Symphony Tacoma Opens 73rd Season with an Original Production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Saturday, October 19 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor

Tacoma School of the Arts actors: Elizabeth (Libby) Patsiga, Annabelle Daniel and Alexandra Vilenius
Gabriel McPherson, narrator and stage director
Mark Thomason, technical director

Prokofiev: Three Suites from Romeo & Juliet


Tacoma, WA— Symphony Tacoma will open its 2019-2020 season on Saturday, October 19 at the Pantages Theater with an original production of Romeo and Juliet. This dramatic program combines Prokofiev’s heart-wrenching ballet score with excerpts from Shakespeare’s epic love story enacted by students from Tacoma’s School of the Arts (SOTA). The performance also marks the beginning Sarah Ioannides’ sixth season as music director.

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet has long been celebrated as a favorite with audiences as both a ballet score and an orchestral concert piece. Originally the movements in each suite were arranged into well-balanced sequences rather than structured narratively chronological. In this program, Ioannides reordered the suites and selected passages from Shakespeare’s play to tell the story of the famous star-crossed lovers.

SOTA students Libby Patsiga (Romeo), Annabelle Daniel (Juliet) and Alexandra Vilenius (Tybalt) will reprise their roles from SOTA’s 2018 production of Romeo and Juliet. SOTA’s Director of Theatrical Arts Gabriel McPherson will play the role of the narrator as well as serve as the stage director, and Director of Technical Theatre and Design Mark Thomason will technical direct the performance. The combination of the music interspersed with dramatic interludes in essence creates a symphonic poem.

Season ticket packages and single concert tickets ($24 to $83) are available through the Tacoma Arts Live box office by calling 253-591-5894 on online. Romeo and Juliet is sponsored by MultiCare, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, Pacific Northwest Eye Associates, The Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Foundation and Northwest Public Broadcasting.


Annabelle Daniel is a junior at Tacoma School of the Arts. She has acted in many productions in the past at Tacoma Youth Theatre but the role of Juliet in the 2018 production of Romeo and Juliet was her first role at SOTA. Outside of theatre, she participates in Girl Scouts and enjoys playing music.

Alexandra Vilenius is a junior at Tacoma School of the Arts. The role of Tybalt in the 2018 production of Romeo and Juliet was her first role at SOTA. She is excited to continue growing as an actress through the next two years with the SOTA theatre program.

Elizabeth (Libby) Patsiga is a junior at Tacoma School of the Arts. The role of Romeo in the 2018 production of Romeo and Juliet was her first of eight roles at SOTA to date.

Gabriel McPherson is the Director of Theatrical Arts at SOTA. For the past twelve seasons, he has also served as Master Teaching Artist, Resident Director, and Resident Composer for the educational programs of Tacoma Arts Live. Gabriel and his writing partner and brother, Luke McPherson, have written four musicals for young audiences and are currently working on a musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men for the Cunningham Commission, scheduled to premiere at Chicago Playworks in 2021. Gabriel has a BFA in acting from the Theater School at DePaul University in Chicago, IL with a minor in music composition. In his prior life, Gabe toured with the first national tour and Broadway productions of Mamma Mia! for over two years. He is also a founding member of Seattle-based rock band Doxology.

Mark Thomason is Director of Technical Theatre and Design at SOTA and occasionally an adjunct professor at UP. Having worked professionally in the theatre industry for twenty years as a stagehand, lighting designer, technical director and production manager, he spends most of his time outside of teaching as a freelance lighting designer throughout the region or managing a film production studio for Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. He has produced all the SOTA theatre shows for the last several years.

Symphony Tacoma Voices Auditions Set for Sept. 16

Symphony Tacoma Voices is holding auditions for its 2019-2020 season. Auditions will be scheduled between 5 and 9 pm on September 16 at First United Methodist Church, 621 Tacoma Ave S, Tacoma, WA 98402. Come prepared a simple song to sing (an aria, a folksong, patriotic song, or hymn). You will sing your selection and then vocalize and work a little with Geoffrey Boers. ALL ARE WELCOME!

To schedule an audition, complete the Chorus Interview Form 2019 and send it to Lydia at

Learn more about Symphony Tacoma Voices >>

Symphony Tacoma Announces 2019-2020 Season Presented by MultiCare

Symphony Tacoma’s 73rd season will present eight dynamic programs—six classics and two holiday concerts—that span 300 years of captivating classical music. Featuring major works by Mozart, Mahler, Rachmaninoff and Gershwin, the season will also be punctuated by three prominent works by Beethoven in recognition of his 250th birthday.

“I selected Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” (February), The Creatures of Prometheus (March), and “Choral Fantasy” (March) because these works collectively demonstrate the breadth of talent that is Beethoven,” says Music Director Sarah Ioannides. “I think our audience will really enjoy the diversity of the pieces.”

Works by contemporary composers—including one world premiere and two U.S. premieres—will complement the classics to amplify the theme of each concert. “We programmed this season to be an exciting representation of today’s classical music genre,” says Ioannides. “There is so much new and diverse material to draw from—compositions by women, works accompanied by multimedia and works that feature artists who play non-traditional orchestral instruments. We have incorporated a touch of each of these into our season.”

Guest artists who are masters of instruments ranging from violin and piano to electric guitar will join the orchestra throughout the season, from the Tacoma Youth Chorus and Tacoma School of the Arts, to masters with world-renowned acclaim.

Also this season, Symphony Tacoma welcomes David Serkin Ludwig  as the inaugural artist in the new Composer in Residence program. The grandson of pianist Rudolf Serkin and nephew of pianist Peter Serkin, Ludwig serves as chair of the composition faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music. He is a recipient of the prestigious Pew Center for Arts and Heritage Fellowship in the Arts and was named as one of the “Top 100 Composers Under Forty” in 2012.

Ludwig will bring three pieces to the season, including Bleeding Pines, a new work commissioned for Symphony Tacoma, which will debut in March. Ludwig’s wife Bella Hristova will perform his Violin Concerto in April, and Fanfare for Sam, a work dedicated to composer Samuel Barber, will open the November concert. “We are excited to introduce our Composer in Residence program this year with David as the inaugural artist,” says Ioannides. “Sometimes when you hear just one piece of music you don’t get a full picture of the composer. David is an incredible talent and I really believe in him as a composer.”

Season tickets are on sale through the Tacoma Arts Live Box Office. Packages range from four to eight concerts at up to 25% off single ticket prices. Single concert tickets will go on sale on August 1. Prices range from $24 to $85. To subscribe, call 253-591-5894 or visit

The 2019-2020 season is generously sponsored by MultiCare.

 2019 – 2020 CONCERTS:

Saturday, October 19 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Tacoma School of the Arts, actors

Prokofiev: Suites from Romeo & Juliet

This original production synthesizes Prokofiev’s heart-wrenching ballet score with the most epic love story of all time. Actors from Tacoma’s School of the Arts will enact excerpts from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet throughout this dramatic performance.


Saturday, November 23 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
George Li, piano

David Ludwig: Fanfare for Sam
Brahms: Symphony No. 3
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3

Praised by the Washington Post for combining “staggering technical prowess, a sense of command and depth of expression,” pianist George Li will take on one of the most technically-challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. The program begins with Fanfare for Sam, a tribute to composer Samuel Barber written by Composer in Residence David Ludwig, and Brahms’ poetic Symphony No. 3. Maestra Sarah Ioannides first collaborated with Li on stage with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra when he was just 12 years old.


Sunday, December 8 | 2:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Tacoma Youth Chorus (Judith Herrington, director)

Symphony Tacoma’s annual collage of seasonal delights for the whole family. This year’s program features choral masterpieces and festive arrangements that evoke feelings of holiday celebrations at home, whatever your tradition may be.


Friday, December 20 | 7:30 pm
St. Charles Borromeo Church
Geoffrey Boers, conductor
Symphony Tacoma Voices

Perhaps the world’s most well-known and beloved choral work, George Frederick Handel’s Messiah has transcended its time and place to become a “work of the people” shared by audiences and musicians around the world. This holiday classic oratorio is performed by the talented orchestra and vocalists of Symphony Tacoma Voices.


Saturday, February 22 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Michael Nicolella, electric guitar

Delius: On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
U.S. PREMIERE Simon Petersson: Spheres
U.S. PREMIERE Yaron Gottfried: Electric Guitar Concerto (with multimedia)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is a delightful expression of the beauty of nature. Maestra Sarah Ioannides conducted Simon Petersson’s Spheres in Sweden in 2018 and is excited to bring it to Tacoma. Seattle native Michael Nicolella will perform Israeli composer Yaron Gottfried’s Electric Guitar Concerto, a beautiful classical piece featuring a non-traditional orchestral instrument. The heroic Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” is one of Beethoven’s most celebrated works and is widely considered an important landmark in the transition between the Classical period and the Romantic era.


Saturday, March 21 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Pallavi Mahidhara, piano
Symphony Tacoma Voices (Geoffrey Boers, director)

Beethoven: Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter”
WORLD PREMIERE David Ludwig: Bleeding Pines
Beethoven: Fantasy for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra “Choral Fantasy”

Creatures of Prometheus is Beethoven’s only full-length ballet and shows his lighter side. Mozart’s longest and final symphony “Jupiter” was said to be an inspiration to Beethoven with its five simultaneous melodies. Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” is considered a forerunner to his Ninth Symphony and includes piano and vocal solos as well as chorus. Inspired by “Choral Fantasy,” Composer in Residence David Ludwig draws on its themes in his world-premiere composition, Bleeding Pines which provides a commentary on today’s environmental crisis.


Saturday, April 18 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Bella Hristova, violin

Smetana: Vltava “The Moldau”
David Ludwig: Violin Concerto
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 “Titan”

The works that make up this concert share influences from Bohemia. Smetana’s “The Moldau” is one of seven symphonic poems that pay tribute to the famous Eastern European river. David Ludwig wrote his Violin Concerto for his wife, Bulgarian native and violinist Bella Hristov, who is the featured artist. Mahler’s “Titan” integrates Austro-German folk melodies into this epic symphony.


Saturday, May 9 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Charlie Albright, piano

Ravel: La Valse
Boulanger: D’un Matin de Printemps
Boulanger: Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Gershwin: An American in Paris

On the centennial of the Roaring Twenties, Symphony Tacoma celebrates the French and American musical influences of the decade. Ravel’s La Valse is a tribute to the Viennese waltz. The Boulanger sisters, both talented composers, left us few—yet notable— works. After Lili’s death at an early age, Nadia stopped composing but her influence continued through her teaching of many important composers of the last century. Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris evoke imagery of the jazz, dance and art that define the era. Tacoma favorite Charlie Albright returns for a third performance with Symphony Tacoma.


Additional 2019-2020 performances featuring Symphony Tacoma:

Friday, May 15 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Presented by Tacoma Arts Live
An immersive concert of music from popular video games


Saturday, June 6 | 7:30 pm
University Place Presbyterian Church
Geoffrey Boers, conductor
Symphony Tacoma Voices

REVIEW: Symphony Tacoma Rises to Beethoven’s Sun

By Rosemary Ponnekanti
Posted on South Sound Magazine

Photo by Karjaka Studios

It’s a tall order to write a piece of music to pair with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But that’s exactly the order Symphony Tacomadirector Sarah Ioannides made of composer Hannah Lash for the season finale last weekend — and Lash filled the request with music both fresh and timeless.

Commissioning new work has become part of the Tacoma orchestra’s identity since Ioannides, a British conductor hailed as one of the best on Lebrecht’s “Women Conductors: The Power List,” took the helm nearly five years ago.

On Saturday night in the Pantages Theater, however, the music was not only new, but quietly turned the historic male composer archetype on its head. Lash isn’t just a woman, she’s also a professional harpist — an instrument traditionally dominated by women, and the polar opposite to Beethoven’s blustery, piano-percussive modality.

Lash also lives in the 21stcentury and is both acutely aware of our very contemporary challenges (an infinity of light-speed information, a post-post-modern worldview) and has the vision to rise above them.

Yet to speak to Beethoven’s mammoth, iconic Ninth is still daunting. All of this, then, was in play when the upper strings began a delicate waterfall of cascading dotted notes in the world premiere opening of Lash’s “In Hopes of Finding the Sun.”

With quiet revolution, Lash took Beethoven’s own dotted-note violin lines and turned them backwards: the original short upbeat, long downbeat was now reversed into something more lacy, legato and endless. Building the texture with marching timpani, ominous brass and diffident woodwinds, Lash plays with a tonality that’s part neo-Romantic English, part early-American dissonance, with a delightfully minor ambiguity that’s perfect for our point in time.

courtesy of Symphony Tacoma

Over all this came the choir: Symphony Tacoma Chorus, sounding occasionally messy and fragile but mostly solid in their post-modern bursts of chordal recitative that prefigured that famous cello/bass and baritone solo in the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth.

The biggest downside was the chorus articulation, too weak to convey Lash’s beautiful poetry. A haiku-like summary of the fire motif in Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, it describes the ineffable joy of soaring, dancing and being consumed by a burning sun – at once a metaphor of life, death and unity with the universe.

After 20 minutes of this ethereal, intriguing emotion, Beethoven’s fierce declamations came as the kind of shock they probably were to his 1824 audience. Yet Lash’s voice enabled us to listen for the lighter, more complex moments in the Beethoven — a woman finding the feminine (and the harpist) in this most masculine of artistic hierarchies: classical music.

Symphony Tacoma, under Ioannides’ assured baton, rose to Beethoven’s sun with energy, passion and a full, rich sound that filled the sold-out theater. In the first movement, firm brass chords resonated against the renovated theater’s new shell, violins crisp and timpani exciting, with Ioannides guiding the music like a ship’s captain over stormy waves.

The Molto vivacewas just that, fast and light, the lacy airiness of the triplets interrupted by stomping timpani like a giant among elves. Legato strings, a precise bassoon and expressive oboe led to an ending with flair.

The third movement is a love song, and Ioannides made it flow rather than funereal with long, arching phrases and the triplet section as intimate as a slow waltz. The 5thhorn solo was particularly poignant, sounding as if played offstage.

And then, of course, the finale that everybody waits for: sonorous cello/bass recitative, thoughtful phrases, wistful violins, triumphant brass. Ioannides wove through the tempo changes with precision and grace, and the orchestra followed flawlessly.

The quartet of soloists made a perfect balance of voices: Baritone Charles Robert Stephens warm and personable, tenor Ross Hauck brilliant, mezzo Melissa Plagemann and soprano Kristin Vogel glittery as sunlight on top.

Symphony Tacoma Chorus filled the hall with a dynamic, strong sound, and as the notes flew to their shining destinations, it was as if every question in Hannah Lash’s piece had been answered.

Symphony Tacoma Season Finale presents Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony coupled with a World Premiere Commission

Saturday, May 11 | 7:30 pm
Pantages Theater
Sarah Ioannides, conductor
Symphony Tacoma Voices & Bremerton Symphony Chorale
Soloists: Kristin VogelMelissa PlagemannRoss HauckCharles Robert Stephens

WORLD PREMIERE! Hannah Lash: In Hopes of Finding the Sun
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 “Choral”

Symphony Tacoma will conclude its 2018-2019 season on Saturday, May 11 with Ode to Joy, a program featuring arguably Beethoven’s greatest work and one of the greatest achievements in the history of Western music. The concert will take place at 7:30 pm in Tacoma’s Pantages Theater.

Opening the program is In Hopes of Finding the Sun, a new work by rising-star American composer Hannah Lash that captures a contemporary woman’s perspective on the famous Friedrich Schiller 1792 poem, Ode to Joy.  Commissioned by Symphony Tacoma, the piece will pay tribute to the orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

“This is my personal response to Beethoven’s Ninth, particularly the Ode to Joy,” says Lash. “It includes full chorus and orchestra, and the text is my own re-imagining of Schiller’s poem which Beethoven set. It is interesting, in approaching a piece that celebrates joy, how deeply profound—almost onerous—the task feels. As artists, we are perhaps more accustomed to responding to painful emotions or creating art that lives in an abstract realm. When approaching a piece about joy and the Divine (in the broadest human sense rather than the religious), the responsibility one feels to make a piece that can sing is truly a solemn one. It is an honor, and I am thrilled to be working with Symphony Tacoma on this project.”

Lash’s compositional style is highly individual and shows beauty and great integrity. Music Director Sarah Ioannides purposefully selected Lash for this project due to the “lightness and transparency her music conveys to the listener.” In Ioannides view, “Very few works can stand up to Beethoven 9, and my hope is this will be a wonderful contrast and prepare the listener for the depth of the Beethoven.”

Beethoven’s remarkable final symphony, Symphony No. 9 “Choral” (1822-1824), was the longest and most complex of its time. Its premiere in May 1824 marked Beethoven’s return to the stage in 12 years since his hearing loss. At one point in the performance, one of the soloists had to tug on his sleeve so that he could accept the audience’s ecstatic applause.

The work’s most striking innovation is the use of solo voices and a chorus in the symphony’s finale at the same level as the instruments. Performing the vocal parts will be Symphony Tacoma Voices under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Boers; Bremerton Symphony Chorale under the direction of LeeAnne Campos; and soloists Kristin Vogel (soprano); Melissa Plagemann (mezzo-soprano); Ross Hauck (tenor); and Charles Robert Stephens (bass). Dubbed “the symphony to end all symphonies,” the work remains timeless and is still one of the most-performed works in the world.

Tickets range from $24 to $85 and are on sale through the Tacoma Arts Live box office. To order tickets, call 253-591-5894 or visit Ode to Joy is sponsored by Commencement Bank, General Plastics, Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy and Showcase Magazine.

Hailed by the New York Times as “striking and resourceful…handsomely brooding,” Hannah Lash obtained her Ph.D in Composition from Harvard University in 2010. She has held teaching positions at Harvard University (Teaching Fellow), at Alfred University (Guest Professor of Composition), and currently serves on the composition faculty at Yale University School of Music. She is also an accomplished harpist, having played at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Cabrillo Festival, Miller Theatre, the Alabama Symphony, the Yale School of Music, and the Bennington Chamber Music Conference. As a composer, Lash has received numerous honors and prizes, including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fromm Foundation Commission, a fellowship from Yaddo Artist Colony, the Naumburg Prize in Composition, the Barnard Rogers Prize in Composition, the Bernard and Rose Sernoffsky Prize in Composition, among others. She is currently developing a new chamber opera and a concerto for two harps and orchestra, both scheduled to premiere in 2019.

Racing to the Finish Line!

Symphony Tacoma’s Music Director and Executive Director to Run Tacoma City Marathon

Tacoma, WA— Symphony Tacoma’s Music Director Sarah Ioannides and Executive Director Karina Bharne are lacing up their sneakers to run in the Tacoma City Marathon on Sunday, May 5, 2019. They are participating in the half marathon as part of their personal commitment to a healthy lifestyle as well as promoting the impact of Symphony Tacoma to the South Sound community.

“Running is a key part of my fitness regimen that helps to keep me in shape for the podium and maintain long-term overall strength,” says Ioannides. “Like music, it feeds my soul.”

Bharne similarly runs to refuel. “I run to relieve stress and clear my mind so I can focus on what’s most important in my work and home life. Running energizes me—and I take pride in setting and achieving my personal goals.”

After the two agreed to run the race, they realized what a perfect analogy it is to the work they do with Symphony Tacoma. With a mission of “building community through music,” Symphony Tacoma brings classical music to Tacoma through live performances as well as subsidizing tickets and music lessons for students who would not normally be able to afford them. “We work together every day on and offstage to spread the joy and magic of LIVE music,” says Bharne. “Just as physical activity keeps a body healthy and fit, music enriches a community.”

To engage the South Sound, the two have created a Facebook fundraiser to support Symphony Tacoma. The goal of the campaign is $13,100, a nod to the 13.1 miles they will be running. Every dollar raised will be donated directly to Symphony Tacoma to help keep the organization “financially fit” for the 2019-2020 season. “The funds raised will help us actualize our concerts and expand our education programs in the coming year” says Bharne.

People interested in supporting the runners and Symphony Tacoma can donate through Facebook at or they can donate through the Symphony’s website.

Saxophone Fusion: Multi-instrumentalist James Carter fuses jazz saxophone, classical works

Thank you to KNKX for this preview interview with Saxophone Fusion guest artist James Carter. Join us on April 20 and see James perform live at the Pantages Theater! Buy tickets here >> 

Listen to the interview >>

Multi-instrumentalist James Carter performs with Symphony Tacoma this Saturday evening, April 20, at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma. “Saxophone Fusion” presents compositions derived from diverse cultures that feature the luscious sounds of the saxophone with the rich harmonies of the orchestra.

Carter, known for his skillful approach and surprising musical choices, will perform “Caribbean Rhapsody,” his collaborative work with composer Roberto Sierra, as well as “La Creation Du Monde,” the 1922 composition from Darius Milhaund.

Join KNKX tonight at 8 p.m. when we lead off Evening Jazz with some recent conversation between Carter and KNKX director of music programming Carol Handley about Carter’s performance with Symphony Tacoma, his beginnings as a saxophonist and some fun history playing in the Northwest.

Legendary Jazz Saxophonist James Carter Joins Symphony Tacoma for Saxophone Fusion

Tacoma, WA— Symphony Tacoma welcomes jazz saxophone virtuoso James Carter to the Pantages Theater on Saturday, April 20 as the guest soloist for Saxophone Fusion. The program presents compositions derived from diverse cultures that feature the luscious sounds of the saxophone with the rich harmonies of the orchestra.

Opening the program is Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture in C Major (1834). Although she wrote nearly 500 pieces of music, this work is her only-known full orchestral work. The sister of renowned composer Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny’s ambitions were limited by the societal views of the time that deemed musical careers for women of wealth and status as inappropriate. Instead, she performed her original works to small gatherings in her salon, Sonntagskonzerte, which was well-known and highly-regarded for the originality and quality of the performances. A few of her compositions appeared in Felix’s Op. 8 and Op. 9 collection of songs for voice and piano, but they were listed under his name.

Musicologists are still uncovering and attributing Fanny’s music today. Because minimal effort was invested in preserving or studying her work, little is known about Overture in C Major. Its peaceful opening paves the way for very virtuosic runs in the strings. The piece never becomes brash, and for every majestic, showy passage, there is a light and restrained balance to counter it.

Francis Poulenc’s satirical Sinfonietta (1947) represents works by Les Six, a group of young composers who sought to free French music from foreign domination and called for new music that would be fully French and anti-Romantic in its clarity, accessibility and emotional restraint in post-World War II Europe. Poulenc fulfilled these tenets in his composing, with many of his pieces drawing from Parisian cabarets and revues, making them accessible to the general public.

Poulenc’s music is unique in that it often includes satirical mimicry and fluent melody. His Sinfonietta is no exception. Its first movement opens with a gruff musical idea that is not necessarily symphonic in construction but begins a succession of lyrical themes. The second movement, a scherzo, is the most light-hearted, echoing a style and mood reminiscent of Tchaikovsky and Mozart, whose happy music is a staple of classical literature. The final movement takes a turn, beginning with the gruff tone that Poulenc adopts when appropriating neoclassicism, but soon turns to light again in the true style of Poulenc.

The remainder of the program features James Carter on saxophone accompanying the orchestra on classical works with jazz influences. Darius Milhaud’s La création du monde (1922-23) was inspired by authentic jazz he heard on the streets of Harlem during a concert tour in the early 1920s. The piece was originally written for a ballet that portrayed the creation of the world based on African folk mythology. It uses saxophone to replace violas, and the soloistic treatment of the instruments evokes the sound of jazz bands. The incorporation of blues notes and melodies, syncopations, riffs and ensemble textures are stylized with neoclassical and other modernist traits. Milhaud’s openness to foreign influences truly speaks to his unique style of composing. A multimedia film with art visuals—from African tribal sculptures to works by Picasso and Gauguin—accompany the piece.

Closing the concert is Puerto Rico native Roberto Sierra’s Caribbean Rhapsody (2010). The result of a decade-long collaboration between Carter and Sierra, Caribbean Rhapsody marries classical and Latin jazz influences and showcases Carter’s virtuosity. It draws on Sierra’s memories of growing up in Puerto Rico and the music he heard on jukeboxes—from the sensuous opening boléro, to the Latin riffs reminiscent of son montuno with alternating reflective and spirited music. Sierra wrote the piece as a musical reunion for Carter and his cousin, violinist Regina Carter. Sierra was “curious to see the combination of James and Regina improvising together and also on two different instruments—the sax, basically from the jazz tradition, and the violin, the quintessential orchestral instrument.” The resulting juxtaposition of saxophone and violin, viola, cello and bass is a refreshingly new hybrid of musical elements.

“When I first heard James Carter perform, a whole new set of possibilities opened up in my creative mind,” says Sierra. “I realized that his extraordinary gifts as musician and improviser would be fertile ground for the collaboration that culminated in the writing of Caribbean Rhapsody. I think that what I write is expression that comes from my soul, and a reflection of my own life experiences…This rhapsody not only recalls memories of tropical colors and sounds, but also exposes the pulse of life—the life that I knew growing up in Puerto Rico.”

Tickets range from $24 to $85 and are on sale through the Tacoma Arts Live box office. To order tickets, call 253-591-5894 or visit Saxophone Fusion is sponsored by KeyBank, Marine Floats, South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy, Kareem Kandi World Orchestra, Northwest Public Broadcasting and KNKX.


After Wynton Marsalis, no one caused more of an uproar than James Carter did when he appeared on the New York jazz scene from his native Detroit. Carter’s debut recording, JC on the Set, issued in Japan when he was only 23 and in the States a year later in 1993, was universally acclaimed as the finest debut by a saxophonist in decades. Carter plays both tenor and soprano sax in this four-movement work.

An artist long intrigued by contrasts and hybrids, James Carter resists comfortable categorization. “You have to be totally comfortable wherever,” he says. “I feel that music equals life; that’s the way my teacher always taught me. You just can’t go through life and experience it fully with a set of blinders on. I think there’s tremendous beauty in cross-pollinations of music and influences.”

In many ways, weaving together divergent impulses is at the heart of Carter’s music. Like the late tenor sax titan Ben Webster, he’s given to furious, high-velocity solos, but is just as likely to wax sentimental, using his big, bruising tone to tenderly caress a comely melody.

Born in Detroit, Carter learned to play saxophone at age 11 and was considered a prodigy. In 1986 at the age of 17, he began touring with Wynton Marsalias. He has been prominent as a performer and recording artist on the jazz scene since the late 1980s, playing saxophones, flute, and clarinets.

Mission: Commission

Smaller-budget orchestras are taking a chance on contemporary composers, involving their communities and appealing to the next generation of music lovers.

Learn more in this article from the Winter 2019 edition of League of American Orchestra’s Symphony magazine–featuring our own maestra, Sarah Ioannides. Click to read the article now!

Symphony Tacoma’s ‘Rainier Sunrise’ Celebrates Inspirational Music through Time

Tacoma, WA— Symphony Tacoma’s March concert comprises elegant and melodic works ranging from the 18th century up to present day. Four works—one each from the contemporary, neoclassical, romantic and classical genres—make up the evening’s repertoire, which will take place on Saturday, March 23, at 7:30 pm in the Pantages Theater.

“This body of work highlights a diversity of musical styles, each inspired by something beautiful in the eyes of the composer,” says Sarah Ioannides, Symphony Tacoma Music Director. “Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can recognize Karel Butz’s reverence of Mt. Rainier’s grandeur, and the romantic in each of us can easily relate to Wagner’s declaration of love to his wife and newborn child. Perhaps not as intuitive are Stravinsky’s wish to reinvent compositions of bygone days or Mozart’s illumination of the play of tones and color between the violin and viola, but each composition is an individual gem that has captivated audiences.”

The program begins with Karel Butz’s Rainier Sunrise (2016), his homage to Mt. Rainier with expressive melodic lines accompanied by lush and open chords. “Growing up as a native Seattleite, I often took for granted Mount Rainier’s majesty,” says Butz. “When I moved elsewhere, where city skylines were the dominant feature, I realized how much I missed the natural beauty and serenity of the mountains… One particular summer hike on Rainier’s Sunrise Trail inspired a melody that wandered through my head and served as the inspiration for this composition.”

Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite (1920) is one of the first compositions of neoclassicism, a trend during the 1910s to the 1950s in which composers revived, imitated or evoked the styles of pre-Romantic music. The work was originally commissioned by Russian impresario Sergei Diahilev in an effort to rewrite a handful of scores by Baroque composer Giovanni Pergolesi with the intention of orchestrating them for a ballet. Diahilev wanted a “stylish orchestration,” but what Stravinsky brought him was a dramatically different and new arrangement, much to the chagrin of Diahilev. “People who had never heard of or cared about the originals cried ‘sacrilege’…’leave the classics alone’,” recalled Stravinksy. “To them all my answer was and is the same: you ‘respect,’ but I love.” When Pulcinella premiered in Paris in 1920, it was a triumph and launched Stravinsky’s famed neoclassical period.

Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll (1870) was originally written as a “symphonic birthday greeting” to his second wife, Cosima, to commemorate the birth of their son, Siegfried. It was first performed on Christmas morning by a small ensemble on the stairs of the Wagner’s villa. Cosima recalled the event in her journal: “As I awoke, my ear caught a sound, which swelled fuller and fuller; no longer could I imagine myself to be dreaming: music was sounding, and such music! When it died away, Richard came into my room with the children and offered me the score of the symphonic birthday poem.”

Intimate and personal, Wagner intended Siegfried Idyll for the family’s ears only, but financial pressures eventually compelled him to sell the rights to the score. He expanded the orchestration to accommodate 35 players in order to make the piece more marketable and published it in 1877.

Closing the concert is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (1779). This double concerto is viewed as a revolutionary work for Mozart, who assigned equal billing to the solo viola and the violin. Mozart worked as a court violinist for Salzburg’s Prince-Archbishop Colloredo, a role he greatly resented. He discovered in himself a deep response to the sound of the viola and the spirit it evoked—and it became his favorite instrument. It is assumed that he wrote the demanding solo viola part for himself, and he took pains to ensure that it would make a brilliant effect.

Performing the solos are Symphony Tacoma’s own Concertmaster Svend Rønning and Principal Viola Thane Lewis. “Both of these musicians are elegant, highly talented and sophisticated,” comments Ioannides. “How splendid that two of our finest musicians—who know the symphony deeply from the inside out—are providing musical inspiration and leadership as soloists in the execution of the most revered of Mozart’s concerti for more than one player!”

Tickets range from $24 to $85 and are on sale through the Tacoma Arts Live box office. To order tickets, call 253-591-5894 or visit Rainier Sunrise is sponsored by Pacific Lutheran University, South Sound Magazine and Hotel Murano.


Svend Rønning is a Pacific Northwest native and joined Symphony Tacoma as its concertmaster in 2000. In addition to his duties with Symphony Tacoma, he is chair of the String Division at Pacific Lutheran University where he is professor of music, and violinist in the Regency String Quartet. One of the most active performers in the Puget Sound region, Rønning is also artistic director of the Second City Chamber Series, Tacoma’s award-winning producer of chamber music concerts and chamber music educational programs. He holds an undergraduate degree in violin performance from Pacific Lutheran University and a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale University.

Thane Lewis studied with Steven Staryk at the University of Washington, where he received his master’s degree. He served as adjunct string faculty at Northwest University. As a chamber musician, Lewis performed in the Second City, Cascadia Sounds of Summer, Jacobsen, Mostly Nordic, Seattle Symphony Chamber Music Series, Seattle Symphony Young Composers, and the Governor’s Mansion Chamber Series. In 2000, his biography of violinist Steven Staryk, Fiddling With Life, was published by Mosaic Press of Toronto.