when you were 15.”

Yo-Yo Ma: “Jaime warned me you would embarass all of us here at some point. (laughs…)

WP: “We were all 15 at one time.”

Y-YM: “I was 15 for many years.”


Y-YM: (on his relationship with Jaime Laredo) “You ever have a dream where you’re taking a test and you haven’t been to any of the classes? That’s what Jaime inspires in me.”


Later in the conversation, Yo-Yo talked about having traveled all over the world with Jaime in their long relationship. He mentioned the one place they hadn’t been together yet was Jaime’s home town of Cochambamba, Bolivia. Jaime’s response: “Cochambamba, Bolivia might be the only place in the world we could walk down the street and people would say, ‘who’s that guy’ “(pointing at Yo-Yo).


Walter then mentioned Yo-Yo’s website solicitation for musical support of Japan, in the wake of the devastating March 11th earthquake and resulting tsunami – what does musical support mean?

Y-YM: “Music is something very porous. It travels lightly. You can hear it inside you. As an artist you always want to think of how you can offer a cultural response.”


Given Yo-Yo Ma’s well-known omnivorous approach to musical styles, Walter asked about the lessons learned from playing non-classical music.

Y-YM: “It was fortuitous as a classical musician that I played so many wrong notes…” (big audience laugh – of course.)


At the end of the more formal conversation, the floor was opened to audience question. The first was the best – because of the answer it received.

Audience member: “What prompted you to start playing the cello?” (at age four) –

Y-YM: “I wanted something BIG.”

vso’s 2011/2012 season schedule announced

April 28, 2011

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s new season has been released. For ticket/subscription information, visit their website.

2011/2012 Masterworks series
at the Flynn Center in Burlington

October 29, 2011
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Vassily Primakov, piano

SAINT-SAENS Danse Macabre
RACHMANINOFF Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique

December 3, 2011
Anthony Princiotti, conductor
Katherine Winterstein, violin

BEETHOVEN Coriolan Overture
PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 2

January 28, 2012
Robert De Cormier, conductor
Soloists TBA
VSO Chorus

FAURE Requiem
MOZART Requiem

March 10, 2012
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Jennifer Montone, horn

PROKOFIEV Classical Symphony
STRAUSS Horn Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

April 28, 2012
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Alon Goldstein, piano

FALLA Nights in the Gardens of Spain

2011/2012 Sunday Matinee Series
at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland

December 11, 2011
Holiday Pops
Anthony Princiotti, conductor

January 29, 2012
Robert De Cormier, conductor
Soloists TBA
VSO Chorus

FAURE Requiem
MOZART Requiem

March 11, 2012
Jaime Laredo, conductor
Jennifer Montone, horn

PROKOFIEV Classical Symphony
STRAUSS Horn Concerto No. 1
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

vso masterworks concert #2: on a wire

December 5, 2010

eighth blackbird

“This should be fun.”

Those words came from the gentleman sitting behind me at last night’s Vermont Symphony Orchestra Masterworks concert, in the break between the concert opener (Carl Maria von Weber’s dutifully dramatic overture Euryanthe) and the second piece, Jennifer Higdon’s newly commissioned work On a Wire. He was seeing the same thing I was: a piano being wheeled out on stage, risers being set up around it, and a variety of instrument stands arrayed along the entire length of the stage in front of the orchestra. I smiled, convinced he would be right.

When I spoke with Jennifer Higdon last week we talked a lot about the “extended techniques” employed in the new work, a concerto for sextet (the contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird) and orchestra (last night, the VSO). She mentioned that the work’s structure was partly inspired by the ensemble itself, and its high comfort level for using their instruments in alternative ways to produce unusual sounds and effects.

And so the concerto began (and ended), with the piano – bowed piano, with each of the six members of eighth blackbird using mallets and strings and finger plucking on the prepared piano wiring to elicit effects that ranged from ethereal to eerie, and whimsically percussive. (In our interview Jennifer mentioned that the piece started with all six of the eighth blackbird members “inside the piano” – true enough!) One of the interesting things about bowed piano technique is that it expands the range of the piano’s voice from its strictly percussive nature to include more nuanced sounds like those more commonly associated with string instruments.

From its unusual opening, the concerto moved into a more traditional concerto grosso form with equal doses of tension and interplay between the smaller ensemble of six players and the larger orchestra. The movements progressed continuously, marked by mood and tempo changed rather than real breaks in the music. Higdon promised a vibrant and rhythmic experience, and the piece delivered. Each of the eighth blackbird members had solo opportunities, revealing the individual strengths that support their collective might. For the most part the sonically complex and technically difficult nuances of On a Wire were navigated proficiently, although the coordination of the slower, dreamlike middle section seemed to drift at one point and create a passing disjunct between eighth blackbird and the orchestra. Under-rehearsal is a likelier explanation than intrinsic structural problems with the piece itself. The concerto concluded with all of the individual instrumental lines converging, a perfectly coordinated musical clock ending precisely – with a visceral “wow!” from the audience. A great success.

On a Wire was jointly commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Akron Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cabrilo Festival, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the West Michigan Symphony, and Vermont’s own Flynn Center for the Arts and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. It will be released by eighth blackbird and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on February 22nd, as the debut release on the ASO’s own label. And while I’m sure I will enjoy the recording there is nothing like seeing creativity like this enacted live on stage! Congratulations are in order for everyone, from those who commissioned the work to Jennfer for writing it and the performers who breathed life into it. In particular conductor Anthony Princiotti for having players behind AND in front of him, and keeping everything moving together in the right musical balance. No easy feat.

The VSO has several holiday concerts and the annual Farmer’s Night concert coming up, and the next Masterworks series concert will be on Saturday, January 22nd.

See also:

eighth blackbird’s website

NPR’s feature on the Bowed Piano Ensemble

springing forward with the vso

March 20, 2010

Spring officially arrives around a half hour from now, at 1:32pm ET today.

Unofficially, it’s already been here for a several weeks lurking around in the wings and waiting for a proper introduction. If you’re thinking about all of the dramatic reports of heavy winter snow in the mid-Atlantic states, and all along the Eastern seaboard in the last couple of months: none of that made it to northern Vermont. In fact it never got cold again this year after the annual “January thaw”. The rivers broke up in late January and never froze again. The only significant snowstorm we’ve had this winter came in late February, and within a day or two the warm torrential rains and sunshine came and it’s been early spring mud season ever since.

Quite anti-climactic.

Along with the sagging snow pack of this winter’s whimpering conclusion, has melted away my anticipation for the ice-breaking, the sunlight-fueled springy optimism, and the visceral Rite of Spring rejuvenation that usually pulses through the landscape at this time of the year. I’m trying to get on board with the general glowing sentiment around here and join the frothing over the 60-degree days of the past week, but I keep coming back to “What’s the big deal? It’s been warm for the last two months – and we have at least five more months of this stuff coming!”

I am a diehard winter-lover – the more, the better- so it’s not surprising I’m feeling a little ambivalent about all of this. I never got cold enough, snowbound enough, winter-weary enough to accept the early spring as the kind “relief” other folks are expressing these days.

I’ll come around. But – it is abnormal.

At least a couple of the season’s transitional mile-markers are on cue this year. We reset clocks last weekend to Daylight Savings Time. The Green Mountain Film Festival is underway in Montpelier. It’s also sugar season now, with little wood houses all over the landscape puffing out clouds of steam as vats of maple sap boil away late into the night. And the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s annual Farmer’s Night concert at the State House came right on time this past Wednesday – the “Luck of the VSO” concert, with a lovely program of faves from the British Isles for St. Patty’s Day.

Today I’ve been doing some reading and thinking about the music of springtime as I get ready to host tonight’s Musically Speaking session before the VSO Masterworks concert this evening. I’ll be talking with guest conductor Sarah Hicks and composer Richard Danielpour. Among other works, the program includes On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring, an optimistic work by Frederick Delius; Copland’s bouyant ballet music, Appalachian Spring; and Danielpour’s new double concerto – A Child’s Reliquary – featuring VSO conductor/violinist Jaime Laredo and his wife, cellist Sharon Robinson, as the soloists.

How I love the opportunity to refresh myself in the history of a piece like Appalachian Spring, and recall the non-intuitive nature of its title. Copland was ready to call the work “Ballet for Martha” (after Martha Graham, the choreographer who had commissioned the piece), until Graham suggested that he call it “Appalachian Spring” after a verse from The Dance, one of the fifteen poems in Hart Crane’s, The Bridge:

O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Of Adirondacks!

The ballet itself revolves around a newly wed couple in the Pennsylvania Amish country, and the friends and neighbors who have gathered to help the couple to raise a new barn.

Interesting, that the orchestral suite made from the Copland’s original ballet music has nothing to do with either the Appalachians or the spring of “springtime”. In fact the “spring” in the title is actually a reference to the water source in Crane’s poem, which only incidentally became associated with the music through an offhand, last-minute suggestion from a friend. Yet it works. Can you even consider hearing that music now and not calling it by that name?

Looking forward to sharing (and learning, I’m sure!) more about the program in this evening’s event. I’ll hope to see you there.

And…happy springtime.

haiti – how to help

January 30, 2010

Another weekend, and a few more opportunities to help in the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti:

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is joining efforts to raise funds for Partners in Health. The VSO is joining with other groups around the country in Symphonic Relief for Haiti, a worldwide effort to support the health community in Haiti through musical performances. Audiences are being encouraged to contribute at the concerts this weekend: last night at the Bellows Falls Opera House; this evening at the Flynn Theater in Burlington; and tomorrow afternoon at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland. There’s more info here on the contribution site.

Also, coming up tonight, Big Heavy World and The Radiator are hosting a showcase of local groups like the Dirtminers, Blowtorch, and Lowell Thompson at Higher Ground in Burlington. The fun gets underway at 8 and runs until around 1am, and all of the proceeds from the $15 admission door donations will go to benefit Doctors Without Borders.

Tomorrow the Students at Dartmouth for Haiti Relief (SDHR) continue their efforts (over $100K raised so far!) with a concert honoring the national music of Haiti. Compàs: The Haiti Relief Benefit is a  concert of Haitian music and student performances starting at 1:30 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for students and $20 for community members with all proceeds benefiting Partners in Health.

And, for the music you can take with you, Vermont’s Cumbancha recording label and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars announced this week that they’re donating 100% of the proceeds of an early release of the song “Global Threat” from the forthcoming album Rise & Shine to the International Rescue Committee for their Haitian earthquake relief efforts. The IRC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict. “Global Threat” will be available for a minimum donation of $1.00, although people are encouraged to contribute as much as they can. People who donate $100 or more will receive a physical and digital copy of the full Rise & Shine album as soon as they are available, weeks before the album’s official release date on March 23rd, 2010.

Filmmaker and band co-manager Zach Niles is in Haiti now to support Haitian journalists in their efforts to tell the story of the earthquake from a local perspective. Niles’ award-winning 2006 documentary Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars captured the group’s journey from Guinean refugee camps to the recording of their first album.

Good stuff, all the way around.

masterworks 2

December 5, 2009

(photo by Kathleen Landwehrle)

Busy season for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra (is there a non-busy one?) with Anthony Princiotti leading the latest Masterworks concert tonight, and the Holiday Pops series getting underway soon.

I like that the VSO blog posts concert program notes in advance. Makes the concert-going experience nicer. I can spend the pre-concert and intermission time talking with friends and enjoying the evening, instead of having to fiddle quietly with the paper program booklet and try to read the notes in the Flynn’s half-light.

Musically Speaking, the pre-concert talk, starts at 7. Music at 8.

See you there.

vso – made in vermont

October 5, 2009
VSO, warming up

VSO, tuning up

Friday night was my first time visiting the Vergennes Opera House, a grand space built in 1897 and reopened in 1997 after more than two decades of dormancy. The ensemble that heralded the rebirth of the renovated theatre that year was the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

Fitting, then, that the Opera House is also one of nine venues around the state to host the annual Vermont Symphony Orchestra “Made in Vermont” fall foliage tour.

Maestro Anthony Princiotti led the concert’s opening with Mozart’s Quartet #4 in C, K157 – a childhood creation whose prescience and lyricality was only enhanced by Princiotti’s tastefully delicate arrangement for string orchestra. The piece’s energy made for a perfect show opener.

From there we moved on to the program’s newly commissioned work, Derrik Jordan’s Odzihozo and the Lake. It’s a programmatic piece, musically realizing Odzihozo’s part of the Abenaki creation story.

Odzihozo – “The man who made himself” – is the mythical being who conjures himself from the dusty remains left over from the Great Creator’s work in making the world. There’s enough material initially to create a full man’s body except for the legs. So Odzihozo drags himself through the land, piling up dirt into  mountains and leaving behind deep trails and trenches that become river beds.

Odzihozo’s real masterpiece is Lake Champlain, and when he’s done making it he loves this work so much that he becomes an island (Rock Dunder), so that he can live in it forever.

Jordan’s work, I believe, will likely be less enduring.

From the plaintive opening bassoon figure (Rite of Spring, anyone?) to the heavy-handed “native” percussion motif that ran the course of the piece, this is one version of the creation story that could withstand some evolution. I appreciated the interwoven subtelty of the two traditional Abenaki themes, and the oboe solo near beginning was utterly lovely. I also have to offer a special kudos to principal percussionist Jeremy Levine, who stole the show with his entertainingly wonderous one-man versatility. Overall Odzihozo offered a mixed experience, while I didn’t deeply dislike it I was left considering the many missed opportunities it had to be a grander effort.

George Bizet’s whimsical Jeux d’enfants (Children’s Games) brought the first half of the program to a marching, leap-frogging conclusion. Alyssa Weinberg’s respectful reduction recalled the joy and imaginative excitement of the original version, for two pianos.

Next stop for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra is the opening Masterworks concert, on October 24th.

Rumor has it we’ll actually get to hear Soovin Kim perform the Sibelius Concerto that eluded the audience the last time it was on the program – remember that? It was springtime a year and a half ago when a mean ice storm blew through on the night of the concert and knocked out power everywhere downtown, including the Flynn.

Always gracious, Soovin took the stage in the dark and offered instead a gorgeous selection of impromptu solo violin music for the disconsolate audience.

Music in Vermont. It’s always memorable.

made in vermont

October 1, 2009

2009-SEPT26-autumn leavesjpg

When the maples shift from green to red, the orchestra hits the leaf-paved road.

Time again for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra‘s annual Made in Vermont autumn tour of venues around the state, with conductor Anthony Princiotti.

This year’s tour got underway last week and continues tonight in Bellows Falls. As usual the program includes a newly commissioned work along with a few favorites. (I’ll be able to comment more on that after I see the VSO’s concert tomorrow night in Vergennes…check here for an update.)

Here’s the Made in Vermont program and the tour schedule, hope to see you at one of the shows!


W. A. Mozart:  Quartet in C Major, KV 157
Derrik Jordan:  Odzihozo and the Lake (world premiere commission)
George Bizet:   Jeux d’enfants
Joseph Haydn:  Symphony #82, “The Bear”

Remaining dates:

10/1 – The Opera House in Bellows Falls

10/2 – Vergennes Opera House

10/3 – Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph

10/4 – Town Hall Theatre in Woodstock

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