Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra kicks off holiday season

Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra kicks off holiday season
Photo courtesy of Matt Leavell

By Serena Bailey | Staff Reporter

The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra will perform their annual chamber orchestra concert tonight at First Presbyterian Church on Greensboro Avenue. This year’s performance, entitled “Shout for Joy,” will include music by Corelli, Bach, Wagner, Hovhaness and Mozart.  

“There's something beautiful about us going into town, going into the community and playing in a place that isn’t a concert hall,” said Adam Flatt, the orchestra’s music director. “At the church, it just feels different. It feels special and intimate and perhaps a little bit less formal.” 

Typically, the orchestra conducts their performances in the Moody Music Building Concert Hall, but every year, near the start of the holiday season, they hold a performance outside of the hall at the church as a way to increase interaction with the local community.

“It allows us not only to play somewhere else but to play things that we would seldom play in a great big concert hall,” Flatt said. “We found that people seem to really enjoy music of this kind, and we do it partially by candlelight in the beautiful church sanctuary… It has a feeling of perhaps inaugurating the holiday season to a certain extent and the beauty of smaller scale, and Baroque music seems to be just perfect for that.”

Flatt also said he sees this concert as an “artistic opportunity” for the orchestra, particularly since they will be performing music they don’t typically play.

“That is just nourishment for us," Flatt said. “The music of Bach, whose compositions require the kind of intimate space and small forces that we’re deploying and we learn so much from playing Bach. Bach requires us to be complete and total musicians technically speaking, aesthetically and spiritually speaking.”

Tonight’s performance will feature two soloists: trumpet player Eric Yates and soprano singer Susan Williams. Yates, a professor of trumpet at the University and principal trumpet for the orchestra, said that the most special part of performing with the group is getting to play with his fellow school of music colleagues who are also involved. 

“Working with people as fellow teachers is rewarding, but then when we actually do what we most love to do and to do that together, to work with each other, is really special,” he said. 

His fellow soloist is also one of those colleagues, as Williams, a soprano singer, is a professor of voice at the university. According to her, there’s no better place than a church to play some of the music on tonight’s setlist. 

“It provides a more intimate setting and a little more contact with the audience because you're closer to them, so I think that setting is a really nice way to start Thanksgiving week and holiday season,” she said. “The text to this Bach cantata is sacred, so the church atmosphere is where this type of piece would’ve been performed originally, so I think it provides a nice setting for a religious piece.” 

Jenny Mann, the orchestra’s executive director, said she sees the concert as way for the symphony to introduce themselves to people who may feel overwhelmed by the large orchestra and Moody’s concert hall. 

“If you're not accustomed to coming to concerts, it's a really great way to get introduced to classical music and concerts, and if you're a seasoned fan of orchestra music, it's just a lovely opportunity to hear pieces that aren't played very often and experience the stuff you love in a new environment,” Mann said.

Yates and Williams both said they also see the concert as way to build connections between the orchestra and the community. 

“We're always wanting to expand the audience that we have,” Yates said. “Not just bigger audiences on a given concert, but we want new people coming in who have maybe never experienced symphonic music at all. There may be some people who are not even aware that there's such a high quality, full symphony orchestra of professional musicians right here in Tuscaloosa that does regular concerts so it's important for us to get that word out.”

Tonight’s performance begins at 7 p.m. Tickets for the show can be purchased at tsoonline.org. 

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