Rochester's Top Classical Music Stories

photo by Sam Churchill via flickr



Farewell 2012!  From my vantage point as morning host and arts journalist at WXXI, it’s been a dramatic year for classical musicians in Rochester, New York.  First of all,

1. THE ROCHESTER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA ANNOUNCED A DECIFIT . . .

In September, the Democrat and Chronicle reported that the RPO's deficit could exceed $700,000.   Patrons saw repertoire changes to its 2012-13 Philharmonic Series, as the RPO swapped previously scheduled pieces with works that will be less expensive to produce. 

2 . . . AND TERMINATED ITS CONTRACT WITH MUSIC DIRECTOR ARILD REMMEREIT

Following rumors of conflict and dysfunction, the RPO Board voted to end its four-year contract with Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit two years early. His lawyer, the orchestra’s board chair, and counsel representing the RPO have met with the institution’s goal being “to finish the negotiations as quickly as possible.”  But at the end of 2012, it’s still unclear whether Mr. Remmereit will fulfill his current contract with the orchestra, which includes conducting performances from January through the middle of 2013.  On Friday, December 28th, RPO Board Chair Betsy Rice told WXXI, “We have no changes to announce; however we continue to explore options for the January concert.”  You can see interviews with some of the principal people involved in the negotiations here:

. AN EASTMAN GRAD WON THE 2012 PULITZER PRIZE IN MUSIC

His name is Kevin Puts.  You’ll probably hear it again.

4. GADGET LOVERS REJOICED

First reports came in of local conductors reading music off electronic pads and tablets, rather than paper sheet music.  We’ll see this more and more.  In 2012, the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra announced plans to permanently shelve its library of paper sheet music in favor of the Galaxy Note 10.1, a kind of electronic tablet. Organizers say they’ll save time and money on copying and filing, and conductors will be able to mark the scores for all performers with a swipe of a stylus.

 In Western New York, elementary school music teacher Wayne Burlison says he’s switched to iPad 2 and an app called Forscore. In an e-mail, Wayne explained,

“I first saw this specific app in use at a recital in Fredonia. The accompanist was using it, along with a bluetooth page-turning pedal. I use it for a lot of stuff - jazz gigs, worship band, and conducting at school. It’s smaller than a full score, but by the time I get close to concert time, it's more of a guide than a note by note thing.”

5. THAT WASN'T SPIDERMAN

Rochester’s newest arts event, The Fringe Festival, brought classical musicians into strange and interesting partnerships with visual artists and playwrights.  Plus, there were dancers hanging off skyscrapers.

 

. THEY FOUND ASBESTOS IN KILBOURN HALL

The slow process of removing harmful asbestos fibers over the ceiling of Kilbourn Hall displaced hundreds of musicians and thousands of patrons during the fall semester at the Eastman School of Music. Kilbourn is expected to reopen this spring.

7. OUR MUSICIANS OFFERED SOMETHING NEW

In 2012 Rochester chamber group Gibbs & Main released a CD featuring works by all New York State composers, including several pieces specifically commissioned for the recording.  The Rochester Oratorio Society announced it would commission a new work from composer Glen McClure to premiere in 2013, and the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra commissioned Rochester native Carson Cooman to write a short piece the RPYO will play in Carnegie Hall this coming spring.

8. WE WITNESSED MAJOR ORGAN TRANSPLANTS

Restorers finished two important organ projects in 2012: the installation of a Hook and Hastings at Christ Church on East Avenue, and the complete restoration of an organ built and installed in 1927 by the Skinner Organ Company of Boston at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Westminster Road.  The huge financial investments propel the goals of EROI, the Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative, a long-term effort to assemble a unique collection of new and historic organs in the United States.  (That ten-year effort suffered the setback of losing one of its driving forces, professor and performer Hans Davidssohn, who left the Eastman School in 2012.) In other news, volunteer organist Joe Blackburn announced plans to bring a period pipe organ back to the campus of the George Eastman House.

9. WE CHEERED OUR RISING STAR

Eastman-trained soprano and Rochester Classical Idol winner Kathryn Lewek signed a contract to appear at the Metropolitan Opera in 2013.

. OUR SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE U.S.

"If music be the food," a benefit concert series founded by church musician Robert Poovey and violist Carol Rodland, continued its third season of providing relief for hungry Rochesterians.  The generous musicians play for free, and donated food and money goes to charity. In 2012, the concept spread to other cities around the country.

 

NOTE: And thanks to my colleages at WXXI for remembering these important stories, ADDED January 1, 2013:

11.  Matthew Grills, Eastman School grad, is named 2012 Metropolitan Opera Grand Finals Winner AND 2012 Lotte Lenya Competition Winner.

In April he’ll give a recital in the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center presented by Vocal Arts D.C. and The Washington Performing Arts Society. Additionally, he makes his San Francisco Opera debut next summer as Nathaniel in The Tales of Hoffmann.

12. Rochester Music Hall of Fame launched in 2012, with its inaugural class of inductees, including Jeff Tyzik, Cab Calloway, Charles Strouse, Howard Hanson, David Hochstein, Renee Fleming, Steve Gadd, Lou Gramm, Ron Carter, Chuck Mangione, Doriot Anthony Dwyer, Paul Hoeffler, Jenny Lind, Mitch Miller, William Warfield, Gene Cornish, George Eastman, Emily Sibley Watson, Joe English, Charlie Lowell and Matt Odmark.

13.   Passings in 2012: Organist David Craighead, at 88, whom Michael Barone called "A Gentle Giant." Violinist Zvi Zeitlin, at 90. Howard Scott: Eastman graduate, record producer pioneer, and former Rochester Philharmonic Manager.

14.  International Viola Congress in Rochester
 
15.  Debussy Festival
 
16.  RPO releases a CD
 
17. The evolution  -- or devolution -- of opera in Rochester  
 
We're not even sure what's going on these days. It's something to watch in 2013.