By Natalie Carmolli
With a concert named Classical Music for Everyone and a season that references the book “Classical Music for Dummies,” West Michigan Symphony’s 2016-17 concert series promises to be artistic, accessible and fun.
When the second edition of the book “Classical Music for Dummies,” co-authored by Music Director Scott Speck and New York Times columnist and conductor David Pogue, was published last year, West Michigan Symphony (WMS) thought it was high time to create a concert based on it. Dubbing the concert Classical Music for Everyone, Speck focused his programming on introducing new listeners to classical music and expanding the more experienced listener’s knowledge and enjoyment of classical music.
Of the specially-themed concert, Music Director Scott Speck commented, “This is a project that we’ve wanted to share with our West Michigan Symphony community for many years. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love classical music, once they have a key into this wondrous world. This concert aims to provide that key — for people of all musical backgrounds, or no background at all! It will be one of the highlights of the season.” The repertoire for the March 10 concert will include works by Mozart, Brahms, Wagner and Copland, among others.
West Michigan Symphony has also published a “Classical Music for Everyone” magazine. Natalie Carmolli, the symphony’s Director of Marketing commented, “The new magazine is a fun read, with an article written by Scott Speck, an article about our new composer-in-residence Austin Wintory, FAQs and how-to dress pieces for those who are new to symphony-going, plus snippets of the ‘Classical Music for Dummies book’ paired with the 16-17 concert repertoire.” Carmolli invited those who would like a copy of the magazine sent to their home or business to send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 16-17 concert season opens Sept. 30 with a concert dubbed Heroes and Villains, celebrating the dark and bright side of storytelling via the soundtracks that accompany them. Also featured will be “Assassin’s Dances” by Austin Wintory, the award-winning composer of various video games including the popular “Assassin’s Creed” franchise.
The Nov. 11 concert will also feature Wintory in a new work titled “EPIC!” The piece bothhonors and skewers the characteristic clichés inherent in “epic” film scores. Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite” and Respighi’s “The Fountains of Rome” and “The Pines of Rome” round out the program.
Classical Christmas brings back soprano Martha Guth, who was last featured in 2014 in the symphony’s performance of “Carmina Burana.” The Muskegon Chamber Choir and the Chamber Choir of Grand Rapids also join the orchestra in song for this Dec. 16 concert.
West Michigan Symphony rings in the New Year Jan. 13 with Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” recomposed by Max Richter. Guest artist, violinist Timothy Fain, will solo in this surprising new adaptation of Vivaldi’s classic work. Mozart’s Symphony no. 41, better known as the “Jupiter Symphony” completes the program.
The Feb. 3 Beethoven Triple concert puts the spotlight on three WMS musicians, concertmaster Jennifer Walvoord on violin, Alicia Gregorian Sawyers on cello and Kelly Karamanov on piano. Although written for a full orchestra, the piece is known for its chamber-like qualities, and strong focus on the solo musicians. Scott Speck also conducts the orchestra in Mikhail Glinka’s Overture to “Ruslan and Ludmilla” and Dvořák’s Symphony no. 9, otherwise known as the “New World Symphony.”
Guest conductor Matthew Kraemer joins jazz vocalist Dee Daniels for Great Ladies of Swing, April 28. This program features hits performed and recorded by swing legends Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan. Daniels will sing popular jazz classics including “Fever,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “Makin’ Whoopee” and “Mack the Knife.”
Simply titled Rachmaninoff no. 3, the May 19 concert brings the long-awaited Olga Kern to the Frauenthal stage to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in D minor. Gold Medal winner of the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Kern joins the WMS to play the piece that earned her the title. The concert also includes Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, otherwise known as “Pathétique,” which was first conducted by the composer himself only nine days before his death.
Full season tickets for adults start at $141, $82 for masterworks, and $59 for pops, with special tickets prices for students. Tickets are exchangeable, some require a small fee. Single tickets go on sale in July. Performances are Fridays at 7:30 p.m. at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Muskegon. Tickets can be purchased by calling the WMS box office at 231.726.3231 x223, in person at 360 W. Western Avenue or online at www.westmichigansymphony.org.
West Michigan Symphony is a professional regional orchestra. With eight performances annually at the Frauenthal Theater, a full season of guest artist performances at The Block, and dozens of educational and outreach activities, WMS has played a leading role in the region’s cultural community for over 76 years.