A Shared Sing-along
In October, the Kansas City Symphony premiered a new work for children’s chorus and orchestra at a series of Young People’s Concerts and the sensory friendly concert Postcards from the Americas. The orchestra’s principal music librarian, Elena Lence Talley, personally commissioned “Come and Sing a Song with Me” from composer Gary Fry.
Talley commissioned the work, with lyrics in English and Spanish (and a version entirely in Spanish, translated by KCS principal horn, Alberto Suarez), “in honor of my father and his family, who came here from Cuba, and in honor of immigrants of every hue and background,” she said. The work is scored in such a way that it can be performed by large or small orchestra, with an audience sing-along or a vocal solo.
In describing the piece, Fry said, “For me, music is the very best way to connect with people. When singing or playing music together, it’s easier to realize how alike we are, even if we are from very different backgrounds or different parts of the world. If they (kids) take this song to heart, I really believe that the world can be an even better, more beautiful place to share.”
Talley intended the three-minute work to have a place on educational concerts, not just for the KCS, but for all orchestras. To that end, she and Fry are making the music (full score, orchestra parts, piano/vocal score, and educational materials) available in PDF format free of charge to any organization that requests it. (Note: those interested in the music may contact Talley at email@example.com or 816-218-2644.) Already, in the Kansas City area, several schools have reported that they are programming the song on their own concerts.
“I must say how proud I am of both Elena and the KCS for not only the new piece but also its free access to interested orchestras,” said ICSOM President Emeritus Brian Rood. “It is noteworthy and should be shared with musicians across ICSOM.”
New Motown Harmony
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) announced in November that it would embark on a project to provide a musical instrument to every school student in Detroit who wants to learn to play. The initiative is also intended “to bolster economic and workforce development in Detroit,” according to a DSO press release.
Titled Detroit Harmony, the project already has funding for the first phase—an 18-month planning phase—with major support from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.
Caroline Cummings Rafferty, chair of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation’s Arts & Culture committee added, “My grandmother and grandfather were deeply committed to supporting the work of the leaders, musicians, and educators of the Detroit Symphony. My father Peter, my uncle Phillip, and so many in the family have built on that passion. Detroit Harmony is the latest important contribution and investment the DSO has made in the creative education of our city’s youth, and we are grateful to be a part of it.”
The DSO also said that Detroit Harmony was a direct result of the orchestra’s Social Progress Initiative and the commitment the orchestra made in 2017 to improve the qualify of life for all residents of the city.
“The DSO has the responsibility and the opportunity to drive social progress forward for a stronger Detroit, and every child in our city will again have the opportunity to explore all that music has to offer in learning to play an instrument,” said Mark Davidoff, Chairman of the DSO’s Board of Directors. “As a leader in music education and a stakeholder in the economic success and creative vibrancy of Detroit, the DSO believes it can and must play a leadership role in building extraordinary partnerships between schools, arts and culture program providers, and funders that can fulfill this mandate.”
Noseda’s New Label
In November, the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) announced the launch of its new, eponymous record label, in partnership with LSO Live. It joins several other ICSOM orchestras that have taken similar steps since the turn of the century, including the San Francisco Symphony and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The first release on the new label, which is planned for February 21, 2020, will be a recording of Copland’s Suite from Billy the Kid and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. These performances were recorded live in the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in June 2019, conducted by NSO Music Director Gianandrea Noseda. “The National Symphony Orchestra and I . . . believe recordings are an essential part of an orchestra’s life because they capture singular musical experiences for future generations to enjoy,” said Noseda.
LSO Live, the label of the London Symphony Orchestra that was created in 1999, will support the development and distribution of the NSO label. The NSO is the first US orchestra to partner with LSO Live, whose other distributed labels include those of the Mariinsky Theater and King’s College, Cambridge.
“We are excited that the release of our first recording with Maestro Noseda will inaugurate this new label,” said Robert Rearden, co-chair of the NSO orchestra committee. “We think it will be an excellent way to launch our first international tour under his leadership.”
Future planned recordings for the new label include the complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies in May and June of 2020, in celebration of the Beethoven sestercentennial.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) recently welcomed the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (GHO) to Boston for its celebration of “Leipzig Week”. The mini-festival featured performances by the GHO alone and, more unusually, several performances of a program by a combined orchestra, all conducted by their shared music director, Andris Nelsons.
The festival is part of a planned five-year alliance between the two orchestras that launched in February 2018. The alliance has already fostered residencies and tour stops of each orchestra in the other’s home city, musician exchanges between the groups, and co-commissions of new works as well as shared and complementary programming.
The GHO performances, on October 27 and 29, were intended in part to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall that was its culmination.
The orchestra on stage for the combined orchestra performances comprised about 40 members of the GHO together with a group of BSO musicians that rotated between pieces, so that virtually every member of the BSO was involved in the performance. Each section of the orchestra was a combination of GHO and BSO players. One of the works on the program, the Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat for oboe, bassoon, violin, and cello, by Haydn, featured two soloists from the BSO (John Ferrillo, oboe, and Richard Svoboda, bassoon) and two from the GHO (Frank-Michael Erben, violin, and Christian Giger, cello).
The festival also included ancillary events, such as a performance at the Boston Public Library featuring one wind quintet from each orchestra playing alternate movements of Reicha’s Quintet for Winds in E-flat Op. 88, No. 2, with a panel discussion of the “sonic differences” between the two groups.
“The GHO-BSO exchange has been an extremely positive experience for musicians on both sides of the program,” said James Markey, BSO orchestra committee chair. “In addition to experiencing different schedules and overall environments, musicians on both sides are able to share experiences, stories, and knowledge with their colleagues in both the other orchestra and their own. It has fostered growth and appreciation for what each orchestra has, as well as initiated conversations regarding ways in which each ensemble can continue to grow.”