It’s no coincidence that three of the five concerts on the Fox Valley Symphony’s 45th anniversary season calendar land on or near a holiday.
And that’s not counting the season opener, which has its own reason for festivities. “The Party Begins!,” which features returning guest violinist Philippe Quint, acknowledges the symphony’s anniversary with a birthday bash, complete with cake. The pre-concert event, for patrons who purchase separate $55 tickets, takes place at 5:45 p.m. Saturday before the 7:30 p.m. concert at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton.
“This 45th anniversary season is a season of celebration,” said music director Brian Groner. “It’s an incredible season. It’s a chance to celebrate the orchestra’s musical growth. We’re very proud of how the orchestra has progressed artistically, and this is our chance to show it off.”
Ticket prices for Saturday’s concert range from $20 to $30. Through its “Music for a Cause” program, the symphony will donate 75 percent of the face value of designated tickets to the concert’s featured nonprofit organization, the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities. Those who would like to participate should mention the code “house” when ordering tickets.
The season launches with a welcome-aboard nod to its new executive director, Rosie Cannizzo, who starts work at the symphony Oct. 3 after a national search to fill the position that Marta Weldon vacated. Weldon in May started her new role as director of development for the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music, based in Waunakee.
“I think it’s fabulous first of all that the Fox Cities has its own orchestra and that it has been supported by the community to the extent that it’s so strong and such a venerable institution,” said Cannizzo, 37, of Greenville, a Lawrence University alumna who has worked for her alma mater as director of conservatory admissions and manager of Lawrence’s Artist and Jazz Series. “I’m so excited that it’s the 45th season. That’s incredible. There aren’t that many places that have an orchestra that storied.”
Saturday’s concert features an Erich Korngold violin concerto. Quint has received a Grammy nomination for his performance of this piece, Groner said.
A concerto by Bela Bartok tests the symphony’s musical mettle, Groner said.
“It had been requested by a number of players in the orchestra that we play it,” he said. “When an orchestra plays the Bartok concerto for orchestra, it’s a rite of passage.”
During “Three Phantoms in Concert” on Oct. 29, the Saturday before Halloween, three notable tenors who have sung the title role in “The Phantom of the Opera” will perform selections from that musical and other classic shows.
“New Horizons” on Feb. 4 showcases two young guest artists, two works about the legendary freethinker and womanizer Don Juan, and a piece that symphony goers will select from titles that Groner suggests via an online voting process.
On St. Patrick’s Day, which is March 17, “Celtic Celebrations” will feature Irish composer Shaun Davey’s work “May We Never Have to Say Goodbye.”
“This is the music of the great Irish composer who has also done a number of film scores,” Groner said. “There will be some very beautiful picturesque pieces and interspersed between those are grand, dancelike pieces, which will feature the Irish instrumentalists.”
The season closes May 5 with a musical tribute to Cinco de Mayo and two works by composers Jose Pablo Moncayo and Gustavo Leone.
Looking ahead to the symphony’s long-term development and planning, Cannizzo says her previous experience in arts management, both at Lawrence and in the artistic operations department of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, will be invaluable.
“I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with concert production, both at the symphony and at Lawrence,” said Cannizzo, who also owns Lee’s Plumbing with her husband, Ralph, has taught piano and has performed as a concert accompanist. “I actually think that my experience in the (conservatory) admissions office at Lawrence is going to be really helpful to me … because I think the process of recruiting students is very similar to the process of bringing people into the orchestra in different ways, whether it’s bringing sponsors on board or just getting people more involved. It’s a relationship-building process, from the point at which you meet them to the point at which they start getting involved. You find out what they need from the orchestra, and find ways to provide that.”
When the symphony programs upcoming seasons, it will be important to both keep tradition with the classics and also form new traditions with new music, Cannizzo said.
“When we have commissioned new works, people have really enjoyed those concerts and I would like to, with Brian (Groner), explore that possibility,” she said.
Teri Abler, the symphony’s assistant principal viola, said the symphony takes its concert experiences above and beyond the music.
“The symphony offers a lot of chances for concertgoers to socialize,” said Abler, 26, of Appleton, a junior viola performance major at Lawrence who is from Milwaukee. “There are pre-concert talks. It’s much more than just going to the concert. There are ways to get to know the symphony a little bit better and ways to get to know fellow concertgoers better.”
Let the party begin.
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