‘Hip Harpist’ Returns to Tacoma for an Earth Day Concert with Symphony Tacoma

TACOMA, WA–Symphony Tacoma welcomes Grammy-nominated electric harp virtuoso Deborah Henson-Conant back to Tacoma for a special Earth Day performance. Earth Songs from the Harp will take place on Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 2:30 pm in Tacoma’s Pantages Theater.

For this concert, Henson-Conant and Maestra Sarah Ioannides are planning a celebration of the joy, passion and humor of living on Planet Earth. Composed by Henson-Conant for electric harp, voice and orchestra, the music is inspired by Jazz, Latin, Blues, Musical Theater and Flamenco. Selections range from Belinda, a tender, melodic tribute to a tree, to Catcher in the Rye, a jungle warrior tribute to J.D. Salinger’s literary masterpiece, and Nightingale, a sweet lullaby.

Henson-Conant’s previous Tacoma performance resulted in a sold-out show in 2011. “I am thrilled to bring Deborah back!” says Ioannides. “She is one of the most unique and exciting artists we have presented, and this concert provides an opportunity for all to be a part of the wonder and diversity she brings.”

Henson-Conant’s voice has been compared to Carly Simon and Joan Baez; her playing to Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix; and her humor to Victor Borge and Eddie Izzard. Her signature instrument, the “DHC Light” electric body harp, was invented by Henson-Conant in collaboration with the French harp-builder CAMAC. “I wanted to take an 80-pound concert harp and shrink it down to an instrument I could strap on my hip and play like an electric guitar,” she says.  It allows her to stride onto stage like a rock star and delight audiences with songs and stories and a performance that is bigger-than-life, inventive and unexpected.

An ensemble of local harpists will accompany Henson-Conant on stage for a portion of the concert and harpists will be available with their instruments after the concert for guests to interact with. Tickets start at $19.50 and are available for purchase at www.symphonytacoma.org or by calling the Broadway Center box office at 253.591.5894.

Earth Songs from the Harp is sponsored by KeyBank Foundation and Marine Floats, with support from the Tacoma Philharmonic Endowment.

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About Deborah Henson-Conant:

Deborah Henson-Conant is a Grammy-nominated electric harp virtuoso with a wicked sense of humor, a gutsy set of vocal chords and a theatrical flair. As an instrumentalist, she has brought the harp from the background and put it front and center. As a composer, she’s created concert, symphonic and music-theater works, from serious chamber operas and song cycles, to flamenco-inspired concertos and fantasies. She has released over a dozen albums, composed nearly 50 symphonic works and performed internationally for nearly three decades.  http://www.hipharp.com/

 

Symphony Tacoma showcases trumpet with little-known Beethoven gem

TACOMA, WA – Principal Trumpet Charles Butler makes his solo debut with Symphony Tacoma in the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major. Penned by Franz Joseph Haydn in 1796, this work highlighted what was a “new-fangled” instrument to audiences of yore! Haydn was known for expanding musical forms and inventing new ones—so he jumped at the opportunity to compose for a new form of trumpet that became the forerunner to today’s version.

Music Director Sarah Ioannides could think of no other player more suited to be featured as the trumpet soloist than the Symphony’s new principal trumpet, Charles Butler. This NW living legend has played under the batons of Itzhak Perlman and Zubin Mehta and toured the world as a soloist, from Malaysia to Spain. All this he accomplished while holding major posts with the Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Portland Opera, and others.

Maestra Ioannides knew only very unique repertoire could complement this revolutionary Haydn concerto performed by a new star of the Symphony, so she paired it with Beethoven’s mythic Symphony No. 10, which existed only as fragments until reconstructed in 1988 by Barry Cooper. “The result,” Mr. Cooper wrote in his notes, “is obviously not exactly what Beethoven would have written, and many questions still remain, but the reconstruction does provide at least a rough impression of what he intended.”

The concert concludes with Brahms’ gripping Symphony No. 1, the groundbreaking symphonic work that broke the post-Beethoven’s 9th “writer’s block.” Brahms, who struggled with anxiety, compared himself with his predecessor, stating that “writing a symphony is no laughing matter.” Known for a resemblance to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” this entire March program will have audiences leaving the concert hall in a state of optimism.

Generous sponsors of this concert include: EPIC Law and South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy. Ticket prices start at $19.50 and are available for purchase at www.symphonytacoma.org or by calling 253.591.5894 or 1.800.291.7593. Tickets will also be sold at the Rialto Box Office.

Symphony Tacoma Voices Celebrates ‘Turning of the Seasons’

TACOMA, WA – Dr. Geoffrey Boers will conduct the talented Symphony Tacoma Voices in Turning of the Seasons, a choral concert that celebrates the transition from the darkness of winter to the warmth of spring. The performance will take place on Friday, March 16 at 7:30 pm at Christ Episcopal Church, 310 N K Street in downtown Tacoma.

The program features two of Maurice Duruflé’s most prominent compositions. The solemnity of winter will be characterized by Requiem, Duruflé’s longest and most substantial work. Amy Boers will accompany the Voices on Christ Episcopal’s Brombaugh organ and images of historic paintings and contemporary news photographs will be projected on the walls of the church to portray themes of the Passion of the Christ story.

Duruflé’s rarely-heard Missa Cum Jubilo will kick off the journey into spring. Works by some beloved contemporary composers—Eric Barnum, Jake Runestad and Kim Arnesén—will celebrate nature and love of springtime.

Tickets are $25 and are available for purchase at www.symphonytacoma.org or by calling 253.591.5894 or 1.800.291.7593. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

About Symphony Tacoma Voices – The Voices are led by Chorus Director Geoffrey Boers, who is also Director of Choral Activities at the University of Washington in Seattle. The dedicated all-volunteer choir is a blend of gifted amateur and professional singers who meet weekly throughout the season, working hard to achieve a professional-caliber ensemble to prepare for performances with Symphony Tacoma, stand-alone concerts and projects with other musical organizations in the region.

Press Release: Electric Harp phenom steps in to perform on Earth Day

Maestra Sarah Ioannides has created another brilliant musical experience for this Spring! She has turned the initial disappointment that Opus X could not make their scheduled appearance, into excitement and  buzz! Ioannides knew only the most extraordinary, dazzling artist could fill that slot, and she set out to find the perfect fit.

We now are thrilled to announce that on April 22, Symphony Tacoma will be featuring quest artist Deborah Henson-Conant, the internationally renowned, Grammy nominated “Jimi Hendrix of the harp.”

“Virtuoso out-of-the box harpist Deborah Henson-Conant is known as the rockin’ bad girl of the harp world. She took the ancient instrument off its pedestal, cocked it on her hip, and made it play everything from Mexican cantina music to Brubeck to gut-bucket blues and sounds like Van Halen.”  — NPR

Symphony Tacoma is thrilled to reunite with Henson-Conant—composer, performer, singer, author, cartoonist, comedian, electric harpist—who last performed together to a 100% SOLD-OUT house on March 27, 2011.

For this Tacoma engagement taking place on Earth Day, April 22, 2018, Henson-Conant and Ioannides are planning a celebration of our connection with each other and the Earth. Music, song, storytelling, rhythm and non-verbal communication are among the earliest ways that humans begin to learn about these relationships. Deborah Henson-Conant will remind us all that music and performance is far more than mere entertainment; it is a profound reflection of our culture, our values and our identity.

Deborah Henson-Conant, with her signature rockstar leather-and-boots attire, has jammed with the likes of: Steven Tyler, Bobby McFerrin, Rufus Reid, Doc Severinsen and Marvin Hamlisch. The Grammy-nominated artist was on NBC, CBS, CNN, and has starred in two PBS specials.

But this soloist also sings angelically, drawing comparisons to Joan Baez and Carly Simon. As a trained educator who has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, she is sure to mesmerize and enlighten our community with her vivacious humor, intellect and storytelling abilities!
Sponsored by Marine Floats, with support from the Tacoma Philharmonic Endowment, the upcoming concert will take place Sunday, April 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma. Tickets start at $19.50. For additional information: www.symphonytacoma.org.

Symphony Tacoma Welcomes Interim Executive Director

Kit Evans takes the helm as national search begins for new executive director

Former Hilltop Artists Executive Director Kit Evans begins her tenure as interim executive director of Symphony Tacoma this week. Evans will lead the organization while the board of directors conducts a national search to replace former Executive Director Andy Buelow, who announced his resignation in November.

“I’m thrilled to step into this organization during such an exciting time,” Evans said. “Under Andy Buelow’s leadership for the past 10 years, Symphony Tacoma achieved a remarkable number of milestones. Because of the growth and successes of this past decade, there’s a very strong foundation for the next executive director.”

Evans, who received an MA from Antioch Seattle and her BA from the Evergreen State College, brings over 40 years of experience as an executive director for Hilltop Artists and other organizations, including domestic violence shelters, sexual assault centers, AIDS housing and the arts. While creating organizations, developing programs and advocating, she has also raised over 22 million dollars for programs and facilities. Evans has been active on multiple boards and commissions throughout Tacoma and Pierce County; is a Senior Fellow in the American Leadership Forum; and is a member of Tacoma’s Rotary 8.

Buelow, who left Symphony Tacoma to become the executive director of the West Michigan Symphony in Muskegon, Michigan, led Symphony Tacoma into an era of increased patron loyalty and financial health. Under Buelow’s leadership, Symphony Tacoma hired Music Director Sarah Ioannides, one of the top female conductors in the world (Lebrecht’s Woman Conductors: The Power List). Ioannides recently relocated permanently to Tacoma and signed a contract extension that will see her conducting Symphony Tacoma through the 2023-2024 season.

“We’re extremely well positioned to attract a highly qualified new executive director and have begun a national search,” said Mike De Luca, president of the board of directors. “The process of finding that person will be an opportunity to align everyone around the organization’s mission: Building Community Through Music.”

The board has engaged Arts Consulting Group (ACG), the leading provider of executive search services for the arts and culture industry, to support the search for a new executive director.

Symphony Tacoma Launches Search for New Executive Director

After ten years in Tacoma, Andy Buelow will become new executive director of West Michigan Symphony

After nearly a decade as executive director of Symphony Tacoma, Andy Buelow has announced his resignation, effective December 31. Buelow will become executive director of the West Michigan Symphony in Muskegon, Michigan.

“My wife Beth and I have agonized over this decision,” said Buelow. “We’ve built many close personal and professional relationships here in the Northwest. While my passion for Symphony Tacoma is as strong as ever, my heart-home has been calling to me all the time.”

Buelow came to Tacoma in 2007 from the Traverse Symphony Orchestra in Michigan. During his tenure, Symphony Tacoma has become recognized for its musical excellence, audience engagement and strategic collaborations. Since Buelow’s arrival the organization has operated debt-free, doubled its Endowment and increased operating reserves.

“We’re extremely grateful for Andy’s dedicated leadership over the last decade,” said Mike De Luca, president of the board of directors. “While we hate to lose Andy, Symphony Tacoma is well-positioned to attract a capable new leader. The process of finding that person will be an opportunity to align everyone around the organization’s mission: Building Community Through Music.”

When Symphony Tacoma’s longtime maestro, Harvey Felder, announced his retirement in 2012, Buelow spearheaded a two-year international search for a successor. The new music director, Sarah Ioannides, has brought a heightened level of artistic vibrancy to Symphony Tacoma with her creative programming and inclusive leadership style.

“Andy is a great partner,” said Ioannides, “and I feel fortunate to have worked with him over the last three years. He has helped set the stage for the next phase of artistic growth and community engagement.”

With Sarah on the podium, the Symphony has expanded its community presence with a lengthened subscription season, a new family series, string orchestra coaching at underserved area high schools, and free community concerts.

“I believe it’s a good time for this transition, both for me and for the Symphony,” said Buelow. “I feel deeply satisfied with what we have accomplished together, especially considering the growth since Sarah’s arrival.”

A search committee will begin a national search for a successor immediately.

A heartwarming Sounds of the Season with Tacoma Youth Chorus

TACOMA, WA – The Pantages Theater stage will be brimming with musicians and instruments, including singers from 4th grade through high school, when Symphony Tacoma presents the annual Sounds of the Season program, featuring the Tacoma Youth Chorus. A cherished tradition in Tacoma, the pageant-style concert—conducted by Sarah Ioannides and Judy Herrington—features beloved carols, hymns and songs, including “The Little Drummer Boy,” “My Favorite Things,” “Joy to the World” and “Greensleeves,” among many others.  Held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 3, the performance is sponsored by Columbia Bank, Aetna, and Stadium Thriftway; The News Tribune is the media sponsor.  For tickets, starting at $19.50, call 800-291-7593 or 253-591-5894, or visit www.symphonytacoma.org.

Joining Ioannides and Herrington will be soprano Leann Conley-Holcom, who directs the TYC Concert Choir and is active internationally as a freelance singer, clinician and guest conductor. She will be featured in the Domine Deus from Vivaldi’s Gloria, the Coventry & Sussex Carol by 17th century priest Luke Wadding, “My Favorite Things,” and more.

The program is studded with other great names and titles in choral and seasonal music: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Dance, Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on “Greensleeves,” Eric Whitacre’s “Glow,” John Rutter’s “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” Prokofiev’s “Troika,” and Leroy Anderson’s “Christmas Festival.” Symphony Tacoma’s frequent collaborator Bo Ayars has created arrangements of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” and Richard Kountz’s “The Sleigh.” Sarah Ioannides has orchestrated Judy Herrington’s composition for women’s choir, “Stars Tonight,” which will receive its premiere during the performance!

“Tacoma Youth Chorus is looking forward to once again sharing our music with Symphony Tacoma and its audience for Sounds of the Season!” Judy Herrington stated.  “Sarah Ioannides is a remarkable conductor, and I know our singers will be inspired by her artistry and technique.  We are excited and honored to share in this collaboration!”

The Tacoma-based choral arts program, now in its 26th season, is a place for kids to be themselves and have fun with music. It includes seven ensembles, from the introductory Music Makers to the advanced Chorale.  Featured in this performance will be the Concert Choir for grades 4-5, the Chamber Choir for grades 6-8, the Women’s Choir for grades 9-12, and the Chorale for grades 9-12.

When Illness Strikes a Soloist

Unforeseen illness can wreak havoc when it strikes a professional classical concert soloist just days before a scheduled performance.

The schedule of an in-demand soloist is typically set at least a year in advance, with a lengthy planning window ensuing. Travel, accommodations, rehearsal schedules, hall bookings, and other details are spelled out in contracts and riders painstakingly negotiated between the booking agency and the presenter, often taking six months or more to complete.

In addition, classical concertos are complex and difficult, requiring lengthy preparation. Even the most gifted artist can only keep so many pieces under his or her fingers. Soloists thus usually have a relatively short list of works ready for performance in any given concert season.

For all these reasons, classical music organizations are not particularly adept at turning on a dime when the unforeseen strikes.

The unforeseen struck recently when Symphony Tacoma officials received a call from pianist Andrew Tyson’s agency—just three days before the concert—that the artist was too ill to fulfill his November 18 engagement. Tyson was slated to make his regional debut performing the Ravel Piano Concerto in G at Tacoma’s Pantages Theater, with Sarah Ioannides conducting.

We all know the old adage “the show must go on,” but part of being a professional is knowing when you’re too ill to give a performance your best–and bowing out in time for the presenting organization to have a shot at replacing you.  In this difficult circumstance, Tyson did the right thing. It cannot have been an easy decision for him.

Fortunately, the quick-thinking Sarah Ioannides immediately texted pianist Charlie Albright—with whom she had just collaborated in Philadelphia the week before—to see if by any chance he was available and knew the concerto.  Charlie, who has been acclaimed as “among the most gifted musicians of his generation” by The Washington Post, hails from Centralia, just an hour down I5 from Tacoma.  He responded right away: yes, he was available, and yes he was ready, willing and able to perform the formidable Ravel concerto on a scant three days’ notice!

This was truly a happy solution.  The Pacific Northwest native had previously appeared with Symphony Tacoma in November 2014, so he was already known and loved by local audiences.  As The New York Times put it, he has “jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity meshed with a distinctive musicality,” and to add to the package, a friendly, outgoing and generous personality that is the same onstage or off.  Finally, he has the rare talent of being a master improviser.  He knocked the ball out of the park with his dazzling performance of the Ravel concerto, and then played an encore improvised on the spot after asking audience members to pick the first four notes.

Sometimes turning on a dime brings positive artistic results. The unforeseen may start out by bringing havoc, but if properly embraced it can result in high flying!

Pianist Andrew Tyson cancels due to illness; Charlie Albright steps in at 11th hour for Ravel Concerto

Pianist Andrew Tyson has canceled his engagement with Symphony Tacoma due to illness. The young artist was slated to make his regional debut performing the Ravel Piano Concerto in G on Saturday, November 18 at the Pantages Theater, with Sarah Ioannides conducting. Fortunately, pianist Charlie Albright—hailed as “among the most gifted musicians of his generation” by The Washington Post—is available to step in, and, even more remarkably, is willing to perform the formidable Ravel concerto on a scant three days’ notice!

Conducted by Sarah Ioannides, the concert will also include the Firebird Suite of Igor Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The performance will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 18 in the Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma. Sponsors include Skelley Piano and Alaska Airlines. Mr. Albright’s appearance is underwritten by the Tacoma Philharmonic Endowment Fund, held in trust by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets, starting at $19.50, call 800-291-7593 or 253-591-5894, or visit www.symphonytacoma.org

“We are delighted and grateful that Charlie is able to join us on such short notice,” said Music Director Sarah Ioannides, who collaborated with Mr. Albright in a concert with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia earlier this month. During that concert he demonstrated his well- known talent—rare among classical musicians—for improvisation, offering what critic David Patrick Stearns called a “distinctive” improvised version of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” The Pacific Northwest native previously appeared with Symphony Tacoma in November 2014, performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1.

Mr. Albright has been praised for his “jaw-dropping technique and virtuosity meshed with a distinctive musicality” by The New York Times. Recipient of the prestigious 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant and 2010 Gilmore Young Artist Award, Albright won the 2014 Ruhr Klavier Festival Young Artist Award presented by Marc-André Hamelin (Germany) and the 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions.

“Poet of the piano” to make regional debut with Symphony Tacoma

31-year-old pianist Andrew Tyson—called a “poet of the piano” by BBC Radio 3 and a “phenomenal musician” by La Libre—will make his regional debut with Symphony Tacoma in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major.  Conducted by Sarah Ioannides, the concert will also include the Firebird Suite of Igor Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The performance will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 18 in the Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma.  Sponsors include Skelley Piano and Alaska Airlines. For tickets, starting at $19.50, call 800-291-7593 or 253-591-5894, or visit www.symphonytacoma.org

“Tyson is a real poet of the piano,” wrote BBC Radio 3. “His playing is exquisite, flexible, subtle, colorful, passionate, and daring.”   “A phenomenal musician, a refined artist, an accomplished pianist,” raved La Libre. “Tyson employed his immense skills and his musical genius to serve us an enchanted vision.” As winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 2011, Tyson was awarded YCA’s Paul A. Fish Memorial Prize and the John Browning Memorial Prize. In 2013, he was the Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient. He is a Laureate of the Queen Elisabeth Competition and won the Eastern Music Festival Competition at the age of 15.

Recent performances include the Chopin Society in Hong Kong; Caramoor, New York; and Piano Aux Jacobins in Toulouse, France.  Later this season he performs in Music at Evergreen; with the Kansas City Symphony; and the Haydn Philharmonic Orchestra in Vienna.

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G dates from 1929 when, after having achieved financial security through the success of Bolero, the French composer began a concerto as a showcase for his pianistic abilities. Although he was a gifted virtuoso, the resulting work proved too formidable for his talents. He decided to pass along the premiere to his protégé, Marguerite Long.  Influenced by Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, the concerto is among a number of compositions during this period, by different composers, reflecting the popularity of American jazz.

Also featured on the program will be Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, the 27-year-old composer’s first major full-length work. Originally scored as a ballet, and based upon a Russian folk tale, the score contains many brilliant effects, including horn and trombone glissandos (sliding between pitches) and the natural-harmonic string glissando near the beginning, which the bass chord touches off like a Catherine-wheel.

Concluding the program will be Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, hailed as one of the most “towering symphonic structures in our whole literature” by music experts. The opening “fate” fanfare, centered around only three notes, reflects the two-note main motif of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, which it rhythmically recalls.