From Music Director Daniel Meyer
We often think about the incredible competition that exists between performers. Classical music has its share of high-profile events where the top singers, pianists, and violinists all vie for the title of best in the world. Careers are launched by winning one such coveted prize, and although triumph in a major international competition like the Queen Elizabeth, the Tchaikovsky, or the Van Cliburn can act as a springboard, it is certainly no guarantee of fame and fortune.
When it comes to composers, we tend to think of each living in her own world. We imagine composers living in isolated spheres, laboring late by candlelight, spinning master creations by dipping a quill into ink and transcribing passion into tiny notes and rests. But in reality, composers live in the very same competitive atmosphere as performers. There are a finite number of orchestras, and the opportunities for composer to have a work premiered by an orchestra of the caliber of the Erie Philharmonic is actually quite rare. And let's face it, with amazing works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Strauss, and Beethoven, the field of works from which we can select our concert programs is already crowded. It can be hard to find a contemporary voice who can stand alongside those great composers and have something valid to say and be of a similar quality.
But we can and we must be a part of that natural process. We must continue to support the composers of our time and encourage them to write music that resonates today, using the instruments of yesterday. Our concert culture today is quite different than that of Mozart or Beethoven's day. Concertgoers then expected that the music they would hear would be new to them. They wanted to experience the latest creations. They craved the adventure of being a part of that creative process. That is why it is so fun to think of what kinds of rivalries and competitions existed between Mozart and Salieri, between Beethoven and Rossini. We can imagine the sheer jealousies that sprang from each composer hearing a great performance or hearing another audience leap to its feet or demand an encore. We can think of how composers took their cues from their rivals, either through imitation or through forging a consciously distinct path from that of their competitors.
We will look into those competitive composers in our concert on Saturday, when we pit two 'rival pairs' against each other. Three of the four composers emerged victorious. Their music is safely considered to be within the 'canon.' Their music has stood the test of time and now continue to be performed with a frequency that leads us to call them 'masters.' Mr. Salieri, very popular and highly-regarded in his day, remains on the periphery (and would be forgotten were it not for Peter Shaffer's famous play and film 'Amadeus'.) We will feature one of his charming scores to give you a chance to assess whether or not he's has been unjustly neglected.
Prepared by Ken Meltzer
Sinfonia Veneziana (ca. 1786)
Antonio Salieri was born in Legnano, Italy, on August 18, 1750, and died in Vienna, Austria, on May 7, 1825.
Approximate performance time is ten minutes.
The name Antonio Salieri inevitably conjures images of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play, Amadeus, and its 1984 cinematic adaptation by Miloš Forman. Both the play and movie use the rumor that a jealous Salieri plotted the demise of his rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as the basis for immensely entertaining theater. Shaffer’s drama makes the Salieri-Mozart rivalry the foundation for an allegory—the chasm between workmanlike competence, and divine inspiration.
To the extent Amadeus is accepted as historically accurate, however, it does both Salieri and Mozart a great disservice. Modern scholarship is unanimous that Salieri had nothing to do with Mozart’s tragic, untimely death. We also know that on several occasions, Salieri was happy to conduct Mozart’s works. Further, if Salieri was not Mozart’s equal as a composer (who was?), he was highly talented, accomplished, and respected, holding numerous important positions in Vienna (Beethoven was among his pupils). It should also be mentioned that while Mozart did have a very playful side (and an impish love for ribaldry and scatology), he was far from the clownish figure suggested in Amadeus.
The Sinfonia Veneziana combines two works by Salieri to create the three-movement (fast—slow—fast) structure popular at the time. The first movement (Allegro assai) is the Overture to Salieri’s opera, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School for Jealousy). The final two movements, played without pause (Andantino grazioso—Presto), originated as the Overture to the intermezzo, La partenza inaspettata (The Unexpected Departure).
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra No. 1 in G Major, K. 313 (285c) (1778)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756, and died in Vienna, Austria, on December 5, 1791.
Approximate performance time is twenty-five minutes.
In September of 1777, Mozart left his home in Salzburg to begin an 18-month journey throughout Europe. Mozart, who felt his talents were not appreciated in his native city, hoped to find steady employment elsewhere. Mozart’s journey took him to Munich, Augsburg, Mannheim, and finally, to Paris.
While in Mannheim, Mozart made the acquaintance of a Dutch visitor to the German city, a surgeon and amateur flutist by the name of Ferdinand Dejean. Dejean commissioned Mozart to compose “three short easy concertos and a pair of flute quartets.”
Mozart did not have great affection for the flute, at least as a solo instrument. In his memoirs, Viennese physician Joseph Frank recalled: “Once when we were speaking about instruments Mozart said that he loathed the flute and the harp.” That opinion is reflected in a letter of February 14, 1778 Mozart wrote to his father, Leopold. In the letter, Mozart commented on his slow progress in completing Dejean’s commission: “you know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.”
In light of Mozart’s opinions expressed, above, this quote from a letter he wrote to Leopold in December of the same year bears repeating: “Ah, if only we had clarinets too! You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets.”
Mozart ultimately fulfilled Dejean’s commission, which included the composer’s two Flute Concertos— in G Major, K. 313, and in D Major, K. 314 (the latter, an adaptation of the composer’s Oboe Concerto in C Major). Despite Mozart’s protestations, the Concertos are beautiful, eloquent works, beloved by flutists and their audiences.
The Concerto is in three movements. In the first (Allegro maestoso), the orchestra introduces the principal themes, before the soloist enters with a more elaborate restatement. The traditional development and recapitulation of the themes are capped bythe flute’s solo cadenza and the emphatic closing bars. A heartfelt slow movement (Adagio ma non troppo) leads to the finale (Rondo. Tempo di Menuetto). A minuet, an elegant court dance in triple meter, serves as the recurring principal theme.
Overture to Guillaume Tell (1829)
Gioachino Rossini was born in Pesaro, Italy, on February 29, 1792, and died in Passy, France, on November 13, 1868. T
he first performance of Guillaume Tell took place at the Opéra in Paris, France, on August 3, 1829.
Approximate performance time is twelve minutes.
Gioachino Rossini’s final opera, Guillaume Tell, is based upon Friedrich Schiller’s play, Wilhelm Tell. Guillaume Tell takes place in 14th-century Switzerland, and relates the story of the Swiss victory over their Habsburg oppressors. With its epic length, spectacle, and ballet, Guillaume Tell is in the tradition of French Grand Opera. Rossini provided music of extraordinary power and eloquence, departing from the early 19th-century bel canto practices that had often featured vocal display at the expense of drama.
In fact, Guillaume Tell earned the praise of such demanding and revolutionary musical dramatists as Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner. Berlioz deemed Guillaume Tell “seriously thought out, considered at leisure, and conscientiously executed from beginning to end.” Wagner particularly admired the title character’s eloquent third-act aria, “Sois immobile.” During an 1860 meeting, Wagner told Rossini the aria “reached the highest summits of lyric expression.” Rossini replied: “So I made music of the future without knowing it.” To which Wagner responded: “There, Maestro, you made music for all times, and that is the best.”
Guillaume Tell premiered at the Paris Opéra on August 3, 1829. Rossini was thirty-seven and would live another thirty-nine years. Yet, he composed no operas after Guillaume Tell. Between 1812 and 1829, Rossini composed thirty-nine operas, and the years of hard labor had taken a tremendous toll on his physical and emotional health. Rossini spent the remainder of his life enjoying the company of friends, and composing many salon pieces he affectionately referred to as “Sins of My Old Age.” In an 1866 letter to composer Giovanni Pacini, Rossini expressed no regrets about his abrupt retirement from opera: “such a presentiment is not given to everyone; God granted it to me and I bless him for it every hour.”
The Overture to Guillaume Tell begins with an extended slow introduction (Andante) that features a magical combination of five solo cellos. The rustlings of the strings and winds (Allegro) are prelude to a storm sequence of tremendous power. After the storm abates, the English horn, in tandem with the flute, offers a ranz des vaches, the traditional call of the Swiss herdsman to his cattle (Andante). Trumpet fanfares launch the triumphant final section (Allegro vivace). The music, known (perhaps all too well) for its association with the 1950s television series The Lone Ranger, still generates tremendous excitement on its own terms.
Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93 (1812)
Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in Bonn, Germany, on December 17, 1770, and died in Vienna, Austria, on March 26, 1827.
The first performance of the Eighth Symphony took place at the Redoutensaal in Vienna on February 27, 1814.
Approximate performance time is twenty-six minutes.
Beethoven began work on both his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies in 1811. After finishing the Seventh Symphony in June of 1812, Beethoven turned his full attention to the Eighth, completing that score on October 12. The premiere of the Eighth Symphony took place as part of a February 27, 1814 concert at the Redoutensaal in Vienna. The program also contained the Seventh Symphony—which had received its premiere the previous December 13—and the (then) wildly popular Wellington’s Victory.
Beethoven’s Eighth is the Symphony that most emphatically reflects the composer’s humorous side. The Eighth also bears a kinship with another comic jewel—Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff (1893). In both works, the composers—at the height of their maturity and powers—employ techniques previously used for the composition of “serious” music to fashion masterpieces overflowing with playful humor. And, if the Eighth Symphony presages the future, it also pays tribute to the past. The work’s high spirits and economy of expression recall the greatest symphonic humorist of them all—Beethoven’s teacher, Franz Joseph Haydn.
The Symphony No. 8 is in four movements. The first (Allegro vivace e con brio) immediately establishes the energy and high spirits that predominate throughout. In place of the traditional slow-tempo second movement, Beethoven substitutes a playful Allegretto scherzando. The third movement is a minuet (Tempo di Menuetto) a court dance in triple meter. The horns (to playful triplet cello accompaniment) introduce a lovely interlude that serves as minuet’s trio section. The third movement closes with a reprise of the minuet. The finale (Allegro vivace) begins with a device found in many Haydn symphonies. The strings play a scurrying, pianissimo figure that suddenly—and without warning—explodes with tremendous force. The finale, a beehive of activity from start to finish, concludes with an extended, and decidedly emphatic, series of chords.
From Patron Services Manager Mat Anderson
As I grew up, I was constantly told that something about the way I interact with customers would leave them feeling welcomed, at home and comfortable.
It could be as simple as a smile, or even knowing just what to say if I could tell somebody's day had been particularly rough.
At 5 years old, I started working (well, as much as I could) in the family businesses. I started out at the donut shop, glazing, sprinkling and filling boxes with whatever our customers wanted. I often stood on a step ladder to each the top of counter and make change, or my grandma would lift me up, bag of donuts in-hand, to give to our customer. It was never work - it was fun... something I learned to enjoy. If empathy is genetic, it certainly runs in my family. It's one thing, aside from freckles, that we all share.
By the time I was 18, I managed our summer ice cream shop full time. I often worked alone throughout the day and then switched to more of a management role once more of our employees got there. 10 and 12 hour days happened, though not frequently, enough that it's something I simply got used to. I loved it and it loved me back by enabling me to save up money enough to attend Mercyhurst University.
Fast forward a to the spring of 2015. The Erie Philharmonic box office position was opening up. The Phil was always something I held on a pedestal as a music student in the area. I was sure, 100% positive that I wouldn't have a chance, but I sent my résumé regardless. Now, because you're reading this, you know what happened next... and I still feel so incredibly fortunate to go into my job every day, and not think of it as 'work.'
Sure, like everything, it has its share of challenges, however, the pros greatly outweigh the cons.
I feel fortunate to call my co-workers friends, I feel fortunate to work in the arts at a time when the Phil is skyrocketing in both caliber and capability, but I also feel fortunate to be able to help plan what may be a very important night for a person coming to see our performance.
Just the other day, I spoke on the phone with an older gentleman who was buying tickets to our Casablanca show on February 4, 2017. During the ticket order, he shared that he's taking his wife as a surprise, because their first date was to see Casablanca at the movie theatre. "Both tickets cost me $.50!" He chuckled. I couldn't keep from smiling. That's what makes coming to the Philharmonic every day and running our box office worth it. Knowing that, in some way, I'm helping to create what may be an important or special evening for people. It continues to give me hope. It continues to remind me of the important things in life. So, check out our season and give me a call! I'd be glad to help you get great seats for any of our concerts.
We have something for everybody!
Mat's Greatest Hits
We're making history on this week's episode of See, Here's the Thing. Steve Weiser, executive director of the Erie Philharmonic, returns to the program to become the first guest to EVER appear our on show twice. He's getting something cool like a pin...or a coupon for a free Frosty.
In Episode 26, Kate, Patrick and Steve talk about a possible concert version of "My Fair Lady" with Colin Firth, Joe Maganiello's casting as Deathstroke, "Beauty and the Beast" concept art, and the #SaveNelly controversy. Patrick somehow gets on to the topic of "wongs," and Kate and Steve can't seem to save him.
We start a Android vs. iPhone war with the release of iOS 10, underscored with Samsung Notes exploding in the background. Xbox and Playstation do their best to compete in the video game realm with new systems, and Steve cherishes his "Bro's Gold" iPhone.
We'll get an in-depth look at the Erie Philharmonic's 2016-2017 season, which features the Beat Beethoven 5K, the music of Danny Elfman, Demarre Gill, and definitely NOT Ken Jeong. We'll also hear about the renovations to the historic Warner Theatre, and the possibility of a concert version of "The Lord of the Rings."
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
Opening night, for me, is such a special time. It’s an opportunity to reacquaint myself with the enormously talented musicians of the Philharmonic, get back into the swing of making music in an intense schedule, and rediscover the music we are are charged with bringing to life on the Warner Stage.
Russian music, particularly written by the composers we have chosen this year, is filled with brilliant orchestra color, deeply-felt emotion, and technical virtuosity. I’ve chosen two very different Russian ballet scores to ‘bookend’ our first Symphonic concert. In both cases, the music is so inventive and pictorial, that you hardly need the dancers onstage to comprehend the content and emotion written into the notes. I personally love conducting Stravinsky’s Petrouchka because it offers so much in terms of rhythmic vitality, unexpected twists and turns, and amazing sonic moments, some of which are tender, some brutal, and some teeming with the spirit of Russian folk dance. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, on the other hand, is the height of artifice. Fairy-tale stories cast in the most sumptuous orchestral clothing you can imagine. If Petrouchka were an earthy painting by Breughel, Swan Lake would be a most exquisitely detailed portrait by Velazquez.
And then one of my biggest sources of pride is the depth of talent we have within the ranks of our own orchestra. It is a thrill to invite our Concertmaster, Ken Johnston, to return to the solo spotlight, this time in an unabashedly Romantic and tune-driven concerto by Glazunov. I hope you agree that this particular concerto deserves more respect (and more performances!) I suppose the Tchaikovsky Concerto stands clear as the king of Russian violin concertos in terms of its popularity, but this inventive and attractive concerto by Glazunov will make a beautiful foil to our other Russians on the program, and Ken will most certainly bring his wonderful musical approach to this beautiful music.
Prepared by Ken Meltzer
Petrushka (1947 version)
Igor Stravinsky was born in Lomonosov, Russia, on June 17, 1882, and died in New York on April 6, 1971. The first performance of Petrushka took place at the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris, France, on June 13, 1911, with Pierre Monteux conducting. Approximate performance time is thirty-four minutes.
Petrushka, along with The Firebird (1910) and The Rite of Spring (1913), form the remarkable trilogy of ballets Igor Stravinsky composed for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The premiere of Stravinsky’s Petrushka took place at the Paris Théâtre du Chatelet on June 13, 1911. The legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinsky interpreted the title role. After witnessing Nijinsky’s performance, Sarah Bernhardt exclaimed: “I am afraid, I am afraid—because I have just seen the greatest actor in the world!”
While the production was generally a success, more than a few observers were taken aback by music that was at times brittle, caustic, and even grotesque. One critic approached Diaghilev after a dress rehearsal and exclaimed: “And it was to hear this that you invited us!” “Exactly,” was Diaghilev’s reply.
I. The Shrovetide Fair—The action of Petrushka takes place in the 1830s in Admiralty Square, St. Petersburg, during Shrovetide rejoicing. Stravinsky’s stunning orchestration and rapidly shifting rhythms magically depict the hustle and bustle of the fair. An organ grinder and dancing girl entertain the crowd. Drummers announce the appearance of the Old Wizard, who charms the captivated audience. The Old Wizard uses a flute to cast a magic spell (The Magic Trick). The curtain rises on a tiny theater, revealing three puppets—Petrushka, the Ballerina, and the Moor. The puppets perform a vigorous Russian Dance.
II. Petrushka’s Room—Petrushka lands in his cell with a resounding crash. Although Petrushka is a puppet, he feels human emotions, including bitterness toward the Old Wizard for his imprisonment, as well as love for the beautiful Ballerina. Petrushka unsuccessfully tries to escape from his cell. The Ballerina enters. Petrushka attempts to profess his love, but the Ballerina rejects his pathetic advances.
III. The Moor’s Room—The scene changes to the Moor’s lavishly decorated cell. The Ballerina, who is attracted by the Moor’s handsome appearance, enters his room. The two begin their lovemaking (Waltz), interrupted by the entrance of Petrushka. The angry Moor chases Petrushka away.
IV. The Shrovetide Fair—The scene returns to the fairground toward evening, where a series of characters come and go (Dance of the Nursemaids, Dance of the Coachmen and the Stable Boys, The Mummers). At the height of the festivities, a cry is heard from the puppet-theater. The Moor chases Petrushka into the crowd and kills him with his scimitar.
The police question the Old Wizard, who reminds everyone that Petrushka is but a puppet with a wooden head, and a body filled with sawdust. Night falls, and the crowd disperses. Alone, the Old Wizard is terrified to see the leering ghost of Petrushka on the roof of the little theater.
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Opus 82 (1904)
Alexander Glazunov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on August 10, 1865, and died in Paris, France, on March 21, 1936. The first performance of the Violin Concerto took place in St. Petersburg on February 15, 1905, with Leopold Auer as soloist, and the composer conducting. Approximate performance time is twenty-one minutes.
Alexander Glazunov was a prolific composer, whose works include numerous symphonies and independent orchestral works, ballets, choral and solo vocal compositions, and several chamber pieces. In addition to his success as a composer, Glazunov was a highly respected teacher. In 1899, he was appointed as a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1905, he was named the Director of the Conservatory, a position he held until 1928.
One of Glazunov’s most famous and performed works is the Violin Concerto, completed in 1904. Glazunov dedicated the Concerto to his colleague at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the great Hungarian-born violinist, Leopold Auer (1845-1930). It appears that Auer may well have assisted Glazunov in the writing of the solo violin part for his Concerto. Auergave the Concerto’s world premiere in St. Petersburg on February 17, 1905, with the composer on the podium. For over a century, the Glazunov Violin Concerto has maintained an important place in the concert hall, as well as the affection of virtuosos and audiences alike.
The Glazunov Violin Concerto is in four movements, played without pause. The first (Moderato) opens with the briefest of orchestral introductions, followed by the soloist’s introduction of the broad, flowing first principal theme, marked dolce espressivo. Some wide-ranging flourishes by the soloist lead to his introduction of the tender second principal theme. A playful sequence for the soloist, followed by a more introspective episode, serve as a bridge to the Concerto’s slow-tempo second movement (Andante). The soloist plays a theme (dolce espressivo) that begins in the lower portion of the instrument’s range. The theme is related to the one that opened the Concerto. The Andante, and the ensuing Più animato serve as both the Concerto’s slow-tempo movement, and the development and varied recapitulation of the principal thematic material. A lengthy solo cadenza and a sprightly passage resolve to a jaunty trumpet fanfare in 6/8 time, repeated by the soloist (Allegro). This finale’s central theme alternates with various episodes. High spirits predominate, as do virtuoso opportunities for the soloist, right to the Concerto’s thrilling final bars.
Suite from Swan Lake, Opus 20a (1877)
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia, on May 7, 1840, and died in St. Petersburg, Russia, on November 6, 1893. The first performance of Swan Lake took place at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia, on March 4, 1877. Approximate performance time of is twenty-six minutes.
Tchaikovsky composed his first ballet score, Swan Lake, for the Bolshoi Theater. Although the March 4, 1877 premiere was far from an unqualified success, it was not long before Swan Lake established itself as a central part of the Russian ballet repertoire. Today, the status of Swan Lake as one of ballet’s masterworks is unquestioned. The tale of the tragic fate of the young lovers, Odette and Prince Siegfried, has true dramatic impact. The music displays Tchaikovsky’s familiar gifts of unforgettable melody, rhythmic vitality, and magical instrumental colors. The continued success in the concert hall of orchestral suites from Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty is further testimony to the richness of Tchaikovsky’s conception.
This concert features the orchestral Suite from Swan Lake, as well as the ballet’s concluding Scene.
The Suite (I. Scène) opens with the haunting oboe melody associated throughout the ballet with Odette and the swans.
The story of Swan Lake takes place in Germany. In the ballet’s first act, everyone celebrates the coming of age of Prince Siegfried. A group of peasants entertain the Prince and his friends with a Waltz (II. Valse). The Prince’s mother enters and tells Siegfried that he must choose a wife at a grand ball that will take place the following day. As night falls, the Prince spies a flock of swans flying overhead. Siegfried grabs his crossbow and rushes after the swans.
Act II takes place that night in a mysterious forest where ruins are situated on the shore of a lake. A group of swans, led by one with a crown on its head, swims in the lake. Siegfried arrives. Just as the Prince draws his crossbow, the swans disappear into the ruins. A magical light glows and Odette, wearing a white dress and a crown studded with precious stones, descends the staircase. The beautiful young woman explains to the Prince that her stepmother, an evil sorceress, seeks to kill her. However, Odette is protected by the crown given by her kind grandfather. The crown’s magical powers allow Odette to transform herself and her companions into swans. Odette further tells the Prince that she can be saved from the evil stepmother’s curse if she weds. Odette and the Prince fall in love. The Suite includes two selections from Act II, the sprightly Dance of the Swans (III. Dances des cygnes) and the beautiful Scene (IV. Scène) for Odette and the Prince, featuring gorgeous writing for the solo violin and cello.
Act III takes place the following day at the palace ball. Several young women dance for Siegfried, but the Prince is unable to choose a bride. Entertainment is provided in the form of several national dances, including a Czardas (V. Danse hongroise). The Prince mistakes another woman for Odette. When Odette hurries away, the Prince rushes to try to find his beloved.
The final Act returns to the setting of Act II, at nightfall. The Prince hurries to Odette and begs for forgiveness. Odette replies that all is over between them. Overcome with anger, the Prince seizes the crown from Odette’s head and hurls it into the overflowing lake. The waters rise and envelop Odette and the Prince, who are finally united in death. The tempest subsides, and the swans reappear on the now peaceful moonlit lake (VI. Scène finale).
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
Didn’t know quite what hit me. I just knew that what I heard blasting through my cousin’s bedroom door was unlike anything I had heard before. Those crisp beats, the high, near-falsetto yelping, the sophisticated, sharply-tailored lyrics that alternated between Oxford-trained English and 1950’s style mumbo-jumbo repetitions. Those curt Stratocaster chords, the lopey, laid-back ska beats… And who on earth would name their band ‘The Police’?
Granted, my experience with pop music was limited to spinning my father’s record collection (The Monkees, The Byrds, and Supremes in the same record heap?), but this was a sound I found so intriguing that I raced to the record store to grab as many cassettes from the bin as I could. From Outlandos d’Amour to Ghost in the Machine to Synchronicity, The Police had developed an intensely intellectual and captivating sound that I simply couldn’t resist. Just trying to follow drummer Stewart Copeland’s high hat was a feat in itself (not one easily conquered!) Andy Summers’ dry, crunchy guitar added just the right spice. But at the end of the day, there was this former schoolteacher by the name of Sting who, with his bass guitar and poetic voice, lead The Police into popular music history. It was a band for the ages, and like the Beatles, burned brightly up until the very end.
I was crushed to have fallen in love with the band just as they had reached their pinnacle and subsequently disbanded! But then Sting started to follow his own path and lean in towards jazz, lyricism, mixing classical music with synthesizers (The Russians). I went with him the whole way, and was captivated by his ability to write a song that could evoke a distant land or a distant time, yet I felt as if he were in the room singing just for me.
I’m so happy to usher in the the Philharmonic season with my friends Jeans n’ Classics, as they make their own way through this remarkable catalogue of hits by Sting and The Police. One of the things that makes the music so wonderful is that it can indeed be performed by others and be just as prescient and go straight to the heart as with the original recordings. Can’t wait to join in with you to sing along with Ev’ry Breath You Take!
By Sarah Lee, new Erie Phil Second Bassoonist
My name is Sarah Lee, and I'm the recently appointed second bassoonist with the Erie Phil. As I'm new(ish) to the area, I'd love to share a little bit about my journey to get here and how I've fallen in love with Erie.
I was raised in Wichita, Kansas into a wonderfully musical family. (Go ahead and try your Dorothy jokes on me, I've heard them all!) Both of my parents are incredible music educators who instilled a sense of wonder and awe for the gift of music and a passion for education in both my sister and me. I went to college telling myself I was only going to play bassoon for the scholarship I had received (it can come in handy to play such a rare instrument sometimes), double-majoring in Spanish and German. After a year abroad in Munich, I came back with the realization that I needed to be pursuing music, that it was what I truly wanted to do. I can still remember sitting down for lunch with my parents at Panera to tell them, three years into college, that I needed to change majors and colleges. But they were wonderfully supportive, as if they always knew that was what I would do (sometimes kids just need to work things out on their own...), and I switched schools and began to study bassoon seriously.
Fast-forward one degree and a few years of studying later, and I was working on a masters degree in Cincinnati, OH at the conservatory in town in the spring of 2012. Little did I know that a guy I would meet unexpectedly after a run in the courtyard of our apartment building would be so important in my life - he asked me to ice cream, and we were just married this past September! (He has since learned that ice cream truly is the way to my heart.) Tom, my (now) husband, happened to be attending the University of Cincinnati Medical School at the time that we met, and after graduating that spring of 2014, he matched for his residency in orthopedics at Hamot in a place I'd never heard of before: Erie, Pennsylvania.
We spent the next two years dating long-distance as I finished degree work and Tom began his residency. I got to know I-71 and I-90 very well during that time on our many trips back and forth to visit each other! After finishing an Artist Diploma in the spring of 2014, I moved to Erie to be closer to Tom. At the risk of offending "Erie-ites," I was very, very concerned about moving to a place like Erie that was so small and (so I assumed) did not have many good opportunities for me. But I wanted to be closer to Tom, so I needed to be the one to move. I could not have been more wrong! It was a tough adjustment at first, adjusting to a smaller city and a harsh winter, but I quickly became involved in much of the musical life around town. I have found the arts community to be so warm and welcoming here, from great organizations like Erie Arts & Culture that put me in touch with so many people when I first moved here, to the wonderful activities that can fill the weekend from amazing organizations like the Art Museum, the Playhouse, or, of course, the Philharmonic!
Now that Tom and I are looking forward to our next move (we will be moving to Minneapolis in August of 2017 for his fellowship), I can't believe we will have to leave this place! I may not miss the snow (I'm not sure this Kansas girl will ever get used to this much snow...), but I will without a doubt miss the people and the art in in this wonderful community.
Steve Weiser, executive director of the Erie Philharmonic, joins us for our 10th episode.
Kate flies solo without her co-pilot for half of the show, and seriously considers hiring Steve as Patrick's replacement. Power Rangers, Tetris, and binge-worthy television shows are all on the table, plus we get to understand Steve's tech obsession/addiction/problem.
Later on, Steve shares with us his background as a musician, what it's like to be on staff at the Erie Philharmonic, and what's in store for the music scene in Erie, PA and at the Warner Theatre.
By Diane and Arthur Martone
“…next week on the twentieth of May, I proclaim ‘Eliza Doolittle Day!’” In Erie, ‘Eliza Doolittle Day’ will be on May 21st this year as the Erie Playhouse and Erie Philharmonic Orchestra present “My Fair Lady.” Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. The show’s Original Broadway Cast recording was frequently heard in the childhood homes of Art and Diane Martone. Music and theater have had prominent places through much of their lives.
At a young age, Arthur started singing Italian songs with his grandmother, and he now chairs the Mercyhurst Preparatory School’s Performing Arts Department, teaches choral classes, and directs the MPS spring and fall musicals. In between, he was a member of the Kiwanis Boys’ Choir, Vocal Performance major at Mercyhurst College, cantor at St. Peter Cathedral, actor/director with the Erie Opera Theatre, and assistant conductor of the Erie Chamber Orchestra while it was under the baton of Bruce Morton Wright. Looking into the future, Art will be directing the musicals “Godspell 2012” and “Mary Poppins” next year in the newly renovated MPS Auditorium. Art also enjoys researching family genealogy and following the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Diane started singing in the church choir. In high school, she participated in District, Regional, State, and All-Eastern High School choral festivals. She is also a past member of the Clarion State Madrigal Singers, St. Peter Cathedral Choir, Erie Philharmonic Chorus, and Erie Opera Theater Chorus. She was in the ensemble casts of two Erie Playhouse productions “bc” (i.e. “before children” Philip and Christopher). By day, she is a Systems Analyst at UPMC Hamot. Currently, she is a charter member of the Great Lakes Threshold Choir which sings in small groups at the bedside of hospice patients. Diane has also been the photo historian for the Mercyhurst Prep Performing Arts program since 2009.
Diane and Art were surprised and thrilled to accept Almi’s invitation to be part of this fabulous concert. Granted, they thought the “concert version” would involve holding the music and standing in place! Although it involved more work, Almi’s vision for “My Fair Lady” is so much better! Art and Diane hope you enjoy Saturday’s performance with the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra as much as they’ve treasured bringing one of their childhood favorites to the Warner Theater.
By Kate Amatuzzo
Music has always run in my veins, but to be honest, it's entirely plausible that I may have had a blood transfusion at a very young age. As a performer, I am often asked the question "Do you come from a musical family?" It's a logical query, noting my affinity for singing, the piano, and all things musical theatre. Music is such a predominant part of my life that it only makes sense to assume I was raised around other musicians. This couldn't be farther from the truth.
I was raised around a radiologist and an automobile salesman, both parents to a child who began piano lessons at the age of three. I'll never know why I cultivated an interest in the piano at the same time I was learning not to shove things up my nose, but I'm grateful just the same for my mother's support on both topics. Early on, she encouraged me to start listening to music, even though she, herself, was not a musician. I remember receiving odd Christmas gifts: a cassette tape of The Magic Flute, a panpipe, an autoharp, and definitely a few Fisher Price plastic instruments. Was this the beginning of my passion for music? It's hard to say, seeing as how I had an equal passion for wearing bejeweled princess clothes to Perkins on a Saturday morning.
I've often wondered what it would have been like to grow up in a musical family. There were times that it was hard for me to explain my love of scales, theory, and the circle of fifths to my parents, but they were unfailingly supportive, nonetheless. As I learned more and more about music, their interest in it grew as well, even though my mom was fully aware of her inability to sing church harmonies on Sunday mornings. As she tells it, I had a consistent reaction to her attempts at harmonization. Apparently, I would calmly place my hand on her hymnal, turn my head, and whisper a gentle but insistent "NO" into her ear.
I remember one car ride where I tried to give her vocal advice. I would rehash the story here, but this is a forum clean and devoid from profanity.
Despite my parents' lack of natural musical ability, they continued to support my interest in the area. I was never denied a musical opportunity. When piano interests turned more serious, I had a piano in the house. When the timing was right for voice lessons, they found me a teacher. And when Christmas of 2000 rolled around, I received one of the most influential gifts of my entire life: a 2 CD pack of John Williams' greatest hits...an album that stuck with me throughout my entire life.
Who are we to thank for our natural passions? Is it nature? Certainly not in my case, otherwise my fascination for music wouldn't have survived my mother's rendition of Celine Dion's "The Prayer," as sung by a bass singer (it is possible, and in this case, certainly avoidable). For me, I'm indebted to nurture...the nurture of my parents as I fell more in love with music. Without their support, I'm convinced I wouldn't be where I am today. They may not have been my piano teacher. They may not have been my voice teacher. And they certainly were not qualified to be my dance teacher after their rendition of "The Carlton" dance move from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But they were my teachers, in a different way.
They taught me how to pursue something because your heart tells you to. They taught me that it's okay to have different interests in life than those of your family. And they taught me how to work at something if I wanted to succeed. I may not have had a "musical" family, but my family made me musical. Parents, let your children sing. Children, let your parents sing badly.
Kate Amatuzzo is a choral/general music teacher at JW Parker Middle School and the music director of St. Mark’s Church. You can read more of her writing on her blog See, Here’s the Thing or find her on Twitter.
By Roger Wolbert
In 1994, I was in My Fair Lady, which was my stage debut with the Erie Playhouse. I am repeating my roles as a cockney, a butler, a member of the upper crust, and the whistler.
The only other time that I was on the Playhouse stage was in 1995 when I was in Kiss Me, Kate! where I was in the ensemble and also played the role of Paul. Ironically, both of these shows are currently in production with the Playhouse.
I’m also the only member in the current My Fair Lady cast who is also in the Erie Philharmonic Chorus, and I have had the opportunity to sing with the Erie Philharmonic on several occasions. Three weeks ago, the chorus joined voices with the Mercyhurst University Concert Choir and performed Beethoven’s Messe in C with the Erie Philharmonic.
It is fun to be back on stage with past My Fair Lady cast members Sue Lechner, Scott Schillinger, and Almi & Shawn Clerkin. It’s also a pleasure to perform once again with past Kiss Me, Kate! actors Kate Neubert Lechner and my sister, Diane Martone.
And it’s always exciting to sing with the Erie Philharmonic. This performance will be particularly exciting because I get to perform in front of the orchestra instead of behind it (check out where the chorus is in the concert picture)!
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
My Fair Lady. It’s one of the most perfect Broadway musicals ever created. The story, impeccable. How can you go wrong with basing a musical on a play by George Bernard Shaw? The music is unforgettable. From ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning,’ to ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?’ to ‘On the Street Where you Live,’ the tunes spun by the iconic team of Lerner and Loewe are second-to-none and indelibly inscribed upon America’s musical theater landscape.
We have assembled a rich and deeply talented team from the Erie Playhouse to perform on Saturday. While I wish the idea of mounting a concert performance of My Fair Lady with the Erie Playhouse were solely mine, I’m nonetheless thrilled to be conducting this performance. We wanted to come up with a way to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Erie Playhouse and all that it has meant to our community over the years. To partner with the Erie Philharmonic and make it a co-production, well, that seemed to good an idea to pass up. It wasn’t hard to settle on My Fair Lady. Almi Clerkin and I adore the piece, and consider it not only one of the most wonderful collections of musical numbers, but a very taught, enjoyable story line with which just about everyone can resonate at some level.
We are performing nearly the complete original score, maintaining all of the beloved numbers and sophisticated, cheeky dialogue, using costumes, in a semi-staged format. This will allow us to see and hear the Erie Philharmonic musicians in full sonic splendor on the stage, and take advantage of the amazing vocal and acting talent that the Erie Playhouse continues to field year after year. So in many ways, I hope that as much as this performance is a capstone to our 15-16 season at the Warner Theatre, I hope it is also a launch pad from which the Erie Philharmonic and Erie Playhouse will continue to present the most iconic American musical theater pieces in a format that focuses on how wonderful this music really is. Thank you for all of your support this season and I hope you are looking forward to Saturday and the 16-17 season with the Erie Philharmonic as much as I am!
By Gretchen Kerr
I could bet that anyone who is drawn to the stage has a story, a place, a memory where it all began. Mine is from 2nd grade. I was asked to play Pocahontas in our classroom play. I spent hours imagining what it would have been like to be her. I acted out the scenes in my room, dreamt about her and truly believed I could recapture the love and sacrifice she had to save John Smith. The time came for our presentation of the story and I could not have been more committed. I heard the clapping and that was it.
Ever since, my passion has been to tell the story whether through song or the spoken word, in big roles or in the chorus, for strangers and loved ones alike.
I once again am so humbled and thrilled to be a part of an Erie Playhouse production and now with the great Erie Philharmonic. Wow! Here's to the stories, here's to little girls dreaming and here's to My Fair Lady!