October 30, 2014

Movie music shines at the RPO this Halloween weekend

Happy (almost) Halloween, RPO fans! To kickoff Halloween night, the RPO will present a screening of the 1925 Phantom of the Opera silent film, starring Lon Chaney. This concert will reprise on Saturday night. On Sunday, our music and film series continues with a matinee performance of excerpts from classic sci-fi and fantasy scores, such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestial and Metropolis. To gear up for a fun weekend at the RPO, we polled musicians and staff on their favorite movie music moments.

Bonus Trivia: Did you know the RPO got its start 92 years ago as a movie house orchestra, accompanying silent films?

Stephen Laifer, musician
4th horn

Stephen Laifer

When I think of great music in film, the first movies that come to mind are: The Star Wars series

What makes this music great? The Star Wars plots are Wagnerian in scope, just like a space opera should be, and John Williams follows that idea perfectly with his music: each character has their own readily identifiable theme, much like Wagner used the idea of leitmotifs, or specific musical themes, for each of his important operatic characters and situations in the four Ring of the Nibelung operas.

What piece are you most looking forward to playing this weekend?
E.T., the Extraterrestrial. Several years ago, I was fortunate to get the chance to interview John Williams for the cover story of the International Musician, the musicians union monthly journal. Williams related to me a story about the last fifteen minutes of the film. The music for the final scene, starting from the bicycle chase, was recorded in the studio in a single take. When Director Steven Spielberg listened to that take, he was so impressed with its energy and operatic feel that he decided to re-edit the film to fit the music, rather than the other way around. Williams said with great pride that this was one of the few times in cinematic history where music took precedence over the images, and he will always remember it as one of the greatest honors of his long and distinguished career.

Barbara Brown, staff
Director of Education

Barbara Brown

When I think of great music in film, the first movie that comes to mind is:
Apollo 13 – one of my favorite movies when I was a kid.

What makes this music great?
I love the first track – Main Title. The opening snare drum sounds strong and urgent. Then it’s immediately juxtaposed with a solo trumpet melody, which is both patriotic and melancholy at the same time. The feel of the entire movie is captured in the first 30 seconds of music. I always feel chills whenever I hear it.

Stephen House, staff
Grants Manager

Stephen House

When I think of great music in film, the first movies that come to mind are: Gladiator and Hook

What makes this music great?
For both of these films, the music perfectly enhances every scene. The range of emotions portrayed by the actors is echoed by the accompanied music. The subtle things that the composers do to help with character development make the audiences recall previous parts of the movie, even if a character is not in the scene. I don’t think either of the films would have had the success they did without their scores.

What are you most looking forward to hearing at this weekend's RPO concerts?
I’m looking forward to the selections from The Adventures of Robin Hood by Erich Korngold at the Sunday matinee concert. I arranged this suite for a marching band a few years ago and haven’t heard it since.

What's your favorite musical score? Shout out in the comments below!

For tickets and more information on this weekend's concerts, visit rpo.org

October 24, 2014

Meet the (cover) artist: Denise Hocking

Denise Hocking's "Birch Grove" on Bravo
Visual art and classical music have long been a matched pair—just look at the paintings, lithographs, and sculptural busts that adorn most concert halls. For the third consecutive year, the RPO teamed up with Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo) to bring modern visual art into the concert experience by choosing artworks to be featured on the cover of Bravo, the official program magazine of the RPO. These works of art came courtesy of the gallery’s annual 6X6 exhibition, which invites anyone to create a piece of art on a six-by-six inch square space, using whatever medium they prefer.

Back in July, the RPO announced the eight winners of the 6X6 exhibition Bravo Award, chosen anonymously from a collection of over 6,700 pieces on display. These eight artists represent all walks of life, from a local scientist to a California artist and a Pennsylvania high school student. Throughout the 2014-2015 RPO season, we plan to feature these artists on our blog in the month that their artwork will be featured. For the fall cover, RPO staff members selected Denise Hocking’s Birch Grove, a fall scene using acrylics. Read more about Hocking here, and stay tuned to the RPO blog once a month for more behind-the-scenes on the Bravo cover artists and their winning art!

Personal: Denise Hocking of Rochester, N.Y.
Denise Hocking of Rochester, N.Y.

Occupation: Professor and Scientist at the University of Rochester.

Artistic background: The pursuits of art and science have many similarities; at the heart of both are discovery and communication. I believe that my work as an amateur artist deepens my skills as a scientist and vice versa.

How did you develop the concept for your art? Trees are one of my favorite subjects. To me, they represent nature, strength, beauty, longevity, and the connection between heaven and earth. I chose to use acrylics in this piece because of their intensity. I wanted to capture a scene in which the viewer unexpectedly discovers a grove of birch trees dancing happily and freely, releasing their autumn leaves gently to the ground below and reveling in their beauty.

What inspires your creativity? I love the 6x6 show because anyone and everyone can be an artist for a day.

What are your favorite styles of music?
Delta blues and Dixieland jazz. Two of my favorite musicians are Rory Block and Pete Fountain. Pete Fountain’s Dixieland style has been a favorite of my family for generations. Rory Block is a contemporary master of the acoustic blues guitar.

Do you have any musical talents?
I played a variety of musical instruments in high school and college, including the French horn, clarinet and bassoon.

My favorite things to do in Rochester are: I enjoy dog agility training with my whippets, bird watching on Lake Ontario, playing golf with my friends, and attending art festivals around Rochester.

Favorite RPO memories? All of Renee Fleming’s performances with the RPO.

October 15, 2014

RPO kicks off three nights of free concerts

Paul Shewan, guest conductor
Since 1991, the RPO’s free Around the Town community concert series has brought classical music out of the concert hall and into schools, churches, rec centers, and other community spaces.

With the goal of making the RPO more accessible to everyone, these concerts (held six times per year) seek to engage audiences with a program of classical excerpts blended with familiar favorites. Tonight, Thursday and Friday night at 7:30 p.m., RPO trumpeter Paul Shewan will serve as guest conductor for the first three Around the Town concerts of the 2014-2015 season, held at two city rec centers and Fairport High School, respectively.

“We want to bring the RPO to people who might not have the opportunity to attend a concert,” said Barbara Brown, Director of Education at the RPO. Brown coordinates the annual Around the Town series, securing venues and community partners. Last year, Brown coordinated a concert at Monroe Community Hospital, which featured a live stream so patients who could not leave their rooms could watch the concert on their TV.

In addition to finding unique venues, Brown looks for opportunities to engage youth from music education groups with the concert series. Previous collaborators have included young students from the Strings for Success program at School No. 19, the Hochstein School of Music and Dance Children’s Suzuki Program, soloists from the Rochester Philharmonic League Young Artist Auditions, and various high school choirs. This week, 56 students from RocMusic will serve as special helpers at the Wednesday and Thursday concerts, and a select group will offer instrument demonstrations. RocMusic provides tuition-free music and string instruction to children 6-18 years old who live in the city of Rochester.

“Our students look up to the musicians like they are celebrities, and we know that bringing them to eye-opening experiences, like a live acoustic concert, can be life-changing,” said Alexander Peña, Program Director and Lead Teacher for RocMusic.

The Around the Town concerts this week will feature a program of familiar favorites such as John Williams’ Star Wars Suite coupled along with light classics such as excerpts from Beethoven’s sixth symphony. For more information, visit our website at rpo.org. For more about RocMusic, visit their website.

If you go:
What: Around the Town community concert series
When: Wednesday-Friday, October 15-17
Where: See below
Time: All concerts at 7:30 p.m.
$$$: Free

Wednesday, October 15
David F. Gantt R-Center
700 North St. Rochester, NY 14605

Thursday, October 16
Edgerton R-Center
41 Backus St. Rochester, NY 14608

Friday, October 17
Fairport High School
1 Dave Paddock Way Fairport, NY 14450

October 9, 2014

Jeff of all trades: Jeffrey Kahane to conduct, play piano, at RPO

Jeffrey Kahane
One of the most exciting things about a live orchestra performance is seeing the talented musicians at their craft. Even if you have no understanding of how to play the violin or the oboe, it’s clear that what the musicians are accomplishing on their instruments is no easy feat. Now, imagine one of these talented performers is also the conductor. Tonight and Saturday night, California-based guest artist Jeffrey Kahane will not only play Ravel’s Piano Concerto, but he will also lead the RPO through a program that includes Gershwin, Ligeti, and Kodály.

“It’s definitely a challenge to switch gears, but I have been doing this for about 25 years” said Kahane, who started his career as a pianist over 30 years ago. “My experience is that orchestras find it to be a refreshing change of pace as they get to have the experience of having the conductor actually playing with them, in addition to leading.”

Kahane is no stranger to Rochester or performing with the RPO. From 1988-1995, he was on the piano faculty for the Eastman School of Music. Since making his RPO debut performing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in 1986, Kahane has appeared with the RPO three other times, most recently as guest conductor/pianist in October 2001.

“There's a lot of multi-tasking involved,” said Kahane of his dual roles onstage. “It requires a great deal of both physical coordination and mental agility, but it's also a great deal of fun when working with an orchestra as fine as the RPO.”

While Kahane says he can’t pick a favorite musical moment from this weekend’s program, he refers to the slow movement of the Ravel Concerto as “one of the most perfect, most beautiful and most moving things in the whole repertoire.” As for an overall theme that connects the program, Kahane notes that Ravel was influenced by the sounds of American jazz while composing his Concerto (which premiered in Paris in 1932), making it the perfect segue for Gershwin’s An American in Paris. The second half of the program features two works by Hungarian composers influenced by folk music: Ligeti’s Romanian Concerto and Kodály's Háry János Suite, the latter featuring guest performer Chester Englander on the cimbalom, a rare percussion instrument with Hungarian ties that is similar to a hammered dulcimer.

"The Kodály is a spectacular orchestral showcase and very exciting for the audience," said Kahane. "I'm excited to do it and it's great to be back in Rochester!"

For more information on this concert or to buy tickets, visit rpo.org

P.S. For more on the cimbalom, stay tuned to the RPO on Facebook for an exclusive interview and demo of this instrument with Percussionist Chester Englander!