July 11, 2018

Catch Up With Our Musicians!

 RPO musicians do so many things, both musical and non-musical, it can be hard to keep up! We checked in with a few of them to ask how they're spending their summer. Here are a few of their replies!

Erik Behr, principal oboe + Juliana Athayde, concertmaster
Juliana and I have been representing the RPO at the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra in San Diego. This is a three week music festival comprised of all-star musicians who are concertmasters and principals in their respective orchestras from all around the country including the Cleveland, Philadelphia, NY Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and others.
We have also both just completed a teaching week at the National Orchestral Institute. This is a premier summer festival for college music majors that will prepare them for professional careers in music performance. We coached violins and oboes and led sectional rehearsals. 

Lisa Albrecht, trombone
I’ve just spent June recording a solo album with concert organist Amanda Mole, assisted by members of my quartet (Hohenfels Trombone Quartet).  RPO Second Trumpeter Wes Nance also helped out with some of the production.  It should be released in early 2019 and will feature works by Schiffmann, Guilmant, Schnittke, Liszt, Ives, Gárdonyi, Fauré, and Schickele. 

Rebecca Gilbert, principal flute
I will be playing a Wind Quintet Concert in Lake City, Colorado with a group of musicians from the Dallas Symphony, Amarillo Symphony, and the New Mexico Symphony.  Lake City is billed as the “The Most Remote Place in the Lower 48”. My husband and two sons will be joining me for 6 days of San Juan Mountain adventures including horseback riding in the high country, 4-wheel drive to a ghost town, hiking, and fishing.

Perrin Yang, violin
I play in a blues/rock band called Significant Other. On June 23, we had the opportunity to perform on the big East Ave. and Chestnut stage for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, opening for Brain Setzer and his band. The weather was a little dicey leading up to the show, but turned out very nicely, so we had lots of fun playing to a great energetic crowd of several thousand people!  (Photo credit to Aaron Winters)

Eric Polenik, bass

Mary and I visited her parents in Belgium this June. We took a side trip to London because Mary had always wanted to visit the National Observatory and Prime Meridian. While there I proposed and now we are engaged! I told her that we would always know where to find our love. We’re going to spend the rest of the summer dreaming up plans for our wedding. I think we know a few good musicians for the ceremony.

Margaret Leenhouts, violin
I have a grab bag of activities for this summer. I"ll be teaching violin at Nazareth college, played the Seal concert to open the jazzfest, and have a nice jazz gig at RIT in the middle of the summer. I'm looking forward to my weeks with the RPO and I'll be finishing my musical summer by playing in the pit with the Finger Lakes Opera. Its not all work, though. My family is off to a week of hiking in Iceland in early July and we will be hosting our Japanese exchange student's parents later in the month. We are looking forward to improving our language skills!

Stephen Laifer, horn + Nikki LaBonte, horn
Assistant Principal Horn Nikki Labonte and I spent a day hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The plan was to complete an eight-mile loop summiting three peaks (Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette). Unfortunately the weather was against us: thick cloud cover, gale force winds, and zero visibility. We found our way to a forestry service hiking hut, grabbed a cup of coffee, and started to head back to the car when the clouds burned off. Nikki suggested we do the entire route in reverse - and I grudgingly agreed. Weather the second time was spectacular, and we wound up hiking nearly 13 miles in 10 hours, a very long but rewarding day.

Herb Smith, trumpet
My trio played at Unter Biergarten on 6/26 during the Jazz Fest as an RPO Ensemble with thousands of people around listening. A lot of fun, beer, pretzels, and music was had by all. 

John Sullivan, violin
I recently completed training for and started my own sideline business as a Voice Actor/Voice Over Artist. My voice is for hire! Here’s a link to my demos, if anyone may be curious to check them out:

July 2, 2018

Independence Day: Behind the Score

72dpi JPEG image of: Stars and stripes forever
Every year on the Fourth of July, Americans celebrate their country’s independence by singing timeless tunes written long ago. While some may know the motivation behind the songs, many do not know their history. Today, we’ll take three songs about the US of A and uncover how they came to be.

 “1812 Overture” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is a song that the RPO plays every year on the Fourth. Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write a piece for the grand opening of a cathedral in Moscow which was built to celebrate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s invading force in 1812. Tchaikovsky ended up finishing the piece only six weeks after he began writing it, in 1880, and actually ended up hating it. He later complained that he felt the piece lacked warmth and love and was simply very loud and noisy. The piece only recently became Independence Day repertory after Arthur Fielder, long time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, decided to include the piece in their Fourth of July performance in 1974.

“Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa was dubbed the National March of the United States of America by a 1987 act of the U.S. Congress. According to his autobiography, Marching Along, Sousa composed the march on Christmas Day, 1896. He was on an ocean liner on his way home from a vacation with his wife in Europe. He had just received word of the unexpected death of his good friend and band manager, David Blakely. Sousa was pacing the deck to gather his thoughts when the music came to him. He composed the march in his head and committed the notes to paper once he arrived back home in the United States. Sousa had also written his own lyrics to the piece, although it is more often played as the instrumental rendition. The march was an immediate success, and Sousa’s band played it at almost every concert until his death 35 years later.

Reverend Samuel Francis Smith wrote the words to “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” (also known as “America”), but the origin of the song's melody remains a mystery. Many Americans and Brits alike know that the song shares a melody with the national anthem of Great Britain, “God Save The Queen”. The family of Henry Carey, a British singer-composer, claimed that he was the first to compose both the lyrics and the music as “God Save Great George the King” in 1740. Historians, however, claim that the tune was previously sourced from English composer John Bull, the French court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, and even a military hymn from Switzerland. Regardless of its mysterious origin, the tune was officially published in 1744 in England in a tune book called Thesaurus Musicus.

The lyrics evolved over time throughout the early 1800s, and the words that eventually became the tradition were written by Reverend Smith while he was studying at Andover Theological Seminary in 1831. As it is known today, the song, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” was debuted by popular organist and composer Lowell Mason on July 4, 1831, at a children's service at the Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts.

Hopefully this look inside three popular Independence Day tunes has filled you with some insight into the spirit of the music. Cannons or no cannons, your Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra wishes you, your family, and your friends a safe and happy July 4th. Let freedom ring!