2019-2020 ASO season kicks off this weekend

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The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents the first concert of the 2019-2020 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks season: Scheherazade, Saturday, September 28th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, September 29th at 3:00 p.m. at the Robinson Center.

The ASO collaborates with ACANSA Arts Festival of the South to present American trio, Time for Three, an ensemble that “defies any traditional genre classification,” and prestigious conductor, JoAnn Falletta. The concert will also feature Ravel’s La Valse, Higdon’s Concerto 4-3 and will conclude with Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful musical telling of the Arabian Nights legends, Scheherazade. The Masterworks Series is sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.

Interim Artistic Director, Geoffrey Robson gives these notes: “This program, led by distinguished conductor Joann Falletta, is vivid, lively, and bursting with character. Ravel’s La Valse was conceived as a ballet and a tribute to the Viennese waltz. Its relentless, adrenaline-soaked rhythmic drive pushes the orchestra to its limits and by design almost breaks apart at the finish. American composing phenom Jennifer Higdon wrote her Concerto 4-3 for the group performing it, Time for Three. The music is steeped in bluegrass, reflecting the eclectic tastes of the performers, who perform with an edgy and multicultural style. Last on the program is the great symphonic favorite Scheherazade, based on the Arabian Nights folk tales. Four movements of colorful music tell four stories, connected by themes for the dangerous king and the brilliant storyteller Scheherazade herself.”

Tickets are $16, $36, $57, and $70; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 1. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at https://www.arkansassymphony.org/freekids.

First Hall High School graduation – May 28, 1958

Another historic high school graduation took place on May 28, 1958.  It was the first graduation ceremony for Little Rock Hall High School.

The school opened in September 1957 as Little Rock’s newest high school, located in “west” Little Rock.  (It is sometimes listed as the second Little Rock high school, ignoring the fact that Horace Mann and the Vo Tech high schools existed.)

The first graduating class was smaller than future classes would be.  Because they had attended Central High School for their sophomore and junior years, many seniors who were zoned for Hall High chose to attend Central for their senior year.

Instead of processing in to Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Hall High seniors entered to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”  The music for ceremony also included “The Star Spangled Banner,” Scarmolin’s “My Creed” and Handel’s “Sarabande and Bouree.”

Principal Terrell E. Powell (who would be tapped as superintendent of the district in a few months) presided over the ceremonies.  Superintendent Virgil Blossom (whose daughter had graduated from Central High the day before) spoke briefly to introduce the School Board members.  One of them, R. A. Lile, presented the students with their diplomas.

There were 109 seniors listed in the graduation program, seven were honor graduates.  The senior class officers were: Redding Stevenson, president; Amanda Jeanne “Toppy” Cameron, vice president; and Karl E. Stahlkopf, secretary. Porter Briggs was the first student body president. Linda Overstreet was student body vice president and Linda Neathery was 12th grade representative on the student council.

The Senior speakers were:  Anita Kluglose (“Toward a Pathless Wood”), Karl Stahlkopf (“Toward the Mysterious Stars”), Linda Neathery (“Toward Majestic Mountains”) and Thomas York (“Toward Unlimited Horizons”).  Other students participating were Redding Stevenson presenting the senior gift, Mary Ellen Lenggenhager giving the invocation, and Michael Ebert giving the benediction.

The 2019-2020 Arkansas Symphony Orchestra MasterWorks season is announced

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO) announced its 2019-2020 Masterworks which includes guest conductors and a concert conducted by Geoffrey Robson, ASO’s Associate Conductor who has been named Interim Artistic Director.

The Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series opens Sep. 28-29, 2019, with a concert presented in partnership with ACANSA Arts Festival of the South. Luminary conductor JoAnn Falletta is the first featured guest conductor, and American trio Time for Three is featured in work written for them by former ASO Conductor in Residence Jennifer Higdon. The program also features Ravel’s La Valse and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

ASO’s casual concert and street party, Beethoven and Blue Jeans, returns Nov. 9-10 and features works by two Arkansas composers: William Grant Still’s Festive Overture and Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement. Karen Walwyn, a specialist in the piano works of Price, is the featured soloist, and Andrew Grams will conduct the concert.

The Masterworks series ends May 2-3, 2020, featuring music from Fanny Mendelssohn and Schubert along with the return of prestigious cellist, Zuill Bailey, performing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.

The 2019-2020 season coincides with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote. ASO is celebrating by featuring two outstanding women conductors, JoAnn Falletta and Carolyn Kuan, two women soloists, pianist Karen Walwyn and violinist Simone Porter, and by performing works from four women composers: Pulitzer Prize-winner and former ASO Composer in Residence, Jennifer Higdon, an active and popular composer today, Little Rock’s own Florence Price, Lili Boulanger, and Fanny Mendelssohn.

The full Masterworks series includes:

  • JoAnn Falletta and Time for Three, Sep. 28 & 29, 219, with music from Higdon, Ravel, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
  • Beethoven & Blue Jeans, Nov. 9 & 10, 2019, ASO’s annual casual concert, featuring works from Arkansas composers Florence Price and William Grant Still and guest conductor Andrew Grams.
  • Copland’s Rodeo, Jan. 25-26, 2020, with guest conductor Carolyn Kuan, and music from Ginastera and Bartok;
  • Sibelius & Debussy, Feb. 29 – Mar. 1, 2020, conducted by Geoffrey Robson, and featuring a multimedia work: In Seven Days: A Concerto for Piano and Moving Image, with pianist Andrius Zlabys.
  • Symphonie Fantastique, Apr. 18-19, 2020, with guest conductor Eric Jacobsen, and violinist Simone Porter performing the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3 in addition to the titular orchestral showpiece by Berlioz.
  • Zuill Bailey Plays Dvorak, May 2 & 3, 2020, with guest conductor Vladimir Kulenovic.

The concerts will be at Robinson Center Performance Hall.

Home for the Holidays with the ASO and Maestro Philip Mann this weekend

Maestro Philip Mann and the musicians of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra welcome singers Maria Fasciano and Vernon Di Carlo, Arkansas Chamber Singers, and the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band to take the Robinson Center Performance Hall stage on December 14-16.

Kids aged one to one hundred will enjoy fun holiday favorites like “Silver Bells,” “O Holy Night,” and “White Christmas,” fun selections from The Nutcracker featuring steel drums, brassy Henry Mancini arrangements and winter-themed orchestral music.

Concerts are tonight at 7:30, Saturday, December 15 at 7:30 and Sunday, December 16 at 3:00.  Because Sunday’s show is nearly sold out, the Entergy Kids’ Ticket program has been extended to tonight’s concert.

ANDERSON – Sleigh Ride
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV – Dance of the Tumblers from The Snow Maiden Suite
LIVINGSTON/EVANS arr. Holcombe – Silver Bells (Vernon Di Carlo, vocal)
MANCINI – Joy
ADAMS/Ryden – O Holy Night (Maria Fasciano, vocal)
BERLIN/Moss – White Christmas (Vernon Di Carlo, vocal)
BIZET – IV. Farandole from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2
TYZIK – Twelve Gifts of Christmas (Maria Fasciano, vocal)

~INTERMISSION~

MANCINI/Hayes – Christmas Rhapsody
TCHAIKOVSKY – Selections from The Nutracker (with the Episcopal Collegiate School Steel Drum Band)
RICHMAN – Hanukkah Festival Overture
STYNE/Hayes – The Christmas Waltz (with chorus)
COURTNEY – Festival Gloria (with chorus)
HERMAN/Hayes – We Need a Little Christmas (with chorus)
FINNEGAN – Singalong

Extras!
Pre-concert happenings in the marble lobby:

  • Friday: Concertmaster Andrew Irvin’s violin caroling ensemble
  • Saturday: Brent Shires (ASO horn) leads his Hornaments ensemble
  • Sunday: Annual Children’s Fair (begins at 2 p.m.)

Little Rock Look Back: First Hall High Graduation in 1958

Another historic high school graduation took place on May 28, 1958.  It was the first graduation ceremony for Little Rock Hall High School.

The school opened in September 1957 as Little Rock’s newest high school, located in “west” Little Rock.  (It is sometimes listed as the second Little Rock high school, ignoring the fact that Horace Mann high school existed.)

The first graduating class was smaller than future classes would be.  Because they had attended Central High School for their sophomore and junior years, many seniors who were zoned for Hall High chose to attend Central for their senior year.

Instead of processing in to Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance,” the Hall High seniors entered to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.”  The music for ceremony also included “The Star Spangled Banner,” Scarmolin’s “My Creed” and Handel’s “Sarabande and Bouree.”

Principal Terrell E. Powell (who would be tapped as superintendent of the district in a few months) presided over the ceremonies.  Superintendent Virgil Blossom (whose daughter had graduated from Central High the day before) spoke briefly to introduce the School Board members.  One of them, R. A. Lile, presented the students with their diplomas.

There were 109 seniors listed in the graduation program, seven were honor graduates.  The senior class officers were: Redding Stevenson, president; Amanda Jeanne “Toppy” Cameron, vice president; and Karl E. Stahlkopf, secretary. Porter Briggs was the first student body president. Linda Overstreet was student body vice president and Linda Neathery was 12th grade representative on the student council.

The Senior speakers were:  Anita Kluglose (“Toward a Pathless Wood”), Karl Stahlkopf (“Toward the Mysterious Stars”), Linda Neathery (“Toward Majestic Mountains”) and Thomas York (“Toward Unlimited Horizons”).  Other students participating were Redding Stevenson presenting the senior gift, Mary Ellen Lenggenhager giving the invocation, and Michael Ebert giving the benediction.

Robinson Center Redux- January

WAVW LR Jan65Since Robinson Center Music Hall is closed for renovations and restoration, this year the Culture Vulture will take a monthly look back at some of the featured attractions which have played there.  This month looks at January of years ending in “0” and “5.”

As noted earlier on the blog, even before the February 1940 opening of the music hall, the lover level exhibition hall was playing host to events including basketball games.

By 1945, things were well underway on both levels. Buddy Johnson & his Orchestra were playing a dance for African Americans in the lower level on January 10. Upstairs events ranged from a lecture on Christian Science (January 7), a play Good Night Ladies (January 17), a lecture by Dr. Emil Ludwig on Germany after World War II, and Paul Draper & Larry Adler in concert (January 23).

In 1950, Tallulah Bankhead starred in a revival of Private Lives (January 13), a Passion Play booked it for over a week (January 21 – 28) and a double-header of Shakespeare plays held court on January 30. Margaret Webster’s Shakespeare Company played The Taming of the Shrew in the afternoon and Julius Caesar in the evening. Also that month the Arkansas State Symphony (a forerunner to today’s Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) gave a concert on the 17th.

A highlight of 1955 was a women’s wrestling match on January 4 in the lower level.

In 1960, two theatrical productions were presented. On January 8 & 9, Odd Man In was presented “pre-Broadway” (it didn’t make it). Much more successful was the national tour of My Fair Lady from January 18 through 23.

Though Little Rock native Ben Piazza had helped develop the play, he wasn’t in the cast when the national tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? played Robinson on Januayr 25, 1965.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Robinson was at a crossroads.  Many performers wanted to play at larger spaces (such as Barton Coliseum) or smaller venues (such as churches or the UALR recital hall).  In 1970, the Happy Goodman Family gave a concert on January 21.  Five years later they returned on January 10, 1975 in a concert with Vestel Goodman. The next night, Johnny Paycheck was in concert.  On January 21, 1975, Robert Alda headlined a tour of The Sunshine Boys.

Orchestra concerts dominated most January offerings from 1980 onward.  On January 27, 1980, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra gave a concert at Robinson. In 1985, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presented concerts (January 19 & 20) with Misha Dichter, pianist.  January 1990 saw the ASO with Stephen Burns, trumpet on January 20 & 21.

In 1995, the ASO performed Rimsky-Korskaov’s Scheherazade on January 13 & 14.  Composer, pianist and conductor Marvin Hamlisch highlighted a concert with the ASO on January 22 in 2000. Earlier in the month the ASO performed Der Freischatz on the 15 & 16th.  The day before Hamlisch, the Martins were in concert.

2005 highlights included the ASO with Elmer Oliveira, violinist (Jan 15 & 16), the ASO Side by Side concert (where Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians and ASO musicians perform together) on January 29 and the ASO Family Series: Secrets of the Orchestra on January 30.  The Irish dance spectacular Riverdance played Robinson from January 17 through 19.

Five years ago, Ron “Tater Salad” White performed his stand-up at Robinson on January 8, 2010. Later that month the ASO offered Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto on January 16 & 17. The 2010 ASO Side by Side concert was on January 30.  On January 20 the Shen Yun Chinese cultural performance took place in Robinson.

Little Rock Wind Symphony – Pictures at an Exhibition

lrwindsymphonyThe Little Rock Wind Symphony wraps up the 2013-2014 season tonight.  The program is entitled “Pictures at an Exhibition” and features Alisa Coffey, harp.

The selections with will feature the Little Rock Wind Symphony are:

  • Rimsky-Korsakov / Leidzen: Procession of the Nobles
    Claude Debussy Wyman: Danses sacrée et profane
    Mussorgsky / Patterson: Pictures at an Exhibition

Founded in 1994, the Little Rock Wind Symphony has been under the baton of Dr. Karen Fannin since 2006.  The Little Rock Wind Symphony is composed of over 40 full-time members and guest artists.

The concert tonight will be at 7:30pm at Second Presbyterian Church.