The North Carolina Symphony, Music Director Grant Llewellyn, and cellist Zuill Bailey joined forces to celebrate Benjamin Britten’s centenary with a release of his Symphony for Cello and Orchestra. The recording, released in January on the Telarc label, debuted No. 1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical Albums Chart and is a top New York Times Classical Playlist pick. Writing in the Huffington Post, Sean Martinfield called the CD an “artistic triumph,” and the New York Times said that the “exciting new recording—a live performance in vivid sound—couples the brilliant, searching American cellist Zuill Bailey with the fine conductor Grant Llewellyn and the North Carolina Symphony.” According to delegate Karen Strittmatter Galvin, the North Carolina Symphony and Bailey will also collaborate next season at Meymandi Concert Hall for a live recording of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante.
At the beginning of the winter season, the San Diego Symphony embarked on its most significant tour to date. Starting with a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, with pianist Lang Lang performing as soloist, the tour moved on to China, where there were a total of five performances in Yantai (San Diego’s sister city), Shanghai, and Beijing. Music Director Jahja Ling was on the podium for all concerts, with violinists Joshua Bell and Augustin Hadelich alternating as soloists in China. Delegate Sam Hager was impressed by the level of hospitality musicians were shown in Yantai, where, in addition to some wonderful food at the many receptions hosted by dignitaries, local musicians performed at the receptions, and local groups presented a musical folk festival held to honor the San Diego Symphony’s visit.
In Shanghai, as part of the orchestra’s outreach activities on the tour, conductors Ling and Ken David Mazur gave a conducting master class, and Hadelich and concertmaster Jeff Thayer gave a violin master class. One concert in Beijing was of special significance to the orchestra’s principal cellist, Yao Zhao. The orchestra performed at Tsinghua University, where Yao grew up in the on-campus home of the university’s band director, his grandfather.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Players Assembly Outreach and Development Committee was formed in January 2012 for the musicians to strengthen their relationship with the audience, the board, and the community. Since then, the musicians have met pre-concert audiences before 160 concerts. There have also been 24 after-concert “meet and greets.” All have been well received. Chamber music performances have been used as a way to reach more people, with musicians performing at board meetings, the Ronald McDonald House, Symphony League functions, and other donor parties. Additionally, there have been three restaurant dinners where the board, donors, and audience members were invited to enjoy an evening of chamber music and mingling with musicians. The committee also created a quarterly newsletter for the board and donors called Musicians News. It contains articles that present the ordinary events in musicians’ lives taking place outside of music and work, such as, marriages, babies, fun pictures, and travel.
When Renée Fleming sang the “Star Spangled Banner” to open this year’s Super Bowl, she was backed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in an arrangement prepared for the occasion by Rob Mathes. It was not the first time that Fleming had collaborated with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. In January 2012 she sang with NJSO at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. However, it was an all-time first to have a classical singer featured that way at the Super Bowl. In fact, it was such a rare occasion that online bookmakers were taking unusual bets related to Fleming’s performance, including whether she would wear gloves and the length of her performance. New Jersey delegate Bob Wagner says that New Jersey management and AFM SSD’s Director of Symphonic Electronic Media Debbie Newmark deserve much credit for working through the many hurdles that had to be overcome to make it happen. For instance, the recording session had to be squeezed between a dress rehearsal and a concert. The effort paid dividends, as the performance received great publicity and reviews.