Category Archive: Press Releases

  1. Alexandria Symphony Presents New World Symphony – Going Home

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    Alexandria, VA—Led by Music Director James Ross, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present the program Going Home on Saturday, November 4, 2023, and Sunday, November 5, 2023. Throughout the 2023-2024 season, ASO is celebrating its 80th anniversary season with ASO at 80 original commissioned pieces, works featuring composers and soloists from diverse backgrounds, multiple masterworks, and selections by living composers.

    Antonín Dvořák’s beloved New World Symphony anchors November’s program, conveying the sounds of Appalachia and Americana. Tscenacomoco by Native American composer Dawn Avery connects to Alexandria’s Native history and Dvořák’s exploration of Native American and African American music. The concerts will also feature excerpts from Margaret Bonds’ Montgomery Variations, written as a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the performances will open with a surprise guest artist.

    Mountain dulcimer virtuoso Stephen Seifert is the featured artist on the program, performing Conni Ellisor’s Blackberry Winter. Seifert has performed with numerous orchestras and at hundreds of festivals and events in the U.S., England, and Japan. An expert on the mountain dulcimer, he has authored ten books, four CDs, and hundreds of instructional videos. Seifert has worked with Ellisor on multiple collaborations, including the recording of Blackberry Winter where he was featured with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra.

    The 2023-2024 Season is generously underwritten by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, and the Rea Charitable Trust. Dawn Avery’s Tscenacomoco has been commissioned and sponsored by Classical Movements as part of the ASO at 80 Project.

    All Saturday performances are held at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees are held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial at 3:00 p.m. Saturday concert attendees are invited to a pre-concert talk with Maestro Ross and Mr. Seifert at 6:30 p.m. in the Terrace section of the hall. Parking is free at both venues. Tickets are now on sale. Adult prices start at $20 with $5 for youth (18 and under) and $15 for students. Military, senior and group discounts are also available.

  2. Alexandria Symphony Presents 80th Season Opener: ASO at 80-oh!

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra presents its 80th Anniversary Season opener “ASO at 80-oh!” on Saturday, September 30 and Sunday, October 1, 2023. ASO Music Director James Ross leads performances of two beloved masterworks: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Brahms’ lyrical Violin Concerto.

    “The ASO launches its 80th season with a program full of hoopla, whimsy, poise, and pathos,” says Maestro Ross. “Back-to-back toasts start things off, the first by ASO Artistic Advisor Dr. Lester Green, whose musical Toast takes a playful look at an ‘aging’ orchestra, followed by Quinn Mason’s catchy 21st-century overture Toast of the Town. Brahms in the hands of Elissa Lee Koljonen will shine, and the quasi-confessional nature of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony follows its journey through challenge to celebration.”

    Hailed for her sensual and deeply personal style, Koljonen has performed with many of the world’s greatest orchestras including Philadelphia, Minnesota, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Helsinki, Seoul and the Royal Philharmonic. She appears by arrangement with the Curtis Institute of Music.

    The 2023-2024 Season is generously underwritten by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, and the Rea Charitable Trust. Lester Green’s Toast has been commissioned and sponsored by Classical Movements as part of the ASO at 80 Project. These opening concerts are sponsored by Fran and Gant Redmon.

    Saturday’s performance will be held at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Sunday’s matinee will be held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial at 3:00 p.m. Parking is free at both venues. Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale. Subscription packages start at $86 for five concerts; adult prices for single tickets start at $20 with $5 for youth (18 and under) and $15 for students. Military, senior and group discounts are also available.

  3. Alexandria Symphony Announces ASO at 80 Project

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    Alexandria, VA— Four original pieces, commissioned in honor of the 80th anniversary of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will be presented as part of the ASO at 80 Project. Led by Music Director James Ross, the commissions will premiere throughout the 2023-2024 Season as introductions to four of the five performances.

    “I see in this year’s programs the diversity, the universality, and the striving human spirit embodied in music,” says Maestro Ross. “Every concert is a jewel in itself; taken together, they are a showcase of older and newer, contemporary and established works, and the richness of stories told in sound.”

    The season opens on September 30 and October 1, 2023, with “ASO at 80-oh!” The commissioned piece, Toast, is inspired by the 80th anniversary and will feature composer Lester Green at the piano. A prolific composer and performer, Dr. Green currently serves as Artistic Director for the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts and Artistic Advisor for the ASO. “The original verses span from nostalgic reflections on moments shared around music with family and friends to Dr. Seuss-inspired musings about the humorous personalities within orchestras,” says Green.

    On November 4 and 5, 2023, ASO presents “Going Home,” opening with Tscenacomoco by Native American composer Dawn Avery. The piece connects to Alexandria’s Native history encompassing the region and honoring the Powhatan Chiefdom, including six remaining tribes. “This work employs contemporary performance techniques and soaring melodies that reflect Indigenous soundscapes, decolonizing strategies in composition, the lands and peoples of the Tscenacomoco,” says Avery.

    On February 10 and 11, 2024, the program entitled” Do Not Go Gentle” opens with Milad Yousufi’s Aurora, drawn from his experience as an Afghan refugee and inspired by a poem dedicated to his mother. His works express both his pride in his country of birth and his longing to return. “I have always dreamed of writing music for the next generation of artists in Afghanistan, to do what Bartók did for his country as a composer and ethnomusicologist,” Yousufi says.

    For the season finale “Shuffle and Deal” on April 20 and 21, 2024, the final commission is inspired by Bernstein’s “Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town. Jorge Amado, Cuban-born composer and rising new star, dedicated this fourth dance, Alexandria Shuffle, to Old Town Alexandria. “I used traditional rhythms of Cuban music, such as son, mambo, and rumba,” says Amado. “I also wanted to represent American music through the influence of Leonard Bernstein.” Maestro Ross premiered one of Amado’s works with the Cuban American Youth Orchestra in 2019.

    The 2023-2024 Season is generously underwritten by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, and the Rea Charitable Trust. ASO at 80 works are commissioned by Classical Movements for the September/October, November, and April performances. February’s ASO at 80 composition is commissioned by Nancy Davenport.

  4. Alexandria Symphony Announces 2023-2024 Season: ASO at 80!

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    Alexandria, VA—The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra announces its 2023-2024 Season led by Conductor and Music Director James Ross. ASO will celebrate its 80th anniversary season with four ASO at 80 original commissioned pieces, works featuring composers and soloists from diverse backgrounds, multiple masterworks, and selections by living composers.

    “I am thrilled with the eclectic, multifaceted programs we are offering to celebrate the ASO’s 80th anniversary and to contribute to the 275th anniversary of the City of Alexandria in 2024,” says Maestro James Ross. “These programs represent who we are through music — from classics to the contemporary, from master composers to new voices, from our western heritage to what is uniquely American. Each program speaks to us in terms of its own time and place yet relates directly to what we see and experience today.”

    ASO kicks off its anniversary celebration on September 30 and October 1, 2023, with a program entitled “ASO at 80-oh!” The concert opens with a commission, Toast, featuring Artistic Advisor and composer Lester Green at the piano leading into Quinn Mason’s Toast of the Town with full orchestra. The concert includes two masterworks: Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto with Elissa Lee Koljonen as soloist. Hailed for her sensual playing, Koljonen has graced the stages of prominent venues throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The concert opens with a surprise guest artist.

    “Going Home” on November 4 and 5, 2023, ASO conveys the sounds of Appalachia and Americana, anchored by Antonín Dvořák’s beloved New World Symphony. Tsenacomoco by Native American composer Dawn Avery connects to Alexandria’s Native history and Dvořák’s exploration of Native American and African American music. Also featured are excerpts from Margaret Bonds’ Montgomery Variations (a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.) followed by Conni Ellisor’s Blackberry Winter with Stephen Seifert on mountain dulcimer. Seifert has performed with numerous orchestras and at hundreds of festivals and events in the U.S., England, and Japan.

    ASO’s presents its annual holiday concert “With a Twist” on December 16 and 17, 2023, with a mix of traditional and contemporary favorites to celebrate the season. Jazz singer and opera librettist Joshua Banbury will delight with his baritone styling. Alexandria’s own world whistling champion Chris Ullman will serenade you; Ullman has performed with major orchestras in a variety of genres. This concert is family-friendly, and patrons are invited to come early to hear students from ASO’s Sympatico music education program in the lobby.

    In collaboration with Cantate Concert Choir, ASO brings you W.A. Mozart’s emotionally stirring Requiem in D minor on February 10 and 11, 2024 with a program entitled “Do Not Go Gentle.” The wide-open spaces of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring balance the intensity of Anna Clyne’s Sound and Fury, inspired by and enhanced with narration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The program opens with a commission, Milad Yousufi’s Aurora, drawn from his experience as an Afghan refugee.

    For the season finale on April 20 and 21, 2024, ASO presents “Shuffle and Deal” with Dmitri Shostakovich’s triumphant Symphony No. 5. Renowned Cuban pianist and composer Aldo López-Gavilán performs his concerto Emporium, expanded from a tune inspired by his twin daughters. Leonard Bernstein’s “Three Dance Episodes” from On the Town will be followed by a fourth dance and final commissioned work: Alexandria Shuffle by Jorge Amado. Maestro Ross premiered one of Amado’s works with the Cuban American Youth Orchestra in 2019.

    The 2023-2024 Season is generously underwritten by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alexandria Commission for the Arts, and the Rea Charitable Trust. ASO at 80 works are commissioned by Classical Movements for the September/October, November, and April performances. February’s ASO at 80 composition is commissioned by Nancy Davenport.

    All Saturday performances will be held at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees will be held at the George Washington Masonic Memorial at 3:00 p.m. Parking is free at both venues. Subscriptions and single tickets are now on sale. Subscription packages start at $86 for five concerts; adult prices for single tickets start at $20 with $5 for youth (18 and under) and $15 for students. Military, senior and group discounts are also available.

  5. Alexandria Symphony Orchestra Performs for Alexandria Birthday Celebration

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    Alexandria, VA—Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present a free concert as part of the 274th Alexandria Birthday Celebration on Saturday, July 8, 2023. The celebration, sponsored by the city and coordinated by the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, culminates with fireworks underscored by additional music from the ASO.

    The concert will include the Armed Forces Medley, film scores, patriotic favorites and highlights from West Side Story and Guys and Dolls. The grand finale will feature a spectacular fireworks display with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, accompanied by live cannons from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). The program will be led by guest conductor John Devlin, a thought leader in the field of classical music and Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.

    “I’m honored to conduct such a fine symphony as the ASO,” says Maestro Devlin. “The Birthday Celebration has been a tradition for decades, cherished by the community. I’m excited to be a part of this wonderful event.”

    As ASO partners in the celebration, the ASO thanks its concert sponsors: McEnearney Associates Realtors, Caudron Megary Blackburn Wealth Management, Chadwicks, and the City of Alexandria.

    “This well-loved annual event brings our city together,” says ASO Executive Director George Hanson. “We’re honored to serve the community once again, thanks to the support of the City of Alexandria and our business partnerships.”

    The Alexandria Birthday Celebration is free and open to the public in Oronoco Bay Park, 100 Madison Street, Alexandria. The park opens at 5:00 p.m. with food vendors; live opening entertainment begins at 6:00 p.m. The City’s presentation with Mayor Wilson and cupcakes starts at 7:00 p.m. The ASO’s concert begins at 8:30 p.m. with fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

  6. Alexandria Symphony Presents Rite of Spring & Grieg Piano Concerto

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present its season finale entitled Awaken on Saturday, April 15, 2023 (7:30 p.m.) at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center.

    The program opens with Mojito con saoco by Cuban composer Guido Lòpez-Gavilàn. López-Gavilán was commissioned to write an overture by the Cuban American Youth Orchestra as a gift from CAYO to the city of Havana in honor of its 500th anniversary. The world premiere debuted in May 2019 prepared by ASO’s Music Director James Ross.

    The Rite of Spring was commissioned as one of three ballet scores for the 1913 season of the Ballets Russe. While its premiere created nothing short of a riot—complete with vegetables thrown at the musicians and dancers—today it is considered one of symphonic music’s most significant works. Stravinsky’s combination of complex rhythm, dissonance and Russian folk elements influenced later 20th century composers. It is frequently recorded and performed both with and without dancers; ASO’s April performance features only the music.

    “There are so many ways of thinking about the Rite of Spring,” says Maestro James Ross. “I’m asking myself, ‘What am I willing to lose to allow my future to thrive? What needs to go and what does that expulsion sound like?’ Stravinsky dreamed of an ancient tribal ritual. I hear a renewed future calling to us bracingly through notes that are still hard to predict even 110 years after they were penned.”

    Edvard Grieg’s only completed piano concerto will culminate the program. Among his earliest compositions, the composer incorporated motifs from his native Norway; its main theme has made it one of the most recognized and performed in the piano repertoire. Internationally renowned pianist Natalia Kazaryan will bring this passionate and unforgettable work to life.

    A sought-after soloist and recording artist, Natalia Kazaryan is dedicated to giving equal platform to female composers in her public appearances and notably curated and performed a recital of all women composers at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. A frequent collaborator with members of the National Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Kazaryan often appears at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and in partnership with the orchestra’s performances at Howard University. Ms. Kazaryan is a recipient of the Sobresaliente Award from the hands of Queen Sofía of Spain for outstanding work and excellence. She holds an adjunct piano faculty position at Howard University, is a board member of the International Alliance for Women in Music and co-founded the Washington Arts Ensemble.

  7. Alexandria Symphony Presents Brandenburg & Blue

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present a program entitled Brandenburg and Blue on Friday, March 10, 2023 (7:30 p.m.) at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Sunday, March 12, 2023 (3:00 p.m.) at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Under the direction of Music Director James Ross, members of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present music by Bach, Handel and a world premiere by Jonathan Kolm.

    Since 2019, ASO has presented one or two of Bach’s Brandenburg suites in its annual chamber concert. This year’s edition, Brandenburg and Blue, weaves the element of water intertwined with the first concerto. The program includes Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 with principals from the orchestra as soloists. The concerto features hunting horns and several period instruments, including a harpsichord. Bach composed the six concertos as a pseudo-job application as a demonstration of his finest work, and they are still regarded as some of the foremost orchestral compositions from the Baroque era.

    The program features an excerpt from Handel’s Water Music Suite No. 1. Inspired by water, King George requested a series of pieces that could be performed on the river. The orchestra and attendees boarded barges, listening to the concert while floating downstream.

    “Water has been the literal lifeblood of Alexandria and its commerce since at least the 1700s, so a piece that was played on a barge in the Thames on a warm summer night in 1717 mixes compellingly with a new music that traces the path of today’s water through our city from rain, through clogs and solvency, purification, and finally renewal,” says Maestro James Ross.  “With the inclusion of horns and oboes in all pieces, this is a program that celebrates the wide openness of water and sound in ringing conversation.”

    The program also introduces the world premiere of The Ways of Water, commissioned by the ASO, sponsored by Virginia American Water, and composed by Alexandria-based composer Jonathan Kolm. The music of Jonathan Kolm has been performed across the United States and abroad, winning prizes and awards including the American Prize and the Swan Prize in Music Composition. In addition to his work as a composer and pianist, he teaches composition, piano and music theory at Northern Virginia Community College where he serves as Associate Professor and advocates for various environmental and social causes in the nation’s capital.

    “The Ways of Water is a musical reflection and meditation on how water affects us individually and collectively,” says Mr. Kolm. “Each of the five movements uses the water theme in different ways to give the listener a chance to reflect on what how we are all made of water, how we use it in our daily lives, and how it sustains the environments and communities we live in and depend on.”

  8. Alexandria Symphony Celebrates Strings with an American Premiere

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present a program entitled Banner on Saturday, February 11, 2023 (7:30 p.m.) at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center and Sunday, February 12, 2023 (3:00 p.m.) at the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

    Lauded for his creativity and inventiveness, Jeffrey Ching completed Mozart’s unfinished Sinfonia Concertante by adding material from other works by the composer; ASO’s performance marks the first time this piece has been performed in the United States. The premiere will be paired with one of the most loved and greatest symphonies in the canon: Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in D major. Commonly known as the London Symphony, it’s the last among his 12 symphonies composed for English audiences while in residence in London.

    “Begun in 1779, the Sinfonia Concertante’s 138 increasingly sparse bars were left dangling for a few centuries until my friend and composer Jeffrey Ching completed it with other movements by Mozart to constitute this American premiere,” says Maestro James Ross. “It’s brought lovingly to light for the first time in the U.S. by the estimable Thalea String Quartet, who specialize in bringing old and new together in genre-defying ways.”

    Barber’s Adagio for Strings transcends time and genre, composed as a movement for string quartet, extracted as an arrangement for string orchestra, and has since been adapted numerous times, including as a sacred vocal rendition. Commissioned for the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner, Jessie Montgomery’s Banner incorporates her own complex relationship with the anthem while reflecting on the milestones and progress that our country has achieved over the last two centuries. Montgomery’s Banner and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante feature members from Thalea String Quartet.

    The Thalea String Quartet brings their signature vibrancy and emotional commitment to dynamic performances that reflect the past, present, and the future of the string quartet repertoire while celebrating diverse musical traditions from around the world. Fueled by the belief that chamber music is a powerful force for building community and human connection, the Thalea String Quartet has performed across North America, Europe, and China. Christopher Whitley (violin) is originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Kumiko Sakamoto (violin) is from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada; Lauren Spaulding (viola) is from San Antonio, Texas; and Alex Cox (cello) is from West Palm Beach, Florida.

  9. Alexandria Symphony Invites You Home for the Holidays

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    Alexandria, VA— The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will present a holiday program, “Jingle!” Saturday, December 17, 2022 (7:30 p.m.) at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center and Sunday, December 18, 2022 (3:00 p.m.) at the George Washington Masonic Memorial.

    On December 17, ASO welcomes back dancers from BalletNOVA to the Schlesinger stage where they will perform excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Both Saturday and Sunday concerts will also include selections from Duke Ellington’s The Nutcracker Suite. Soprano Helena Colindres will sing traditional and popular holiday favorites: a Swedish carol, a selection from Handel’s Messiah and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival, popular film scores, and an audience sing-along will add cheer to the season. The concerts are family-friendly, interactive and presented with no intermission. Parking is free at both of ASO’s conveniently-located venues.

    Helena Colindres is a nonbinary versatile vocalist, educator, and activist of Nawataketza ancestry. As a rising opera vocalist, they have performed roles such as die Königin from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, the Governess in Britten’s Turn of the Screw, and Despina in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Helena is passionate about fighting for marginalized people and feels blessed that they get to build community through their art, teaching, and organizing every day.

    BalletNova Center for Dance has long been recognized as one of the premier dance training centers in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. region. The organization, now with over 1,300 students, is based on elements from the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum syllabus across all levels of children’s pre-professional classical ballet curriculum.

    “Our special guests include both BalletNova creating some Nutcracker magic on the lip of our stage on Saturday, and the fabulous non-binary soprano of Salvadoran heritage, Helena Colindres, a recent graduate of the Peabody Institute and a rising superstar,” says ASO Music Director James Ross.  “Helena can, does, and will sing anything! Beloved Lester Green will be our narrator for The Night Before Christmas in a new mashup with a theme from Harry Potter. Jingle indeed!”

    Adult prices for single tickets start at $20, and all tickets for youth are priced at $5, making ASO concerts affordable for families. Military, senior and group discounts are also available in select sections. Seating is very limited at the George Washington Masonic Memorial and is almost sold out, so book your tickets early.

  10. Alexandria Symphony Presents Scheherazade

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    Alexandria, VA—Under the direction of Music Director James Ross, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra presents Scheherazade – Afghan Days, Arabian Nights on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. (Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center) and Sunday, November 13, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. (George Washington Masonic Memorial).

    ASO performs Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s musical epic Scheherazade, derived from four stories from One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of ancient Middle Eastern narratives. Scheherazade as the sultan’s queen is portrayed by the solo violin, its hauntingly exotic melody weaves throughout the piece as each story is told. John Williams’ Adventures on Earth from E.T. the Extraterrestrial opens this adventuresome program.

    Two new Alexandrians from Afghanistan—Hamid Habib Zada and Negin Khpalwak—bring their artistry to the ASO stage through these performances. The musicians recently located to Alexandria after fleeing from Afghanistan during the fall of 2021. Hamid is featured on tabla (a pair of hand drums evolved from the Indian subcontinent) for Dinuk Wijeratne’s Tabla Concerto. Negin will conduct two songs by Afghanistan’s “Elvis,” Ahmad Zahir: Farwardin and Zindegi Akhair Sarayat.

    Hamid has played tabla throughout Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and the United States, recently performing at Lincoln Center as part of Summer in the City. He taught music while in Herat and studied at the Agha Khan Music School and the Afghanistan Institute of Music in Kabul.

    Negin is the first Afghan female conductor leading Zohra, the first orchestra in Afghan history composed of only women. She has performed with Zohra in India and Europe and in the United States playing sarod (a stringed Hindustani instrument). She remains deeply connected to her colleagues and to the plight of women in present-day Afghanistan.

    Through a generous contribution of $5,000 from Walmart’s Community Grant program, tickets will be provided to Afghan refugees at no cost to attend Saturday’s performance. Walmart stores 5753, 2194 and 2258, all located in Alexandria, played leadership roles.

    “The plight of those arriving from Afghanistan with nothing but the clothes on their back and the terrifying turn of fate for Afghan women called out for an artistic and human response,” says Music Director James Ross. “Hamid and Negin hail from a culture where making music can be a life-or-death decision. We are honored to have them join the ASO in pieces that embody the richness of Eastern music.”