A community treasure trove comprised of talented musicians from throughout the region, the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Maestro Gerardo Edelstein, who was appointed conductor and music director of the WSO last July, is eager to once again share a sensational season of symphonies with an ever-expanding audience.
Energized by Edelstein's expertise and high-expectations and inspired by the steadfast support and standing ovations from last year's appreciative audiences, the WSO embarks on its 45th year, proudly announcing its upcoming 2011-2012 season, "Celebrations."
On the choice of this year's theme, Edelstein said, "In some aspects, we want to celebrate our successful first season together. We're a strong organization - Williamsport's little jewel. We also want to celebrate music, celebrate life.
"However," he added, "I'd like to make it clear that while celebrations are something that come and go, we want to make sure this is a continuous celebration for many years to come."
Reuben Councill, executive director of the WSO and also the orchestra's principle flutist, agreed.
"Last year was about reengaging the core audience," Councill said. "We want to celebrate that we made those great connections with the audience and in the community."
Connecting with the community first involves ensuring that everyone, from symphony neophytes to long-time symphony subscribers, finds the musical selections appealing. Prior to the beginning of each concert season, Edelstein said he considers "music that is exciting and interesting for the players, that they'll learn from and music that appeals to the audience."
After generating an outline of musical selections, Edelstein gathers with the organization's artist advisory committee, comprised of musicians and community members, to further discuss each program's layout for the season.
"I come with an outline," Edelstein said, "We discuss options - 'Why this, instead of this?' "
Eventually, they create a season consisting of five programs, with the selected works being a balance of lighter classical music and more sophisticated pieces.
"There's great music throughout history," he added, "We're using some 19th century, 20th century and 21st century pieces. We like to show as much variety as possible."
The first concert of the upcoming season, "Hear It! Live It! Love It!" is Oct. 11. As with all of the shows in the WSO's "Celebrations" series, the performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.
The opening concert commences with "Short Ride in a Fast Machine," music by popular contemporary American composer John Adams.
"John Adams is a composer so sensitive to what's going on in the world. He can make the music appeal to anybody," Edelstein said.
Councill agreed, adding that Adams's music is extremely "accessible" and that community members new to the WSO experience may especially enjoy the season opener.
In addition, the opening concert features violinist Max Zorin. Zorin, the orchestra's concertmaster, will play two virtuosic pieces from the Romantic Era, with tunes based on Bizet's "Carmen" and also from French composer Camille Saint Saens. The evening's program also includes the 20th century piece, Sibelius' "Symphony No. 2."
The season's second performance, "A Broadway Holiday," scheduled on Dec. 13, has several surprises in store, including singers and dancers from the Penn State School of Theatre. Edelstein explained the exciting addition of singing and dancing to to the OSU program.
"Because my son is involved with musical theater," he said, "I had the chance to see several shows at Penn State. I was mesmerized by the quality of performance, so thought of doing something here."
The maestro then contacted Mary Saunders, head of Penn State's musical theater department, who recommended three of her star pupils for the WSO's December show.
In addition to offering a bevy of Broadway tunes, the show will usher in the holidays with performances of seasonal favorites such as "Sleigh Ride," " White Christmas," "The Nutcracker" and a holiday sing along of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."
On Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, the WSO hopes patrons fall in love with an "Invitation to Dance." During the show, in addition to Prokofiev's powerful score of "Romeo and Juliet," the orchestra will perform Bartok's "Rumanian Dances," perhaps one of the most successful pieces ever written for ballet.
"It's a fun piece," Edelstein said. "Bartok would listen to peasants sing and research folk music of his native Hungary. Bartok collected 1,000s of tunes and melodies and integrated many into his 'Rumanian Dances.' "
During the show, the audience also will hear French Impressionistic composer Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," a piece Edelstein described as a turning point in the history of classical musical repertoire and a source of inspiration for Russian dancer Nijinsky's beautifully choreographed ballet. The finale of the concert will be by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, a suite from his famous ballet, "The Three Cornered Hat."
On March 10, the maestro and his musicians treat listeners to "Let's Tango," with music by Piazzolla, including his famous "Las Cuatro Estaciones" or "The Four Season of Buenos Aires."
"Piazzolla came in the '50s and '60s with a new tango." Edelstein said. "He wanted to make younger people more aware of the tango. Piazzolla infused jazz, tango and classical music together."
He added, "The main difference between the old tango style and new one is the old one is more to sing and dance. Piazzolla's music is more to play and listen."
Argentine-born musician Hector del Curto will be the featured soloist for March's show. Del Curto is a renowned bandoneon player who has performed at notable venues like the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.
"The bandoneon," Edelstein said, "is a little accordion. The difference is, it doesn't have the white keys, only black dots to play melody and harmony."
During "About Heroes & Love," the season's final concert May 15, the music of composers Chopin and Mahler will be celebrated. The evening features Italian pianist Roberto Plano, 2001 winner of the prestigious Cleveland International Piano Competition, performing Chopin's poetic "Piano Concerto No. 1".
The WSO's season closes with Mahler's "Symphony No. 1", also known as the "Titan." The piece, Edelstein said, is full of power, beauty, hope and excitement.
"Mahler is one of my favorite composers," he said. "He has the ability to dig into your soul, into your heart."
In addition to the season's five powerhouse performances, the WSO will continue offering "Meet the Maestro," popular events where community members have the opportunity to join with Edelstein and guest performers in a relaxed, informal setting to learn more about the music, the musicians, and the maestro.
"Last season, we had been offering just luncheons," Councill said, "This season, we'll offer luncheons for the opening and closing shows, but we'll also do evening open houses at the Capitol Lounge for people to mingle with the conductor and soloists."
In addition to the regular symphony season performances and the "Meet the Maestro" events, the WSO will continue expanding its presence in the community through various programs and outreach initiatives, some of which include: funding the Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra, supporting the WSO's Billtown Brass, providing guest artists with international reputations to perform at schools and universities throughout central Pennsylvania, establishing The Young Artist Competition, offering Summer Pops concerts and providing a family concert to the community.
This year, the organization also brings the "WSO Education Celebration" into the community. Councill explained that the educational initiative will begin with a lesson plan competition taking place among the area colleges, whereby university students will work to create innovative, engaging music lesson plans designed to be implemented with younger students. Following the close of the competition, a panel of public school and university educators will then carefully review all lesson plans submitted and choose the best plans from the competition. Overall, Councill expressed extreme confidence that the WSO has all of the pieces in place for continued growth and another successful season.
Edelstein fervently agreed, adding, "We've got dedicated, talented musicians, a director who is not only great at putting things together but also a fantastic musician in the WSO and a very, very supportive board. People in this town want to see the orchestra grow at all levels. My goal is to have this symphony be one of the leading original orchestras in the country."
For additional information on the WSO and all of its upcoming performances, visit www.will iamsportsym phony.org or call 326-2424. For ticket information, call 800-432-9382.