Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
RSO conductor David Stewart Wiley practices the solo he will play during the orchestra’s all-Beethoven program on April 8. Symphony chorus master John Hugo will conduct the orchestra while Wiley performs.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
Conrad Wright, Brad Smith and James Hayden with Ace Moving & Storage move an upright piano into the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra’s new downtown space, inside the former Shenandoah Hotel building at Williamson Road and Campbell Avenue.
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Gerald Hubert shows off his celebrity portraits in the former POParazzi Gallery and Studio on Kirk Avenue.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
The Roanoke Symphony Orchestra turns 60 today.
The symphony’s gift to itself — a new downtown presence.
The symphony will officially celebrate its 60th anniversary when it kicks off its 2013-14 season in October. But the actual anniversary of RSO’s first concert is today.
On March 31, 1953, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra held its debut concert in the Jefferson High School Auditorium, starting the performance with Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” and concluding with Bizet’s Carmen Suite.
Rival newspapers The Roanoke Times and the Roanoke World-News gushed not just over the concert, but that the orchestra existed at all.
“Any performance would have been a triumph. But the musicians ... made it a real musical triumph,” the Times wrote, while the World-News dubbed it a “miracle,” adding “some 900 almost unbelieving Roanokers can attest to that fact.”
Earlier this month, the symphony moved out the offices it has rented for 19 years in Jefferson Center, the same building where that first concert took place. It has taken up residence in newly renovated offices at 128 Campbell Ave S.E., the old Shenandoah Hotel owned by Center in the Square.
Tuesday, movers brought conductor David Stewart Wiley’s Baldwin piano from Jefferson Center to RSO’s new location. RSO intends to use part of the space as a venue for short, small concerts. They’ve named it The Green Room.
“One of the reasons why this downtown location is exciting is our ability to be accessible to the public,” said Wiley, who’s been RSO’s music director since 1996 and its fourth music director since its founding. “We are part of the exciting renaissance of the whole downtown area.”
In October RSO announced it would become Center in the Square tenants. RSO will have a box office in its new home and will conduct classes. Officials said the symphony’s rent would be lower than it was at Jefferson Center, though they declined to discuss details.
The space, once home to downtown store Twists and Turns, had most recently been used as the temporary location for the History Museum of Western Virginia, which moved there while Center underwent a renovation project of more than $27 million.
The symphony made more than $95,000 in improvements to the old hotel before moving in.
RSO already has programs planned for The Green Room.
At noon on April 24 Wiley will hold a brown bag lunch gathering and give a 45-minute presentation called “From the New World: What Makes American Music American?”
On May 2 at 6:30 p.m. he plans to hold a different kind of talk aimed at a younger audience. “This is about unlocking creativity through improvisation,” he said. In modern times people associate musical improvisation with guitar, drum and saxophone solos, but “there is an improvisational tradition in classical music” that needs to be revived.
RSO also intends to become part of the Art by Night gallery tour that happens the first Friday of each month, said executive director Beth Pline — though they won’t be ready for the one happening this Friday at 5 p.m.
Even as RSO gears up for its diamond anniversary, there are still a couple of concerts to go in its 2012-13 season. Wiley said he’s going put that improvisational tradition into practice in the symphony’s concert at 8 p.m. April 8. RSO will perform an all-Beethoven program that ends with Fantasia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, also called the “Choral Fantasy.” Wiley will hand his baton off to symphony chorus master John Hugo and play the piano solo.
When Beethoven premiered the Choral Fantasy, he improvised the opening cadenza. Wiley intends to follow that lead.
“What I will do is build a musical bridge between the two other Beethoven works on the program and the Choral Fantasy.”
The composition is similar to the famous “Ode to Joy,” and about 150 singers will join RSO in the performance, including choirs from Liberty University and Southern Virginia University, Wiley said.
Not all of RSO’s Masterworks concerts this season have been this large. “This year was a year of austerity for us,” Pline said. RSO scaled back the size of the orchestra for some of its 2012-13 concerts as a way to build a cash reserve for its 60th anniversary programming, she said.
In the 2013-14 season, the symphony will hold eight Masterworks concerts along with its usual three pops concerts. Four of the concerts will be large scale, while four will be smaller and take place in smaller venues such as Mill Mountain Theatre, St. John’s Episcopal Church and Calvary Baptist Church. RSO is calling them “destination concerts” and considers them a way to make their music more accessible.
“It’s important that we find creative ways to remain relevant,” Pline said. “We have to constantly look at our community and our constituency.”
Tickets to the April 8 Beethoven concert range from $22 to $52. For more information on all the symphony’s programs, call 343-9127 or visit rso.com.
Gaga no more?
Roanoke’s Art by Night gallery lineup continues to shift.
Roanoke artist Gerry Hubert, who ran POParazzi Gallery and Studio on Kirk Avenue, announced through the Art by Night Facebook page that because of continuing renovations he won’t be able to return to the location at 36 Kirk Ave. S.W.
Reached at home, Hubert said that he’s going to continue to be involved in downtown art events. He hopes to participate in the upcoming DxDT Shakedown on Market Art Show on April 20 and the Sidewalk Art Show in June.
He’s continuing to take painting commissions, and confided he’s not terribly worried about having a gallery at the moment as sales from January through May last year were slow.
He’s using Facebook to network with other regional artist to seek suggestions for a new location.
A specialist in celebrity portraits, especially Lady Gaga, Hubert was the January winner of the Anderson Art competition, a contest associated with broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper’s talk show “Anderson Live.” His portrait of Cooper is featured on the “Anderson Live” website.
For more information, visit geraldhubert.com.
On the Arts blog
A sculpture by the late Roanoke artist Paul Ostaseski has a new home in the lobby of the BB&T building at 310 First Street S. W. in downtown Roanoke.
Take a look for yourself at blogs.roanoke.com/arts.
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