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Tag: Tacoma Symphony


Passionate Brahms, nimble Beethoven, a few surprises and plenty of charm from conductor Paul Haas at the Tacoma Symphony concert

It’s good to be surprised at a symphony concert. Too often we’re given the same old pieces delivered in the same old way – but not Saturday night at the Pantages Theater. Following conductor Paul Haas – the second candidate for the Tacoma Symphony’s musical director position – the orchestra pulled out surprise after surprise, from an unprogrammed piece to lushly unified strings in Brahms’ fourth symphony to Haas’ own debonair, rock band-style introductions.

“I like surprises,” said Haas, by way of introduction as the concert began, after laying on the flattery about Tacoma’s beautiful scenery and people – and then proceeded to show us just what he meant. Instead of the first piece on the program (“Strange Attractors,” by Tacoma native Alexandra Bryant) the audience was instead surrounded by a vaguely medieval, vaguely Vaughan Williams-esque soundscape, with woodwinds calling like birds from the stage, the balcony and the back of the audience. It was a piece by Haas himself, who’s a respected composer and also known for unconventional symphonic programming both in New York, where he’s the founding director of Sympho, and Northwest Arkansas, his other directorship position. The blurring and bending of Monteverdi fragments into a dreamlike whole was, in fact, a smart move: It showed off Haas’ composing chops plus his penchant for focusing on the “energy” of a program, and it also gave a soft, approachable opening to Bryant’s rather more awkward, aloof imagination.

“Strange Attractors” was actually premiered in Tacoma in 2010 by the youth symphony. The playing Saturday night was far more skillful, but the piece still sounds like a newly-fledged compositional grad student testing her wings. The wildness of the fluttery, opening motif soon launched into a Stravinsky-like pizzicato, with ominous Bartok brass. And while the unusually-colored wind solos were subtle and strong, the tuttis lacked good orchestration and sounded, despite the players’ efforts, weak.

Then came Stephanie Leon Shames for Beethoven’s symphony-like Third Piano Concerto. Shames does a lot of collaborative and chamber work, and it shows in her highly sensitive interpretations that fit perfectly in this piece where the orchestra is a whole lot more than just the back-up band. Read more »


Tacoma Symphony plays Brahms, Beethoven and work by young Tacoma-born composer Alexandra Bryant at the Pantages this weekend

Composer Alexandra Bryant. Courtesy photo.
Composer Alexandra Bryant. Courtesy photo.

You may have heard of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but this Saturday night it’s Brahms, Beethoven and Bryant – Alexandra Bryant, that is, a young Tacoma-born composer whose work “Strange Attractors” is getting a professional performance thanks to the Tacoma Symphony. The Pantages concert will be led by Paul Haas, the second of four candidates auditioning for the position of musical director, and will also feature Stephanie Leon Shames playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3, as well as the Brahms Fourth  Symphony.

To be headlining two of the other great “B” composers is an honor, but it’s one Bryant deserves. Daughter of TSO violinist Andrea Bryant and a good violinist in her own right, Bryant grew up in Tacoma leading the UPS and Tacoma Youth symphonies. She went on to study composition at the Cleveland Institute and Rice University, and is currently finishing up her Ph.D. in composition at the University of Maryland. Her review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “a promising young composer” was picked up by TSO director Harvey Felder, who’d also been told by various orchestra members that he should listen to her work. Bryant’s “Strange Attractors” had in fact been premiered by the Tacoma Youth Orchestra in 2010, and it was this that Felder chose for Saturday’s “See Change II” concert, following a mission in this season to offer new works that had only one or two previous performances.

“I’m definitely excited about it,” said Bryant, who’ll be in town this week to work with Haas on the piece (and visit family, of course). “It’s a good feeling that what you’re doing is considered worth hearing.”

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Critic’s Picks: Tacoma Youth Chorus in Olympia, Easter oratorio at LDS Sumner and Tacoma, Rich Ridenour with the Tacoma Symphony and “Joy Luck Club” at Tacoma Little Theatre

Tacoma Youth Choruses in Olympia

The Tacoma Youth Chorale, the Young Men’s Chorus and the Young Women’s Chorus will perform at the by-donation music series at St. John’s Episcopal, Olympia. Music includes choral classics, gospel standards and 21st-century compositions by Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Mendelssohn and more. 3 p.m. March 24. Entry by donation, free child care and artist reception. St. John’s Episcopal Church, corner 19th Ave. SE and Capitol Way, Olympia. 360-352-8527, stjohnsoly.org

Easter oratorio at Mormon churches in Sumner, Tacoma

After successful performances last year, Sumner and Tacoma Mormon churches are remounting the Easter oratorio “Lamb of God” by Rob Gardner this and next weekend, directed by soprano Erin Guinup. There’s an accompanying video presentation. 7 p.m. March 24 at LDS Church, 512 Valley Ave. E., Sumner; 7 p.m. March 31 at LDS Church 1102 S. Pearl St., Tacoma. Admission free. lds.org

Pianist Rich Ridenour with Tacoma Symphony Read more »


Critic’s picks: “Spring Awakening” at University of Puget Sound, Bach at Tacoma Community College, Tacoma Symphony’s family concert and the Tacoma Youth Symphony at the Rialto

“Spring Awakening” at UPS

A play that shocked its 19th-century audience and a rock musical that dives right into the same material is what makes up “Spring Awakening” – a 2006 Broadway remake of the coming-of-age story that traverses youth longing, homosexuality, child abuse, rape, suicide and abortion with a passionate rock score by Duncan Sheik. UPS theater students mount a full production this and next weekend, directed by Sara Freeman. 7:30 p.m. March 1-2 and 7-9, 2 p.m. March 10. Mature audiences only. $12.50/$8.50. Norton Clapp Theater, Jones Hall, UPS, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. 253-879-6013, ups.universitytickets.com


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Tacoma Opera to partner with Tacoma Symphony for performances; other changes in the works

Tacoma Opera director Noel Koran. Courtesy image.

Noel Koran, in his first full season as director of Tacoma Opera, has announced that the company has agreed to partner with the Tacoma Symphony to provide the orchestral score to two of the season’s three operas. The change is one of several which include morphing the Young Artists program into a mainstage opera, casting out-of region singers, programming more well-known operas and featuring Koran himself as stage director for “Così fan tutte” and “La Traviata.”

We’re really excited about this relationship,” said Koran. “We have a long-standing relationship with our own orchestra, but in this economic environment there’s a lot of focus from funding organizations on collaboration. And our best-selling production ever was “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” which was done in conjunction with the Northwest Sinfonietta.” 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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Critic’s Picks: Local craft-art fair at King’s Books, Dada at Toy Boat Theatre, Tacoma Symphony and small art at Madera

TSO clarinetist Craig Rine. Courtesy photo.

Tacoma Symphony with clarinetist Craig Rine

The Tacoma Symphony moves to the Rialto Theater this weekend for a performance of Bach, Copland and Schumann, including Copland’s Clarinet Concerto written for Benny Goodman and performed this weekend by the TSO’s own Craig Rine. 2:30 p.m. Nov. 20. $12-$62. Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9thSt., Tacoma. 253-591-5894, www.tacomasymphony.org

Craft fair for artist-made gifts

If the holidays are getting too commercial for you, support local artists by buying gifts that are truly unique at the annual Tacoma is For Lovers Craft Fair this weekend. Ornaments, jewelry, printed items, handmade books…the list goes on. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20. Free. King’s Books, 218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-8801, www.kingsbookstore.com

Dada cabaret with Toy Boat Theatre

Know what Dada is? Everything and anything, provided it doesn’t make any sense and is juxtaposed in the oddest way. Toy Boat Theatre presents an original (and free) cabaret version of the early-20th-century art phenomenon in “WaT is DaDa?” 8 p.m. Nov. 17, 18 at Norton Clapp Theatre, Jones Hall, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma; 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Nov. 19 at Toy Boat Theatre, 1314 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma. Free. www.toyboattheatre.com

New and Small Works at Madera

The artisans and artists at Madera Architectural Elements present a holiday show of smaller items from their repertoire: felted creations by Jennevieve Schlemmer, mixed media by Chris Wooten, stoneware by Andy Lewis-Lechner and more. Gala opening noon-5 p.m. Nov. 19; then open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday through Dec. 21. Free. Madera, 2210 Court A, Tacoma. 253-572-1218, www.maderawoodworking.com Read more »


Critic’s Picks: UPS Piano Trio, Tacoma Symphony electric harp, Singletary at Traver and photography at Fulcrum

UPS piano trio returns

The Puget Sound Piano Trio, recently revived after a 15-year hiatus, will give its debut performance tonight featuring faculty members Duane Hulbert on piano, Maria Sampen on violin and the recently appointed, Naumberg-winning cellist David Requiro playing works by Beethoven, Brahms, Omiccioli and Cassado. 7:30 p.m. tonight. $12.50/$8.50 seniors, students, and UPS faculty and staff/free for UPS students. Schneebeck Concert Hall, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. 253-879-3419, www.pugetsound.edu/music

The Tacoma Symphony rocks with electric harpist

Deborah Henson-Conant rocks the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra with a strap-on electric blue harp, a powerful voice

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