Category Archive: ASO News

  1. Alexandria Symphony Announces Micro-Grant Winners

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces seven recipients of its micro-grant program. Each project will be completed by June 2021 and accomplish at least one of the following objectives: confront systemic racism in classical music, connect to all parts of our community, promote underrecognized artistic voices, and improve the lives of children. Several projects specifically serve students in ASO’s Sympatico music education program, operating in the Alexandria City Public Schools, as well as ACPS students in middle and high school.

    “I wanted to animate and harvest our musicians’ quarantine-inspired creative thinking and invite them to invent, present, and realize projects that are singularly apt for this strange ‘concert-quiet’ year we are facing,” says ASO Music Director James Ross. “These projects might never have come to the fore in normal times. If we can’t play together, we can at least invent together!”

    • Alexandria Symphony’s Concertmaster Claudia Chudacoff will record Chia Patino’s mournful Wild Swans with string quartet. This will be the first known recording of this piece. The Ecuadorian composer was inspired by poetry, expressing a range of emotion and speaking to those in isolation. The final video will be shared on social media.
    • Animation artist Alexi Scheiber will provide a virtual artist talk for Sympatico students about setting her film A Cardinal Among the Clouds to music (Clouds by Charles Tomlinson Griffes). After learning about animation from Ms. Scheiber, students will make traditional and digital paper puppets. The original film was commissioned by the ASO as part of Homegrown: American Stories in Music and Film, and it will premiere during the 2021-2022 season.
    • Avalanche Bass Quartet, led by ASO musician Kimberly Parillo, will present a socially-distanced outdoor concert at the Mason District Amphitheater in Annandale. Performing a variety of classical and popular repertoire (including video game themes), the unconventional quartet will highlight messages of racial and social justice. The performance will be free and open to the public.
    • A premiere woodwind quintet, WindSync, led by ASO oboist Emily Tsai, will present a virtual workshop to Sympatico students. The musicians will introduce the five instruments of the woodwind quintet (flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, horn), teach the science of how wind instruments work, instruct rhythms and melodies to create a “play along” performance, and share videos from WindSync fully-staged and costumed performances. WindSync will provide future opportunities for students to attend in-person performances.
    • QuinTango, led by ASO violinist Joan Singer, will teach ACPS students to play a tango. Orchestra students from Hammond Middle School, George Washington Middle School, and T.C. Williams High School will review recordings of their parts and a complete performance by QuinTango. After coaching and practice, the students will perform their parts virtually playing along live with QuinTango.
    • Spark Media will test Humanities.Games, a platform in development to empower students to learn through art-related games. Through interactive workshops, students from ASO Sympatico will help create music-based games that will be further developed by Spark Media. The final product, underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be a range of educational games for students with limited access to computers.
    • ASO assistant principal cellist Jihea Choi and violinist Sonya Hayes will present a workshop to middle school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Ms. Choi and Ms. Hayes will demonstrate secret string techniques and begin a conversation about systemic racism in classical music via Zoom. Students will be invited to ask questions about musicianship and music careers.

    “These outstanding and original projects are emblematic of ASO’s commitment to creativity in service to our community,” says ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “We look forward to seeing them come to fruition in the coming months.”

  2. Alexandria Symphony Garners National Recognition

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra is capturing attention across the nation for exciting and creative programming during the time of COVID-19.  ASO’s socially-distanced and safety-conscious events—with diverse concert programs, unusual outdoor venues and wide community reach—were recently featured on the cover of Symphony Magazine, the industry’s national trade publication.

    “The need for social distance gave us an impetus to reimagine our traditional indoor concert venues,” said Melynda Wilcox, President of the ASO Board of Trustees.  “A whole new world of interesting and unexpected venues has opened up, many of them overseen by community leaders who are partnering with us to develop new and inspiring ways to bring symphonic music to our neighborhoods.”

    During these challenging times, ASO is among the most active American orchestras in its budget size.  According to Executive Director George Hanson, ASO has developed three new streams of programming, presented by groups of two to eight musicians in outdoor spaces:

    • ASO on the Patio serves senior care facilities such as Goodwin House and Aarondale Community.
    • ASO on the Go brings music to neighborhoods such as The Crest of Alexandria.
    • Ticketed events such as ASO in the Secret Garden on October 3 and 4 at The Rectory in Old Town offer the public a live musical experience in an outdoor concert setting. These sold-out performances are generously sponsored by Renner & Company, CPA.

    “When the world was closed down and live music was happening nowhere, we began to look for ways to bring some beauty and a sense of normalcy to our community,” said Music Director Jim Ross. “At our first outdoor performance after nearly two months of quarantine, the joy of live music was evident not only on the masked faces of our socially-distanced audience, but on the faces of those of us performing.”

  3. ASO Postpones Main Series to Fall 2021

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announces the postponement of concerts originally scheduled for the 2020-2021 main subscription series.

    “ASO Music Director Jim Ross put together a thrilling package of programs for this coming season,” said ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “It breaks our hearts not to be able to present them as planned due to the current health crisis. To preserve the integrity of Jim’s vision, we have moved the entire season’s programming, virtually intact, into the 2021-2022 season.”

    For the current 2020-2021 season ASO will continue to present live music in outdoor venues around Alexandria with small ensembles and limited, socially-distanced audiences. If conditions permit, indoor venues may be incorporated in Spring 2021.

    This summer the symphony convened a task force consisting of Trustees, musicians, staff and community members to consider the feasibility of presenting the main subscription series, which was planned and announced prior to the COVID-19 crisis. The task force recommended the postponement to protect the health and safety of its patrons, musicians, staff and volunteers.

    “The global pandemic has sadly forced many arts organizations to cancel or postpone performances,” says ASO Board President Melynda Wilcox. “We look forward to presenting this exciting series when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, ASO remains active, bringing live music to the community in creative new ways.”

    The plans for ASO’s 2020-2021 season, now slated for 2021-2022, involve collaborations with arts groups including the Alexandria Choral Society, Alexandria Film Festival, BalletNOVA, and the National Symphony Orchestra horn section.

    “Our 2021-2022 season will be bursting with energy—full of masterworks, collaborations, and imaginative presentations,” says Maestro James Ross. “By next fall we expect to be able to move indoors with the large-scale programs we had planned. It will truly be a meaningful and unforgettable season, one that will inspire people to re-gather.”

    In the fall, our ASO Sympatico program will continue to serve students at John Adams Elementary and Patrick Henry K-8 school through online sessions modeled after those that were provided this spring when school buildings were closed.

  4. ALEXANDRIA SYMPHONY ANNOUNCES “HOMEGROWN” FILMMAKERS

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    Alexandria, VA—In partnership with the Alexandria Film Festival, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces that six filmmakers have been selected to participate in its joint project, Homegrown: American Stories in Music and Film.

    The films will accompany music by American composers performed “live to picture” by the orchestra as part of ASO’s 2020-2021 season on November 7 and 8, 2020. The works will also be screened as part of the Alexandria Film Festival on November 12-15, 2020.

    Jennifer Higdon’s Blue Cathedral, composed in memory of her brother and commissioned for the Curtis Institute of Music in 1999, is reflective and nostalgic. Director Michael Fallavollita will retell his Tale of the Kite, which garnered 25 film festival awards, including the Special Jury Award at the 2017 Alexandria Film Festival. The narrative follows a young test pilot stranded in a mysterious desert. As he awaits rescue, his thoughts drift to childhood memories of his grandfather.

    William Grant Still was a composer and pioneer within his time as the first African-American to conduct and have his works performed with a major orchestra. He composed his “Manhattan Skyline” in 1957 as part of a larger work, The American Scene, which resembles love letters to five regions of America. Film artists Jane Pittman and Annette Brieger will marry the vibrant history of Washington, D.C. and its U-Street corridor once known as “Black Broadway” with its re-emergence as an urban hot spot of street murals, DJs, and dynamic art.

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes, prolific in his short life and great uncle to ASO’s Maestro James Ross, composed Clouds in 1919 for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Filmmaker Alexi Scheiber will present one of his last and most ethereal works with an experimental stop-motion animation of a cardinal exploring beautiful skyscapes as a celebration of state birds and the natural world.

    An American journey would not be complete without Aaron Copland. His 1940 rendition of John Henry celebrates the black folk legend who battles a machine to drive railroad steel. Accompanying the piece is Shannon Washington’s epic film documenting a bone-breaking showdown with Beatyafeet, a D.C.-based Go-Go derived dance transformed into a ballet expressing art of motion, creativity and emotion.

    Revised over decades as part of Three Places in New England, Charles Ives composed “Housatonic at Stockbridge” in 1911 shortly after he married his wife, Harmony. Utilizing found video footage, artist Tim McLoraine depicts Ives imagining his life to come with his new wife as he overlooks the pastoral beauty of the Housatonic River, deep in the Berkshires.

    Originally composed for the 1940 film adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town, Copland derived music from the score for an orchestral suite.  Building upon themes of tradition and community, filmmaker Andrea Kalin will set the suite to scenes of our own town—our beloved Alexandria. The visual narrative, which will follow the city as it awakens to a new day, will feature evocative cinematography, rare archival imagery, and most importantly, crowd-sourced footage collected from our community—all of us contributing to why Alexandria is special and allowing the soul of the city to shine through the images of its people.

    Subscription packages for the ASO’s 2020-2021 season are now on sale, starting at $90. Military, senior and group discounts are also available. To order tickets and for more information, visit www.alexsym.org or call (703) 548-0885.

    For biographies of participating filmmakers, click HERE.

  5. ASO Subscriptions for the 2020-2021 Season Now on Sale

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces its 2020-2021 Season led by Music Director James Ross. The season offers familiar masterworks and multiple collaborations with local arts organizations.

    The season launches with a joyful noise on October 3 and 4, 2020 with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 featuring vocalists from the Alexandria Choral Society. Saturday’s performance premieres Tribute, an original work by Brian Prechtl featuring students from ASO’s award-winning education program, Sympatico. Tribute was commissioned by Classical Movement’s Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program. Sunday’s performance welcomes members from the National Symphony Orchestra’s horn section performing Robert Schumann’s Konzertstück.

    In partnership with the Alexandria Film Festival the ASO presents Homegrown: Stories in Music and Film on November 7 and 8, 2020. Original film works submitted by local artists will accompany music from the Americana tradition including Aaron Copland’s Our Town and John Henry, Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ Clouds and William Grant Still’s Manhattan Skyline. The program culminates with Mussorgsky’s well-loved Pictures at an Exhibition.

    On December 18 and 20, 2020, the ASO brings you a holiday concert like none other. ASO will accompany dancers from BalletNova with selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Alexandria Choral Society joins the ASO for choruses from Händel’s Messiah as well as leads the audience in popular holiday carols.

    Renowned pianist Sara Daneshpour headlines on February 20 and 21, 2021 with Rachmaninov’s stirring Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. A native of Washington, D.C., Ms. Daneshpour has garnered awards internationally and received acclaim as a sought-after touring artist. Strings take center stage with Beethoven’s last string quartet, expanded for orchestra by Maestro Ross. The program also features George Walker’s Lyric for Strings and Sibelius’ epic tone poem, Finlandia.

    ASO’s season finale on April 17 and 18, 2021 sparks joy with Dylana Jenson and her rendition of Barber’s Violin Concerto. Ms. Jenson was the youngest and first American woman to win a medal in the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor reflects youthful optimism paired with Guido López-Gavilán’s Mojito con saoco, commissioned for the Cuban American Youth Orchestra.

    The 2020-2021 Season is generously supported by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Subscription packages are now on sale and start at $90.

  6. COVID-19 Update: Message from the ASO

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    Like everyone, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra organization is confronting our new reality full of challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus.  We look forward with a combination of realism and optimism.

    We know that for many of us, music plays a vital role in our spiritual, mental and even sometimes our physical health. This is the impetus for a new social media series we are calling “ASO: Sounds of our Times” which will feature performances and posts curated by ASO Music Director Jim Ross with additional musical contributions from our ASO musicians. Please follow us on FaceBook and Twitter for musical posts that soothe, inspire and remind everyone how closely connected we remain, even as we maintain physical distance. Like/follow our page so you see us in your feed!

    ASO has had to postpone just one concert: Our “Brandenburgs & Brew,” originally scheduled for Friday March 20, is now planned for Friday, June 12, 7:30pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria.  Info and tickets are available HERE.  Refunds, exchanges and other options, including conversion to a tax-deductible contribution to ASO, are available to ticket holders.

    The 44th Annual Mary Graham Lasley Scholarship Competition, originally slated for Sunday, March 29, has been tentatively rescheduled for Sunday, May 3This event has very limited seating, so please contact the ASO office if you are interested in attending.

    Otherwise we remain cautiously optimistic that our May 16/17 performances of Scheherazade will proceed as scheduled.

    Some changes at ASO:
    • Our offices at 700 N Fairfax Street will not be available for walk-in ticket sales until further notice; please call us at 703-548-0885 or visit our website for sales and info.
    • Our organization is greatly reducing in-person meetings, moving to video conferencing and remote work for much of our board and staff activity.
    • The announcement of our 2020-2021 season will take place a bit later than usual this year.
    We at ASO will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed of ASO developments or schedule changes.  In the meantime, please know that we value your support and share your hope that we will soon be reconvening, celebrating together the wonderful art form we all love so dearly!
  7. ASO’s Sympatico Program Receives Dominion Energy’s ArtStars Award

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) was recently honored as one of five 2020 Dominion Energy ArtStars for inspiring people of all ages in creative endeavors for its music education program, Sympatico. Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation chose organizations with annual operating budgets under $1 million, selecting one from each of five regions of Virginia to receive a $10,000 grant to support their winning arts or cultural education program.

    Alexandria Symphony’s Sympatico program serves 180 students in two Alexandria City Public Schools: John Adams Elementary and Patrick Henry K-8. Students choose from a variety of ensembles including Chorus, bucket band, strings, and mixed instrument ensembles. The 2019-2020 school year marks the sixth full year for the program, basing its model on the El Sistema method of music instruction with social impact, first introduced in Venezuela over 40 years ago. Besides musicianship, students acquire leadership skills, confidence, ownership of a project and creative composition. Instruction is offered at no cost to the schools or participating students, providing a value of more than $2 million if they were to seek comparable private music instruction.

    Other winners included the Arts Depot (Abington, VA), Lime Kiln Theater (Lexington, VA), Sandler Center for the Performing Arts (Virginia Beach, VA), and Studio Two Three (Richmond, VA).

    “This year’s winners prove everyday what a powerful impact art can have on a community’s culture and history,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, president of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “Virginia is very fortunate to have these talented organizations committed to the vibrancy of local communities across the Commonwealth.”

    Sympatico is fully underwritten by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra. Program support relies on generous contributions from individuals and foundations as well as grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Alexandria Commission for the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts.

  8. Alexandria Symphony Presents an Evening of Strings

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) continues its 2019-2020 Season on Saturday, February 15, 2020 (8:00 p.m.) and Sunday, February 16, 2020 (3:00 p.m.), under the direction of Maestro James Ross. In his second year as Music Director with the ASO, Ross endeavors to feature forgotten voices in the concert hall alongside the great masterpieces, and to present symphonic music in unconventional and creative ways.

    Celebrated classical guitarist Berta Rojas joins the ASO, performing Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in D major, considered one of the premier classical guitar concertos and composed for the legendary Andrés Segovia. Grammy-nominated and renowned among the most influential women in the Hispanic world, Ms. Rojas was named by the Kennedy Center as a Fellow of the Americas.

    Opening and closing the program are works of two great masters: Mozart’s Serenata notturna and Schubert’s Symphony No. 5. Mozart’s serenade features a solo string quartet and string orchestra in three lively movements with virtuosic solos and comical exchanges. Schubert’s rousing and lyrical Fifth Symphony reflects Mozart’s compositional character with lighter instrumentation and elegant melodies.

    The program incorporates Maestro Ross’s own arrangement, an expansion of the Andante movement from Florence Price’s String Quartet in G major. “Florence Price’s time has come,” remarks Ross. “Her compositions are re-emerging with renewed popularity and recognition of her genius.” Price was the first African American woman to have a composition presented by a major orchestra (Chicago Symphony in 1933). A new festival called Price Fest highlights her work, held at the University of Maryland each year.

  9. Alexandria Symphony Presents the Nutcracker with a Twist

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (ASO) continues its 2019-2020 Season on Saturday, December 14, 2019 (7:00 p.m.) and Sunday, December 15, 2019 (2:00 p.m.), under the direction of Maestro James Ross. In his second year as Music Director with the ASO, Ross endeavors to feature forgotten voices in the concert hall and present symphonic music in unconventional and creative ways.

    The program will delight audiences with the Nutcracker presented to two ways: excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s ballet suite and Duke Ellington’s version that swings. Besides holiday-themed music attendees will enjoy visual accompaniments to Saturday’s performance, and both concerts will be followed by a reception for the entire audience. Performances will be presented with no intermission and one hour earlier than usual to accommodate families and young children.

    To open the program, the ASO presents the Prelude to Hänsel and Gretel, an opera traditionally performed during the holiday season in Germany and abroad, followed by selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, including “Waltz of the Flowers” and “Waltz of the Snowflakes.”

    Joining the ASO is harpist Morgan Short, winner of the 43rd Annual Mary Graham Lasley Scholarship Competition. Ms. Short will perform Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, originally written for guitar and later rendered for harp by the composer. Ms. Short is a Classics Alive Artist, sought-after touring soloist, and enrolled at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

    The concert will culminate with Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite, accompanied on Saturday by video realizations by the New Live following the story of an African-American girl from Harlem. “Tchaikovsky is only one point along a line of creativity starting with E.T.A. Hoffman’s original story, continuing through Ellington’s big-band re-imagining to resetting the story in Harlem through the eyes of a young girl,” says Maestro Ross. “It’s a wonder-worthy, multi-sensory experience for the whole family.”

  10. Alexandria Symphony Presents Dvořák, Elgar and Boulanger

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra continues its 2019-2020 Season on Saturday, November 16, 2019 (8:00 p.m.) and Sunday, November 17, 2019 (3:00 p.m.), under the direction of Maestro James Ross. In his second year as Music Director with the ASO, Ross endeavors to feature forgotten voices in the concert hall and present symphonic music in unconventional and creative ways.

    “Together we are exploring what vitality an orchestra can bring to our community,” says Maestro Ross. “Although we are dead serious about orchestral music and its much-needed humanizing impact in today’s world, we’re not afraid of surprises and presenting concerts that are both fun and moving.”

    Opening November’s program, the ASO welcomes singers from the Alexandria Choral Society and Fairfax Choral Society for Lili Boulanger’s Old Buddhist Prayer. “The piece is a prayer for the whole world for all creatures to coexist,” says Ross. Lili may be less famous than her sister Nadia, but in her short life—she only lived to age 24—she wrote many acclaimed works. She was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome for composition in 1913.

    Cellist Wolfgang Schmidt headlines the performances with Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor. One of Elgar’s last major works, the concerto is melancholy, backward-looking and soulful. “Wolfgang exudes joy and musical sensitivity,” says Ross. “He is deeply attracted to nostalgic pieces that require inward reflection. The audience will connect with that intensity.” All patrons attending on Saturday are invited to attend a free pre-concert chat at 7:00 p.m. with Maestro Ross and Wolfgang Schmidt.

    On the second half, the ASO presents Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major. Composed before Dvořák’s epic move to the new world and his Symphony No. 9, the Eighth Symphony is warm and optimistic. “Dvořák’s Eighth is full of sunshine, parables, folk dance, forest and perfectly-orchestrated storytelling,” says Ross.

    Single-ticket prices range from $20 to $85 for adults, $5 for youth and $10 for students. Military, senior and group discounts are also available.