East Penn Press

Saturday, April 4, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOAllentown Symphony Orchestra partners with Wildlands Conservancy for the annual “Family Concert,” 2 p.m. Feb. 22, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, featuring “Wildlife Ambassadors” rescue animals and activities to observe 50th anniversary of Earth Day. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOAllentown Symphony Orchestra partners with Wildlands Conservancy for the annual “Family Concert,” 2 p.m. Feb. 22, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, featuring “Wildlife Ambassadors” rescue animals and activities to observe 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Call of the Wildlands: ASO notes Earth Day 50th year

Friday, February 21, 2020 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

Fifty years ago, it was proposed that the United States designate a day to celebrate the earth and support environmental protection.

Today, Earth Day is recognized in more than 193 nations.

The Allentown Symphony Orchestra (ASO) holds an annual “Youth Concert” and “Family Concert.”

This year, ASO Music Director and Conductor Diane Wittry decided to combine the two.

“With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, when Diane was picking the theme, she decided to go green,” says Norma Nunez-Ruch, ASO education director.

“Go Green,” this year’s ASO family concert, is 2 p.m. Feb. 22, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, enlisted 20 million Americans and launched the modern environmental movement.

Wittry chose pieces that celebrate nature in music, including selections from Beethoven’s “Pastoral,” Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and Glazuno’s “The Seasons.”

“The music is all related to nature,” says Nunez-Ruch. “We will be navigating through pieces relating to life on earth and the earth itself.“

The program includes “Forest Murmurs,” Richard Wagner’s “Ring” sequence from Act II of “Siegfried.”

In the piece, Siegfried has come to the forest and “stretches himself out comfortably under the lime tree” and quickly becomes “lost in silent reverie.” He “leans back and looks up through the branches” and becomes enchanted by the “forest murmurs” and the song of a bird in the branches above him.

Though not as commonly performed as the “Ride of the Valkyries,” the gentle “Forest Murmurs” is among the most favored concert excerpts from the opera cycle.

One of the United States’ natural wonders is explored in “On the Trail,” best-known of five movements from the “Grand Canyon Suite” by Ferde Grofé. The suite recreates in tone different natural scenes from the Grand Canyon.

The concert moves to the Italian landscape with “The Pines of the Appian Way” from Ottorino Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome.” The four-movement symphonic poem depicts pine trees in four locations in Rome at different times of the day, and is the second of Respighi’s trilogy of tone poems based on the famed city.

The concert explores the relaxing sound of water in “Scene by the Brook” from Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6.” Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time taklng walks in the country.

Most interesting is a contemplation on the beauty of insects with “Call of the Cicadas” from “Living, Breathing Earth” by Meira Warshauer. Warshauer’s first symphony was inspired by insects and other sounds she heard while visiting the rainforest of Peru, as well as in her own backyard in South Carolina.

The Wildlands Conservancy of Emmaus is partnering with the ASO in providing narrators, images and maps for the concert.

ASO “Family Concert” offers pre-concert activities for children. The Wildlands Conservancy will bring its “Wildlife Ambassadors” rescue animals to meet audience members.

Wildlands is providing interactive climate-education activities that explore the impact of the elements and introduce ideas to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

Pre-concert activities are 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in the Rodale Community Room on the third floor of Miller Symphony Hall.

“The other cool thing is we have a young violinist playing the violin solo in ‘Spring,’ the first movement of ‘The Four Seasons,’” Nunez-Ruch says.

Ben Amidon, 15, a student at The Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, West Chester, is first violinist and concertmaster for Young Peoples’ Philharmonic. He is a recipient of an ASO Schadt Summer String Scholarship.

“The Four Seasons” is a group of four violin concertos by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year and are the best-known of Vivaldi’s works.

Nunez-Ruch says the concert includes a “surprise” audience participation.

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715. Tickets for students up to age 21 are free.