By Katherine Karlson
This Saturday (Sept. 24), the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra will take its audience on a musical exploration of the nation. For the orchestra’s 2022-23 season opener at the Broome County Forum Theatre, Maestro Daniel Hege has mapped out an “American Journey” that includes the urban energy of New York City and the expansive skies of the West, spiced up with Mexican and African American sounds.
“This program evolved — as so many of them do — with just one piece, an anchor work,” said Maestro Daniel Hege.
“Aaron Copland is the dean of American music, who is credited with the creation of the ‘American’ sound that uses folk melodies and evokes wide open spaces. He was a trailblazer in the 20th century,” he added.
The choice of four dance episodes from Rodeo, the iconic cowboy tribute, is a given. “It sounds like an old western movie meets classical ballet,” Hege said.
Another great American composer who springs to most minds is George Gershwin. Saturday’s concert will feature his Piano Concerto in F, commissioned by the then conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra after hearing Rhapsody in Blue in 1924.
“Gershwin loved the challenge, because he had this affinity to create improvisational-like tunes,” Hege said.
Soloist Andrew Russo will bring considerable talent to the keyboard during the three movements of the concerto.
“Now we need bookends for these two pieces,” Hege said.
The introductory piece is a modern composition, Seven O’Clock Shout, by Valerie Coleman, an African American flutist and composer. Written in 2020, it is an exhilarating tribute to the frontline workers during the pandemic that mimics the actual “shout out” that many people gave at 7 p.m. each day from their balconies or open windows in New York City. The recent memory of COVID and its effects on our lives gives this piece a relevance we can all understand, Hege said.
“The first sounds we hear are two trumpets that echo the isolation we all felt. The trombone plays the theme, which the orchestra plays back; this is the African tradition of call-response. The unity of the music represents the unity of the people,” he added.
Finally, sounds from the southern border complete the musical journey. Hege had come across Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez on a YouTube video of Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, who led the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in this lively piece, known for its infectious rhythm.
“It fits with the Latin-infused music of the United States. It’s a fun, dramatic piece that’s full of percussion and says, ‘We’re done,’” Hege said.
“We have a program that works well together; each piece feels logical in the natural, dramatic flow of the music,” he added.
There will be a pre-concert chat at 6:30 p.m. in the Forum’s Recital Hall. Prof. Sarah Gerk, PhD (Binghamton University) will discuss “I, Too, Sing America”: The Glorious, Messy, Difficult History of Composing American Music, and Why It Matters.”
IF YOU GO: The Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra’s “American Journey” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Broome County Forum Theatre, 236 Washington Street, Binghamton. Ticket prices are $20, $25, $35 and $65. Students with ID pay 50 percent; children under 17 are free. Call the BPO box office at 607-723-3931, ext. 1, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Purchase tickets online at binghamtonphilharmonic.org.