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Category: Symphony


Tacoma Symphony launches new kids’ series with “Peter and the Wolf,” both in the Rialto Theater and at Joint Base Lewis McChord

Trying instruments at the petting zoo at a TSO family concert. Courtesy photo.
Trying instruments at the petting zoo at a TSO family concert. Courtesy photo.

Kids need classical music – we’re all familiar with the studies that repeatedly show how much it improves grades, test scores, teamwork, concentration and behavior. But sometimes it’s hard to get them to live concerts, due to programming, timing, location or cost. The Tacoma Symphony, in partnership with Ted Brown Music and the University of Puget Sound Community Music department, is taking up the challenge by developing its once-a-year family concert into a series of four weekend afternoon shows at various venues which explore the four different instrumental sections of the orchestra with music kids will love. And they begin this weekend.

First up is “Peter and the Wolf.” Yes, it’s an old chestnut for kids’ concerts, but that’s because the tale of a slightly disobedient boy who saves his bird friends from a wicked wolf is a perennial crowd-pleaser, together with the score by Sergei Prokofiev that perfectly caricatures Peter, the bird, the duck, the cat, the wolf, the grumpy grandpa and the ridiculous hunters who make up the story. Conductor Harvey Felder will also explain the different instruments that make up the wind section of the orchestra. Read more »


Muscly virtuosity from Leon Bates and atmospheric playing from Tacoma Symphony make a pleasant, if not thrilling, season opener

It seemed like the perfect combination for a season opening: a jazzy first half, a terrific pianist, a new piece and an ocean-themed centerpiece. But despite some impressive playing, the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra’s concert last Saturday in the Pantages was less thrilling than it might have been, thanks to Leon Bates’ relentless keyboard attack, some balance issues and Debussy’s “La Mer” falling a little short of opening-night grandeur.

All was well for the first piece, Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture,” which the TSO played with rhythmic aplomb (after an initial rockiness in the percussion) and a smooth big-band sound from the brass, although it would have been nice to hear the woodwinds more, including the subtle clarinet cadenza. This problem persisted through the evening into the wind-colored Debussy, and makes you wonder if putting winds and brass on more risers would help overcome the extreme deadness of the Pantages’ acoustic.

On to Bates, then, who plays just like the bodybuilding enthusiast he is: muscly tone, firm attack and meaty hands that could eat Gershwin concertos for breakfast. Read more »


Tacoma Symphony Orchestra takes to the sea for its season opener with Leon Bates this Saturday at the Pantages

Pianist Leon Bates will play with the Tacoma Symphony this weekend. Courtesy photo.

The Tacoma Symphony might be launching into a creative and unusual season this year including video game music, new compositions and a double bass concerto (watch the GO cover in November for the story) but for the season opener this Saturday at the Pantages it’s straight-down-the-line Gershwin and Debussy, featuring bodybuilding pianist Leon Bates as soloist and taking its theme from the ocean.

Bates will play in the Gershwin half of the program, playing the jazz composer’s Concerto in F after the orchestra opens with the Cuban Overture. Known both for fiery, energetic performances and his two-hour-a-day dedication to bodybuilding (the two might just be related), Bates is one of the soloists TSO director Harvey Felder wanted to invite back to perform during his last two years at the orchestra’s helm.

“Leon played with us seven or eight years ago,” says Felder. “He’s a gracious, kind gentleman and a superb musician. During my last two years I’m inviting guest artists I’ve worked with who are both gracious and excellent players. He was first on the list.” Read more »


It’s official: Friday is Northwest Sinfonietta Day, says Governor Gregoire

Goodness knows we don’t need any more official “days” (“Walk Your Dog Day,” “Brush Your Teeth Day”) but this one is actually well-deserved. This Friday has been officially proclaimed Northwest Sinfonietta Day in the state of Washington by Governor Christine Gregoire, and it’s largely because of the supreme effort this local orchestra has made in creating a musical bond with a chamber orchestra in Tacoma’s sister city of Cienfuegos, Cuba. (You can read the main story here.)

For the last two years Sinfonietta director Neil Birnbaum has been working hard alongside congressman Norm Dicks, senator Maria Cantwell and

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Tacoma Symphony Orchestra grant doubles endowment; another allows new development position

The Tacoma Symphony Orchestra is the recipient of two new grants totaling $554,000, one effectively doubling the organization’s endowment and the other allowing the formation of a new position to develop the orchestra’s patronage, executive director Andy Buelow announced this week.

A $419,000 gift from the estate of George A. Lagerquist, pledged 13 years ago, was recently given in completion to the Tacoma Symphony, for whose endowment fund it was earmarked. Lagerquist, who died in 2003, had made the pledge in 1999 in honor of his wife Mary, who died unexpectedly last year. A trustee and benefactor of

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Beethoven’s triumphant Ninth Symphony closes the season for Tacoma Symphony Orchestra this Saturday at the Pantages Theater

The Tacoma Symphony Orchestra and chorus and prominent local soloists join forces Saturday night for the season finale, a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9, the “Choral.” One of the most beloved and influential pieces in all Western classical music, the symphony includes the famous fourth movement “Ode to Joy.” A contemporary piece written about the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and a Strauss waltz complete the program, held at Tacoma’s Pantages Theater.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was the composer’s last, written in 1824 when he was already deaf. After a stunning premiere it went on to take its place as not only one of classical music’s most beloved pieces but as one of its seminal works: It was the first time a chorus had been used in a symphonic work (singing Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” in the final movement) and the beginning of the large 19th-century symphony style. Adopted as the European anthem, it was played to celebrate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and has been used as a musical symbol of peace throughout the world. Read more »


Pianist Regina Yeh to break long concert drought with concerto appearance with Tacoma Symphony

Seattle pianist and former Pacific Lutheran University faculty member Regina Yeh will perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto no. 2 this Sunday with the Tacoma Symphony at the Rialto Theater – her first concerto appearance with the symphony and her first public performance in several months.

Yeh, a young Taiwanese-born American prize-winning pianist who has been on the faculty of both the University of Washington and PLU and is a champion of new and East-West collaborative music, last performed in Tacoma at a Second City Chamber Series concert in November 2010. Noted for her “fiery musicality,” Yeh teaches privately in

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Cellist Soo Bae to perform with TSO

Cellist Soo Bae (photo courtesy Tacoma Symphony Orchestra)

A celebrated Korean-Canadian cellist is making her debut with Tacoma Symphony Orchestra for the group’s 2009-2010 concert season finale.

Cellist Soo Bae will perform Antonin Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the TSO.

Bae won the 2005 Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

Read more from the press release:
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