On Stage: Kennett Symphony returns for first concert in more than two years

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Kennett Symphony Music Director Michael Hall leads the kennett Symphony.

After a long pandemic-induced hiatus, the Kennett Symphony is back.

The orchestra will present its first performance of 2022 on January 30 at Unionville High School auditorium with pieces by Aaron Copland, Joan Tower, Camille Saint-Saëns and Ludwig Van Beethoven.

It would be fitting if the Kennett Symphony (https://kennettsymphony.org/) performed an orchestra version of “The Phoenix Rising,” a piece by Stile Antico, an innovative vocal ensemble from Great Britain.

The phoenix is an immortal bird associated with Greek mythology that appears to die only to be born again.

“It’s been over two years since we’ve had a concert,” said Kennett Symphony Music Director Michael Hall, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

“Our last performance was December 2019. It was our holiday concert at Unionville High School.

“During the COVID shutdown, we had a ‘Musicians from Home’ series online. We recorded solo pieces and sent it out to followers.”

Like all orchestras, dance companies and theatrical tours, the Kennett Symphony had to adapt to a new reality.

“I also was online and did a few lectures on music theory,” said Hall, holds a master’s degree in conducting from the University of Michigan, having studied with renowned conducting pedagogue Gustav Meier, and a DipRAM from the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he worked with Sir Colin Davis.

“We were just doing things to let our patrons know that we’re still here.”

It seems as if the Kennett Symphony has always been here. It was established in 1940 and is now in its ninth decade of providing top-flight classical music to area listeners.

“Our first rehearsal for this weekend’s show was yesterday,” said Hall, who is in his seventh season as Music Director of the Kennett Symphony and his fourth season as Music Director of the Prince George Symphony in British Columbia, Canada.

“Once we got through that, it was like riding a bicycle. We have rehearsals tonight and Thursday and a dress rehearsal Saturday afternoon. It’s exciting – and nerve-wracking.”

The show on Sunday afternoon will be the initial installment of the Symphony’s “Masterwork Series” – “Masterworks 1.”

The first two numbers will be Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.”

“To celebrate being back onstage, I decided to start the program with two fanfares,” said Hall, was a finalist in the International Conducting Competition in Besançon France and was awarded Third Prize in the Cadaques Orchestra International Conducting Competition in Spain.

Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” was commissioned to build patriotic sentiment during World War II, and honors the common man fighting for his country, while Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” is dedicated to adventurous women.

“Copland’s ‘Common Man’ has been in our zeitgeist for years,” said Hall, who is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Space Coast Symphony in Florida. “People know it — even if not by name.

“Tower’s ‘Uncommon Woman’ takes inspiration from ‘Common Man’ – even uses the same instruments. It’s an homage to Copland – and a chance for her to celebrate inspirational women.

“Each fanfare is about three minutes long and then we have a 20-minute piece – Saint-Saëns’ ‘Piano Concerto No. 2.’ We have a great pianist coming from New York — Xiayin Wang. The piece is very passionate and starts with a big piano solo.”
After intermission, the Kennett Symphony will perform Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3,” a symphony in four movements which is known as “Sinfonia Eroica” in Italian and “Eroica” in German.

“This is Beethoven’s heroic symphony,” said Hall. “With the pandemic in mind, everyone has had to be heroic. We’ve all had to be heroic in some way.”

Sunday’s schedule features a “Pre-Concert Talk” by Hall from 2-2:30 p.m. The concert by the Kennett Symphony will start at 3 p.m. and be followed by a “Post Concert Q&A.”

Video link for Michael Hall — https://youtu.be/-Ra6XBafbxE.

Adult tickets are $58, $50 and $35 in advance; $63, $55 and $40 day of concert, while tickets for students (18 and under) are $10.

The Crossing

The Crossing starts its “East Coast Tour with Dublin Guitar Quartet” tonight in Virginia at the University of Richmond and then arrives here on Friday for a performance at Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square).

The tour then goes the collegiate route with shows at Hamilton College (Clinton, New York), Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire), Bucknell University (Lewisburg), Lafayette College (Easton) and the finale at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster on February 6.

The Crossing (www.crossingchoir.org) is a Grammy-winning professional chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally and dedicated to new music. It is committed to working with creative teams to make and record new, substantial works for choir that explore and expand ways of writing for choir, singing in choir, and listening to music for choir. Many of its nearly 125 commissioned premieres address social, environmental, and political issues.

The Crossing collaborates with some of the world’s most accomplished ensembles and artists, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, Piffaro, Beth Morrison Projects, Allora & Calzadilla, Bang on a Can, Klockriketeatern, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

With a commitment to recording its commissions, The Crossing has issued 25 releases, receiving two Grammy Awards for Best Choral Performance (2018, 2019), and seven Grammy nominations.

The Crossing, with Donald Nally, was the American Composers Forum’s 2017 Champion of New Music. They were the recipients of the 2015 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, three ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, and the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award from Chorus America.

Additionally, The Crossing has expanded its choral presentation to film, working with Four/Ten Media, in-house sound designer Paul Vazquez of Digital Mission Audio Services, visual artists Brett Snodgrass and Steven Bradshaw, and composers David Lang and Michael Gordon on live and animated versions of new and existing works.

The Dublin Guitar Quartet has dedicated its career with unwavering devotion to performing contemporary music, an aspect that makes the ensemble unique within its genre. With the help of eight and eleven-string guitars the quartet has created an original catalogue of arrangements by composers such Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Arvo Part, and Gyorgy Ligeti.

The DGQ’s work has brought the attention of some of the world’s leading composers. Recent activity includes a release on Philip Glass’s Orange Mountain Music label and a new commission by New York’s Michael Gordon. The quartet performed alongside the Grammy award winning LA Guitar Quartet, Conspirare, and the Texas Guitar Quartet in a premiere of How Little You Are by Nico Muhly in Austin, Texas in April 2015.

The DGQ is also included on a recent recording performing Arvo Part’s Summa. The quartet worked with the composer in making the arrangement and received guidance during the recording process. The arrangement is published by the composer’s own publisher Universal Edition.

The show at 8 p.m. on Friday in Longwood Gardens’ Exhibition Hall will feature works of Nico Muhly – including “How Little You Are” — with additional Crossing-commissioned music by Ayanna Woods, David Lang, Caroline Shaw, and Shara Nova.

According to Nally, “We go on tour with the music of Nico Muhly: three recent works for choir that range in tone from the imploring prayers of Shakespeare’s Henry IV beseeching the return of ‘gentle sleep,’ to the tragic last words of Antarctic-explorer Robert Scott as he assesses his life and his failed expedition.

“Also on the program are a collection of signature works commissioned by The Crossing: Ayanna Woods’ re-imaging of national monuments, ‘SHIFT,’; Shara Nova’s exuberant, self-examining ‘Resolve’ from ‘Carols after a Plague,’; a movement of Caroline Shaw’s ‘To the Hands,’ a re-imagining of Emma Lazarus’ open-armed sonnet; and the sense of senses, David Lang’s meditative distillation of ‘Song of Songs.’”

Longwood Gardens posted this COVID message on its website – “Beginning January 23, masks and proof of vaccination (government issued card, a photocopy or photograph of the government issued card, or a vaccine verification app) or a negative COVID-19 test result (within 48 hours of the show date) are required for all indoor performance ticketholders. Ensure you bring the required documentation with you as we will not make any exceptions. After we scan your concert ticket, we will check your vaccination card or negative test result and issue your event wristband allowing you admittance to the venue. Masks are not required throughout the Gardens, only in the concert venue and for the duration of the performance.”

Video link for The Crossing — https://youtu.be/8iIvbULav5M.

Tickets for the show on January 28 at 8 p.m. at Longwood Gardens are $39.

In addition to classical music, this weekend’s entertainment schedule also includes classic rock shows featuring acts from the past such as Sheila E., Bruce Katz, the Spinners and Duncan Sheik.

There will also be several classic rock tribute acts on the schedule including two in West Chester.

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, uptownwestchester.org) has established a pattern of presenting shows by nationally acclaimed tribute bands.

Hollywood Nights

On January 29, the Uptown will present “Hollywood Nights – the Bob Seger Experience” followed by “Countdown to Ecstasy – A Tribute to Steely Dan” on February 4.

In their 20 years of playing, Hollywood Nights has toured the nation bringing the music of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and Grammy Award-winners Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band to a new generation of fans. The members of Hollywood Nights make it their priority to emulate Seger and his band with an authentic set list that will transport fans back in time. Hollywood Nights’ repertoire includes such Billboard Top 20 songs as “We’ve Got Tonight,” “Night Moves,” “Like A Rock,” and many more.

Hollywood Nights is a nine-piece band from N.J. featuring of Rick Murphy on lead vocals, Roger Mancini on organ/guitar, Alec Hay on piano, Glenn Nichols and Frank Pagano on bass and vocals, Chris Uyvari on lead guitar, Matt Decarlo on drums, Chris Miley on the saxophone/organ/guitar, and back-up vocals and percussion by Robin Murphy and Treese Logan. These nine performers bring incredible energy to the stage for every performance, making it a point to share their love for Seger’s music with their audiences.

Video link for Hollywood Nights – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N36daqMKLXc.

The show on January 29 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40.

Other upcoming shows at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center are Dueling Pianos on January 27 and Countdown to Ecstasy on February 4.

City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/Philadelphia) will host Sheila E. on January 27 and Duncan Sheik on January 30.

The Xcite Center at Parx Casino (2999 Street Road, Bensalem, 888-588-7279, https://parxcasino.com) will have Scotty McCreery on January 29 and the Spinners on February 4.

Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will host Bruce Katz on January 29, the Thursday Night Jazz Jam featuring the Dave Reiter Trio on January 27 and the Sunday Blues Brunch & Jam on January 30.

The Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) has just started its first production run with the hit musical “Mama Mia!”

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present

Strangelove on January 27, Jake Scott on January 28, Josie Dunne on January 29 and Class of 91 on January 29.

The Kimmel Cultural Campus (Broad and Spruce streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) will present Alvin Ailey Dance Company on January 28-30 and Tig Notaro on January 30.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Silvershade Scenery on January 28, the 29ers on January 29, Wally Smith’s Hammond Organ Trio on January 30 and Rad and Kell on February 2.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Michael Borowski on January 28, Craig Thatcher on January 29, Eric Mintel on January 30 and Eric Hutchinson on February 2.

Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) will have Lomelda on January 28, So Far Gone on January 28, Lucky Chops on January 30 and Two Friends on February 1.

PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 267-519-9651, www.philamoca.org) will present digitally mediated daydreams on February 3.

Annenberg Center (3680 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, https://annenbergcenter.org/events)  will present the Campbell Brothers on January 28 and Cirque Mechanics on January 30.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will have The Lacs and Buckcherry on January 27, Cash Unchained on January 28 and Jawn of the Dead on January 29.

The Met (858 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, http://themetphilly.com) will host The War on Drugs on January 27 and 28,

World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) will host Patty Griffin on January 31.

Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com) will have Set It Off on January 29 and Mother Mother on February 1.

Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) will present The Wood Brothers on February 3.

Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street, Philadelphia, http://undergroundarts.org) will have Lost Dog Street Band on January 28.

Fire (412 West Girard Avenue, Philadelphia, 267-671-9298, thefirephilly.com) will host Indre on January 27, Raoul & The Dukes on January 28, and Psychedelic Elders on January 29.

MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com) will present Chris Day on January 28.

Reverb (1402 North Ninth Street, Reading, 610-743-3069, www.reverbconcerts.com) will host Dark Tranquility on January 29.

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