January 29, 2009



Dottie: So let’s talk about all these amazing brass goings-on for tonight and Saturday’s concerts. The audience is going to get a huge surprise for their eyes and ears, right?

Flo: The Gabrieli is a really amazing brass fanfare from the 16th century, for a mixture of brass instruments (trumpets, trombones, bass trombone, horn and tuba)! Makes you feel like you’re in some kind of Renaissance church, where it was originally meant to be played. The audience will see that these players are going to be split between the stage and in the hall itself (!) in 2 groups of 8. An awesome sonic experience. Super boomy. Chip Ross, our principal timpanist will also be onstage. He sets the tone for the “announcement” of the fanfare. You know how those cool drum rolls give you chills?

Dottie: You mean there’s no orchestra, just brass and the timpani? What’s the rest of the orchestra doing?

Flo: They’re backstage having coffee. J Not really.

Dottie: OK, so it sounds like there’s this kind of “call and response” thing between the two groups. Kind of like a battle of the bands…?

Flo: Well, sort of. It’s an “antiphonal” effect, and the audience is gonna love it! And there’s more to come later in the program.

Dottie: The Janacek Sinfonietta?

Flo: We have12 trumpets, two bass trumpets, 6 horns, 4 trombones, 2 euphoniums and a tuba. It’s huge. Combine it with the rest of the orchestra and the chandelier starts to shake!

Dottie: Are they playing in different locations too?

Flo: They’re on different risers on-stage so the effect will be tremendous.

Dottie: I saw all the photos in the media about violinist Leila Josefowicz, who’s playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. So what’s she really like?

Flo: She’s great. Smart, but very down to earth. And she’s already a fan of Java’s, so we love her, right?

Dottie: Absolutely. A girl after my own coffee, uh, heart. I understand that the Beethoven Concerto is really passionate and expressive. What’s this about her writing her own cadenza?

Flo: It’s kind of like a “riff” - a chance for the soloist to show their virtuosity. She’s written her own cadenza for this concerto, which is awesome - most soloists these days play cadenzas written by other people. She’s unique and not afraid to put her own musical interpretation out there.

Dottie: I’m at the bottom of my coffee cup, so that’s it for now. See you at the Theatre!

January 27, 2009

RPO Unveils New Look at Yesterday’s Annual Meeting

With renovations in the works for the Eastman Theatre, the RPO took a look at its own image and yesterday unveiled a transformed look – including a new logo, color palette, and more changes to come.

The process began with an online branding survey and a brand workshop facilitated by the Advertising Council of Rochester. From there, Jay Advertising developed the new logo and color palette, inspired by the 1922 Maxfield Parrish painting Interlude (The Lute Players), which is on display in the Eastman Theatre.

This afternoon, the new look went up on the RPO web site. (At left, Charlie Owens presents the new web design at the annual meeting).

And the branding process continues as the new brand personality is incorporated into all facets of the organization.

Click here to read the full press release about the Annual Meeting, with a report on the 2007-2008 Season.

January 23, 2009

Shostakovich 5

I just wanted to share my impression from last night’s concert which I feel was the best I had heard the RPO play. Maestro Ling is an extraordinary musician and conductor and his level of intensity and depth of interpretation along with phrasing and musical tension translated to the orchestra in a way I had not yet experienced. Rebecca sounded and looked fabulous and although the repertoire in the first half may not be widely known to our audience it showed the RPO’s strength as an ensemble. Rebecca’s playing in the Nielsen was full of elegance, virtuosity as well as beautiful lyricism – all beautifully supported by the orchestra.

The Shostakovich, in the second half, however, deserves another look (listen?). This is a once in a lifetime moment for Rochester to have the combination of orchestra, conductor and the “fierce urgency of now” all in one. Our recent developments as a society fit this music in so many ways that I truly appreciated the pre concert lecture by Herb!
The visceral power of the music along with the depth of emotion, the sensitivity as well as the brutality are a sign of the then “new” modernism that still has meaning today. This music is a cultural witness of the turning point of a society. In pursuit of a new social order this grand historical experiment went from the revolution for the workers paradise to the totalitarian Stalinist nightmare that we all know today. It was a time of “either you are with us, or you are against us”.
Maestro Ling stayed away from the melodramatic and the cheap and instead brought the RPO to display the full palette of passion, color and depth that it is capable of. This was old school in the modernist tradition and it is music that signifies the triumph of humanity over oppression, including oppression of the soul and intellect.

Lots of excellent principal solos make this piece a moment to shine for our musicians and if you did not yet hear this concert I urge to go and tell everyone.

January 16, 2009

Violinist’s Beer Brewed by Rohrbach’s

This morning, Rohrbach Brewing Company on Buffalo Road began brewing a batch of Symphony Pilsner, based on a recipe by RPO violinist John Sullivan, a home-brewer for 26 years. This light, crisp beer won “Best in Show” at the 2008 Upstate New York Home-Brewing Association’s annual contest, and a key prize was having his beer professionally brewed.

Rohrbach’s brewer Bruce Lish talked us through the process of brewing beer on such a large scale. This brew will produce 7 barrels, or approximately 230 gallons of beer! The process begins with “mashing in” – this involves adding malt grain to hot water in a big metal vat. It looked sort of like oatmeal and had a wonderful smell that reminded me of feeding the horses one summer when I worked at a stable.

The malt is added in batches and stirred with an enormous metal shovel and a huge whisk to break up clumps. The mash then will sit for an hour or so to release the sugars and then the liquid (or wort) is drained off. It then goes through several steps, adding hops and yeast, and is placed in a conditioning tank. The finished beer will be ready to drink sometime in March.

A nice musical side note – as we were talking, we found out the Bruce also has a music degree. He studied jazz bass and audio recording and now plays in the Irish band Sisters of Murphy. A great background for brewing the Symphony Pilsner!

January 15, 2009

So, have you heard....?

Have you always wanted to get the inside “scoop” on what happens backstage right before an RPO concert? Curious about the “behind the scenes” perspective on those guest artists and conductors? Wonder how we manage to organize our concerts at a park, on the beach, or on a barge? Well, wait no longer. Starting with our Philharmonics concerts on Jan. 29 and 31 with guest violinist Leila Josefowicz and an awesome battle of the *brass* bands, The Coffee Scoop with Flo and Dottie will be offering up a caffeinated insider’s blog on the RPO that you won’t get anywhere else. Just don’t ask us how we know what we know. ‘Cause we’re not saying…. So pull up a chair, pour your coffee, and check us out.

January 12, 2009

No lions...No tigers....but....OH MY!

This past weekend, we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to perform with Cirque de la Symphonie. There was quite a buzz around town regarding this performance, with 2 completely sold out shows (so much so that special seating was added in the orchestra pit section of the stage), and lots of requests for tickets, even on Craigslist!!
So, this blog is mostly for the people that were not able to make it to the concert. The concert combined some phenomenal on-stage aerial flyers, acrobats, a contortionist, dancers, juggler, hula hoop specialist, and strongmen, together with a full program of great music played by your RPO. It is/was a truly unique experience and one that many of us will not forget! Some people have asked me which "act" I liked the most, but for me, it's impossible to pick. Each one was quite riveting as was evidenced by the many "oohs, aahs, and gasps" from the audience. (I also had fun watching some of the facial expressions of the audience members in the front row!) If I had to pick one of the acts that I would like to try, it would have to be the one with the performer doing a very beautiful routine high up in the air supported by nothing but two long sheets of silk. Imagine the Olympics and the men's Rings competition..only there are no rings. I don't know if I could do all the gymnastics involved, but I would love to feel what it was like to fly over the audience and part of the orchestra! :) What I do know is that I came out of there in awe of what the human mind and body are capable of. The acts were very well choreographed to great music, everything from Bizet to John Williams. If you ever get the chance to see this group perform, I'd highly recommend it!

The program had some fairly challenging music with MANY notes for us to play, so yes, it took quite a bit of concentration to stay focused on the music with all that was going on in front of us! :)

January 6, 2009

Winner of Kodak Greeting Card Contest

This holiday season, Eastman Kodak sent out a beautiful corporate holiday card and we’re delighted that one of the instruments gracing the card's cover belongs to an RPO musician. (Click on the image to see a bigger version.)

On December 17, we held a contest in our eNotes newsletter to see who could identify the instrument and musician. Sharon Tanner correctly guessed that the French horn pictured belongs to Peter Kurau, our principal hornist. She has won two tickets to an RPO concert for being the first correct answer. Congratulations, Sharon!