‘Zarathustra’ has a lot to say
for Allentown Symphony fans
With the start of September comes the start of another Allentown Symphony Orchestra season.
The professional orchestra performs pops and classical concerts from September through May at Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.
Whatever we are performing, it is always a lot of fun for myself, musicians, and audience.
Leonard Bernstein is an iconic figure in the history of music.
As a composer, conductor, author, and lecturer, he was a person who influenced so many people’s lives, especially with his Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic.
Bernstein (1918 - 1990) would have been 100 in August. Orchestras all over the world are celebrating his centennial.
Leonard Bernstein was a trail-blazer, and without him and his influence, I am not sure if I would be standing on a conductor’s podium today.
As Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, I am always looking for new projects we can do and ways that we can partner with other arts organizations in the Lehigh Valley.
Creating new music for today’s audiences is one of my passions, and is one way that we can reflect our times and leave a legacy of music for future generations.
It is challenging for composers today to have their works performed by a symphony orchestra, and so we created the 2018 Composer’s Contest with several age categories to create opportunities for their music to be heard.
Art inspiring music, inspiring more music, which inspired more art. Sounds like a tongue-twister, or a lesson in cause and effect.
It all started in 1874 with a gallery exhibition of the drawings and paintings of Victor Hartman, an artist and architect who was a good friend of the Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky.
I think that some of the best music ever written was often inspired by a picture, a story or a melody that someone else wrote.
That leads us to question: Where does artistic inspiration come from? We often think of the artist, the composer, or the writer sitting in his or her little hovel, desperately trying to come up with some new creative idea that will set the world on fire.
In reality, though, many artists, writers, and musicians are often inspired by other creative people, and they build upon artwork, stories, or music of the past.
With the advent of the month of December, the mood around the country has changed. We have entered “the holidays,” a time when we look forward to spending time with family and friends, shopping for gifts, and perhaps relaxing and taking a little time off from work.
Sometimes during December, we get trapped in the bustle of errands, shopping, cleaning, and cooking, and we forget that really the most important thing we can do during this time of year is to spend time with the people we care about.
There has long been a connection between art and music, with one often inspiring the other. Many musicians are also artists and vice-versa.
Years ago, when I first started conducting the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, someone asked me if I had ever heard any of the sound sculptures created by the artist Harry Bertoia. At that point I had not, so they invited me out to Harry’s Barn and Studio in Bally, Berks County, along Route 100, about 15 miles from Allentown.
As I was growing up, opera was a type of music that I didn’t think appealed to me, but I really didn’t know much about it. I had heard all the jokes about opera music and the loud wobbly voices and crazy plots, and so I decided I didn’t like opera music.
When I was young, I also didn’t like vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms, or avocados, until later in my teens when I actually tried them. Then I realized they were really quite good. I’ve enjoyed vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms, and avocados, especially guacamole, ever since.
Broadway under the stars: Allentown Symphony joined by Freddy soloists, Parkland Chorale for free Levitt concert in Bethlehem
Summer is for sitting outside eating hamburgers and hot dogs, relaxing, kicking back, and in general, just having a good time.
Summer nights are for listening to music under the stars, enjoying the cool air and letting the music wash over you as you sit with friends outside on the lawn.
I think of places like Tanglewood in Massachusetts, with the Boston Symphony; Wolftrap in the Washington, D.C., area, with the National Symphony, and The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the LA Philharmonic.
Why do people write music? Why do people search for a meaning of life beyond themselves? What is the purpose of our time on earth? What legacy will we leave behind? And what might we experience after death?
These are questions that have haunted musicians, artists and creative souls for generations and for centuries.
We are continually searching: Pursuing our never-ending quest for answers that we will never confirm.