Tickets on sale for 65th symphony season

Maestro Kevin Rhodes
SPRINGFIELD Tickets are now on sale for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra's 65th celebratory season, which music director Maestro Kevin Rhodes calls a "blockbuster."

"Whether it's celebrating the Holiday Season or being amazed by one of our international guest artists, the 65th Anniversary Season will offer audiences an entire world of music," said Rhodes.

Sixty-five years ago the first performance of the orchestra on the same Springfield Symphony Hall stage, took place in March of 1944. The music provided a bright spot in the lives of Western Massachusetts music lovers as World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific. Its first conductor was the late Alexander Leslie who set high standards for the five subsequent music directors over the years. Now its sixth conductor, Maestro Rhodes entering his eighth year, continues the legacy of excellence.

"That is why we are celebrating this important milestone," said orchestra executive director Michael Jonnes.

The theme for the upcoming season lineup, called "The best live music in Western Massachusetts," reflects what Rhodes calls "our greatest hits" culminating 65 years of the best classical and pops music this side of Boston or New York.

In fact, said Jonnes, "You don't have to travel distances to either Boston or New York to hear world-class music. Right here in our own backyard, audiences will experience music this season from Bach and Beethoven to "Bolero," internationally recognized pianist Peter Serkin, and Pops concerts featuring diva Eartha Kitt, and a visit from Star Trek's Mr. Sulu," said Jonnes.

Other highlights include an opening night gala Sept. 27 with piano virtuoso Norman Krieger followed by a champagne reception. There will be a Barry Manilow tribute in November.

A 200-voice chorus will return with Carl Orff's masterpiece "Carmina Burana." A musical blending of styles brings Gershwin's "Piano Concerto" out of the jazz hall and onto the concert stage.

Serkin will play in two piano concerts next Feb. 28, one by J. S. Bach and one by Beethoven.

"Mix in Vivaldi, an elegant cello concert, the seasonal Holiday Pops, an opera gala and three lunchtime concerts and we'll have a complete season worthy of any proud orchestra in Europe of the United States," said Jonnes.

All classical and pops concerts begin at 8 p.m. "Classical Conversations," an informal half-hour discussion, free to ticket holders, will be presented by Maestro Rhodes prior to each classical concert at 7 p.m. in the hall.

The following is a list of the Classical and Pops schedule for the 65th season:

Classical Concerts

Sept. 27 The Opening Night Gala rolls out the red carpet and begins the season with guest artist pianist Norman Krieger. The music includes Leonard Bernstein's "Candide Overture," Gershwin's jazzy "Concerto in F" and Prokofiev's profound and moving "Symphony No. 5." The gala includes an optional pre-concert dinner, live auction and a champagne reception after the concert with Maestro Rhodes and the musicians for ticketholders.

Oct. 11 The Elegant Cello is the theme with guest artist cellist Matt Haimovitz. A program of beauty and power includes Elgar's noble "Cello Concerto Op. 85," the rugged Scandinavian romanticism of Sibelius' "Symphony No. 2" and Brahms' "Tragic Overture."

Nov. 8 A night of rhapsodic rhythms includes an audience favorite Ravel's hypnotic "Bolero" and Rachmaninoff's dreamy "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The Mexican composer Revueltas' "Sensemaya" is performed and then Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis." Pianist Aviram Reichert is guest artist.

Feb. 28, 2009 Pre-eminent pianist Peter Serkin plays Bach and Beethoven in "Piano Concerto No. 1" by Bach and "Piano Concerto No. 2, B flat" by Beethoven. Respighi's "The Birds" adds a delightful 20th century twist to this program.

March 14, 2009 Vivaldi's masterful capturing of nature's changes is highlighted by guest violinist Corey Cerovsek in the "Symphonic Seasons" concert in "The Four Seasons." Also, Mendelssohn's emotional "Symphony No. 3 in A minor."

April 25, 2009 The Opera Gala brings love, lust, murder and betrayal to the stage of Symphony Hall. Opera favorites include "La Boheme," "Rigoletto," "The Barber of Seville," "Don Giovanni," "Turandot" and "The Magic Flute." The Springfield Symphony Chorus joins in.

May 9, 2009 The season's Grand Finale 65th Anniversary Concert explodes with the voices of the Springfield Symphony Chorus, Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus, Springfield Symphony Youth Orchestras. The music is "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and Orff's "Carmina Burana"

Pops Concerts

Nov. 15 "At the Copa," the Barry Manilow Tribute features Gary Mauer, Broadway's "Phantom" singing Manilow hits of the '70s "Mandy," "Copacabana," "Can't Smile Without You," "I Write the Songs," and more. A champagne reception follows.

Dec. 6 and 7 Holiday Pops ushers in the holidays on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 7 at 3 p.m. Matthew Savery, guest conductor leads the orchestra and Springfield Symphony Chorus in a traditional New England concert for the entire family. Santa makes a visit along with the tunes of "Sleigh Ride," "Silent Night," "The Skater's Waltz" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Cantor Morton Shames makes a visit.

Feb. 7, 2009 She's the one and only Eartha Kitt who purrs her way across the stage. The Catwoman from the Sixties "Batman" televisions series, she has been charming audiences at festivals and clubs worldwide with her signature songs.

April 4, 2009 George Takei, Mr. Sulu of "Star Trek" fame brings his resonant voice to the symphony to narrate "Flights of Fantasy" while the orchestra performs music from "Lord of the Rings," John Williams' "Star Wars," "Harry Potter," and "Star Trek."

Lunchtime Concerts

Three Friday Lunchtime concerts are scheduled for Nov. 7 and March 13 and April 24, 2009. They are not your typical lunch hours. The 50-minute concerts are innovative, informative and a great way to start your weekend.

The Lunchtime concerts feature musical excerpts interspersed with comments from Rhodes. Concerts begin at 12:30 p.m. but arrive early and bring your own lunch to enjoy in the Mahogany Room prior to the music. Or order a box lunch.

All concert tickets may be purchased from the Springfield Symphony Box Office, 1350 Main Street, downtown Springfield, charged (VISA, MasterCard American Express or Discover) by calling 733-2291 or online at Tickets range from $10 to $54 with secure free parking. Tickets for youth age four to 17 are half price. A discount of 25 percent is available for groups of 10 or more.

Visit the SSO Web site at

Springfield Symphony Orchestra performances are made possible through the generosity of donors, concertgoers, Business Friends of the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts.