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Orchestra of NNY plans “Two Timeless Tales of Love” in two communities

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With a bit of fanfare befitting its 25th anniversary season, the Orchestra of Northern New York will highlight “Two Timeless Tales of Love” in concerts Saturday in Potsdam and Sunday in Watertown.

Featured will be Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances From West Side Story.”

“West Side Story” is based on the tale of “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare made the story famous, but his play is based on the Italian folk tale.

“I was excited to put together two tales of love that reflect the ancient tale from Italy,” said Kenneth B. Andrews, ONNY founder and music director. “It’s been reflected by writers, composers, painters and other artists throughout the centuries.”

In “West Side Story,” Shakespeare’s doomed lovers are moved to Spanish Harlem in the 1950s. The musical opened on Broadway in 1957 with four revivals since then. A movie version was made in 1961.

But Mr. Bernstein’s music for his “Symphonic Dances From West Side Story” is quite different from his Broadway and movie versions.

“This version is not the typical arrangement of ‘West Side Story’ tunes that you hear with orchestras and bands,” said Mr. Andrews. “This is a massive work.”

He said the music is made for a much larger orchestra than the pit band of the Broadway show.

“The music is on a much larger scale,” Mr. Andrews said. “It’s expansive. But what’s amazing is that he (Bernstein) blends several different aspects of music; aspects of jazz, musical theater and symphonic writing.”

Mr. Andrews called Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” another “genius rendition” of the famous story.

“His lushness of the scoring and the incredible melodies, including the famous love melody, have made it famous. It’s stood the test of time.”

Opening this weekend’s concerts will be Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” a popular work which has been used in a number of arrangements for television programs such as “CBS Sports Spectacular.” This past September the piece, which is scored for brass and percussion, was played at Los Angeles International Airport as space shuttle Endeavor completed its final landing.

Also featured in the concerts will be the world premiere of “Whence Minstrelsie Filled the Gallery” by Paul Siskind, a professor of music theory composition at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

This is the third commission that Mr. Siskind has donated for the Orchestra of Northern New York. In each, a silent auction was held and the highest bidder got to tell Mr. Siskind what type of piece he should write. The winning bidders of Mr. Siskind’s latest commission were Dr. Luis Canales and Susanne Daye of Massena.

This year, the winning bidder also could pick a specific instrument or musician for the commissioned piece. The bidders selected flute and flutist Jill Rubio, adjunct instructor of flute at SUNY Potsdam.

“Jill does a fabulous job on this,” Mr. Andrews said. “She uses a lot of extended techniques like humming.”

In his program notes, Mr. Siskind noted Ms. Rubio decided to become a flutist after hearing Ian Anderson of the band Jethro Tull.

The title of Mr. Siskind’s piece is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the 1975 Jethro Tull album “Minstrel in the Gallery.”

“However, it also signifies a compositional technique that I have used in a number of pieces throughout my career: the antiphonal effect of players playing from various positions around the auditorium, coupled with the theatrical/dramatic visual effect of having players move around while they are playing,” Mr. Siskind wrote in his program notes.

the details
WHAT: The Orchestra of Northern New York presents “Two Timeless Tales of Love.”
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Helen M. Hosmer Hall at SUNY Potsdam and at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Dulles State Office Building, 317 Washington St.
COST: Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for senior citizens, $10 for students and free for children age 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased by calling the orchestra at 267-2277 or online at www.onny.org.
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