Saturday, January 23, 2010

Niagara Symphony gets rolling again this weekend

This Sunday, January 24th, the Niagara Symphony presents the first concert of 2010, and the third Masters performance of the season. This is a highly anticipated performance, I think, as we get to see the fourth and final candidate vying for the vacant Music Director's position with the Niagara Symphony. We've seen the first three conduct either a pops or masters concert so far, and in the case of Timothy Hankewich, both. This weekend the lone female candidate for the position, Diane Whittry, takes the podium in a program that includes Handel, Carrabre and of course, Beethoven.

A quick look at Diane's CV indicates she brings with her quite a distinguished musical pedigree: born in California, she is both guest conductor for several orchestras and Music Director of both the Allentown and Norwalk Symphony Orchestras. She's also written a book, "Beyond the Baton" about artistic leadership for young conductors and music directors, and is now the focus of a yearly National Conducting Workshop to help emerging conductors. So in other words, she is an accomplished musician; now we see what she does in front of an orchestra and audience here in Niagara, and as always, we'll be asked to assess the results.

The musical lineup is interesting, if not overly safe this time out: titled A Winter's Oasis, the program features principal flutist Douglas Miller on a rarely-heard John Rutter orchestral suite, titled Suite Antique. I have always enjoyed this lilting work, and am quite looking forward to hearing what Diane and the Symphony do with it. Also on the programme are selections from Handel's Water Music and of course, T. Patrick Carrabre's Chase the Sun, which all four conductors are performing at their respective Masters concert. Frankly, by the end of the season I'll be quite happy if I never hear the work again! Not that there's anything wrong with it, per se, it's just that four times in one season is more than enough, thank you very much.

The programme concludes with the Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92. I have noticed a preponderence of Beethoven symphonies as of late, going back to John Morris Russell's Hummer-sized Beethoven # 5 to end the season last year. Perhaps it is a tribute to the master himself, but it seems any conductor worth his or her salt has not proven themselves until they have conducted at least one of the Beethoven symphonies; they seem to be the acid test to determine the viability of any conductor these days. Somewhere I suspect Beethoven is smiling...

If you are planning to go and don't yet have a ticket, call the Brock box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257 for tickets for the performance tomorrow. It begins at 2:30, with a pre-concert talk 45 minutes before the concert. And as always, I will be in the lobby before, after and during intermission with lots of music to tempt you, including music performed on the programme and lots of other great recordings. If you don't see what you want, let me know what you are looking for and I will do my very best to find it for you, or you can email me at Of course, my website,, has many of the selections on the program tomorrow on the Mike's Picks page.

So everything is set: rehearsals are all but done; so let the music begin!

January 23rd, 2010.

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