A season of firsts

Last week we announced the 2015/16 Jacksonville Symphony season. This is a big moment in every orchestra’s year. It’s a manifesto for the future, not just outlining the music that will be played, but also giving a glimpse of long-term vision. As the first season I’ve planned since taking the music directorship, I think it’s fair to say that there has been a certain degree of anticipation about what’s in store. So here’s the inside story.

Let’s start with the series of concerts for which we’re best known: Florida Blue Masterworks on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. This is our flagship series, presenting the widest range of repertoire. I’m excited about playing music that our audience knows and loves, like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Holst’s suite The Planets, and Debussy’s glistening tone poem La Mer. But we will also explore areas that haven’t featured on recent Jacksonville Symphony seasons. The heart and soul of our art is the classical period of the 18th century. We’ll be performing classical repertoire that you may not know, like Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 and Mozart’s Great C minor Mass. Playing these pieces is the musical equivalent of going to the car wash, leaving the orchestral sound sparkling and transparent.

At the other end of musical history, we’ll be performing a lot more from the 20th and 21st centuries. You would never dream of maintaining an art gallery that ignored the last 100 years, and concerts should be no different. I’m looking forward to Stravinsky’s biting wartime Symphony in Three Movements, and Thomas Adès’s 1997 masterpiece Asyla, one movement of which “summons the druggy techno of a London nightclub”, to quote the New York Times.

The Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan once said that the sound of a great orchestra needs to be tended like an English country garden. Over the next few seasons we will be performing repertoire from the 19th century that you may not know, like the symphonies of Anton Bruckner. We start with his Sixth in April 2016.

We’re beginning to reach out to Jacksonville’s population in new ways. Our community needs an orchestra that responds to its changing needs. We’ve already launched a young professionals’ group, UpTempo, “for the cultural class of the next generation”. If you’re in your twenties or thirties, sign up for great concert packages and pop-up member-only parties in surprise locations.

Symphony in 60 is a new concert experience. Beginning at 6:00pm on Thursdays and lasting an hour, each concert will present a major masterpiece in a fresh, casual format. Audience members will be able to watch close-up HD projections of the orchestra on screens in Jacoby Hall, and join us onstage after the concert for a drink. If you work downtown, why not skip the traffic and enjoy the Jacksonville Symphony instead?

Many people have told me how much they’d love to hear the orchestra without having to drive at night. With that in mind, we’re launching a series of Signature Sunday matinee concerts. These will be full-length masterworks at 3:00pm.

We have a world-class venue in Jacoby Symphony Hall, but if we never leave it we miss the opportunity of reaching thousands of people who don’t yet know they love classical music. During the last week of September, we will perform concerts around the city, starting at Unity Plaza at 220 Riverside Avenue.

November sees the launch of a new annual residence outside Jacksonville. This year we will spend a week in Clay County, during which orchestra ensembles will perform in local community centers, hospitals and schools. The whole orchestra will perform a morning concert for local schools and the residence will culminate in a public evening concert at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts. We plan to spend one week a year outside Jacksonville, bringing the joy of great music all over North Florida.

It’s my hope that next season marks the beginning of a new era for the Jacksonville Symphony. We’ve chosen masterpieces old and new to challenge us as we play and inspire you as you listen. Our concert series, initiatives and residencies offer greater access to classical music than ever before. It’s an exhilarating season of firsts, and there has never been a better time to make your debut as an audience member.

Reproduced with kind permission from The Florida Times-Union.

2 thoughts on “A season of firsts”

  1. Your visions for the Symphony are exciting and I look forward to meeting you tonight at the Library. I would like you to consider prefixing your concerts with a presentation that introduces the upcoming works. Topics could include something about the musical period, the composer’s life and (crucially) what we should be listening for (i.e. why should we love this piece). I suggest a 15-minute video that would be presented 45 minutes before the performance begins.

    I’m 60 years old and have had the great fortune to hear some of the world’s greatest performers. Nonetheless, I have great difficulty liking most 20th-century classical. I loathe most of Bela Bartok’s work and I believe that many like me would benefit from a pre-concert introduction.

    1. Dear Mr Starr, thanks for your note! We do have a presentation before each concert, entitled Words on Music. It begins an hour before each concert in Jacoby Hall. I talk about the music we’re about to play, the composer’s life and anything else interesting. There is also the opportunity to ask questions. Next season I’ll also be talking to the audience during the concert when we play something unusual. I hope we can help you enjoy some 20th century music!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *