Monday, February 11, 2008

Upbeat Oregon Symphony 2008-2009 season preview

I attended the Conductor's Circle 2008-2009 Season Preview this evening and was impressed with the upbeat mood among the orchestra's staff and it big-time donors. The soirée, held at the Governor Hotel, had a good buzz going (and I don't mean from the wine and beer, although that was flowing at a good rate).

President Elaine Calder spoke about next year's focus on selling more tickets via a five-point plan. The five points centered on celebrity (eg., Joshua Bell and Lang Lang), variety (eg., the special concerts), consistency (eg., Inside the Score), scarcity (eg., reducing the number of Pops concerts to create hot tickets, and bribery (eg., if you purchase the full series then you'll get free Itzhak Perlman tickets - that is, A + B = Perlman).

Calder also mentioned that in the Pops arena, the orchestra has hired Jeff Tyzik to conduct four pops concerts. Tyzik is one of the best one of the best if not the best pops conductor in the nation. The Pops series has been reduced from a series of three to just two concerts each time. This move will consolidate money and resources - especially since the attendance at Monday evening concerts has been lagging.

Kalmar talked about the upcoming season and highlights several concerts and guest artists. He mentioned that the Symphony has been trying for several years to get Joshua Bell to come and that everyone is happy that he will finally play with the orchestra. He noted that finding the right mix of symphonies, concerti, new music, and pieces that have never been performed by the OSO but need to be performed is a difficult task. It's hard to please everyone but Kalmar and his staff have tried their best and are very excited. So along with some warhorses like Beethoven's 9th and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, the symphony will perform 15 works that they have never performed before, including six pieces by living composers. One of the composers is Oregon's own Tomas Svoboda, who Kalmar feels is "the most underrated composer in America." Also, Kalmar noted that the "20th Century pieces will have music that you'll like," meaning that it will not be the ugly stuff that people usually associate with modern music.

Niel DePonte added his take on the upcoming season with a side note about being in the orchestra for 30 years and his willingness to take on new and exciting percussion -oriented pieces. He is also looking forward to working with Tyzik who was a classmate of his at Eastman.

Also, Thomas Lauderdale, who was in attendance, is working on getting some of his artistic friends to sign up for concerts next season. So, some more specials will pop up later.

I heard that tickets for the remainder of this season are selling at a good clip, so things are looking up for the Symphony.

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