Variety Show: A2 Symphony Orchestra's new season offers something for all


Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, 2017-18 season

Some of the views from A2SO this season (clockwise from upper left): Hill Auditorium, Jinjoo Cho, Arie Lipsky, "Blue Cathedral," Zlatomir Fung, and the music of Star Wars.

Saying the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s 89th season has variety would be a gross understatement.

“We like to feature pieces that were written all the way from the Baroque era to the classical era to the romantic era to the 21st century and beyond, even pieces that were written in the last couple of years,” said Arie Lipsky, A2SO’s musical director and conductor. “I think the variety is much more apparent in this season.”

That variety is shown as early as the symphony’s first performance of the season, BROADWAY • BERNSTEIN • BRAVISSIMO!, which will take place on Saturday, September 16, and is part of the Main Stage concert series. The evening will have pieces by Broadway legends, like the Gershwin brothers and Cole Porter, and more classical composers such as Mozart and Verdi. Closing out the show will be a full-screen, visual accompaniment to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which was created by Adrain Wyard, who has worked with the A2SO before.

Wyard’s visual creation is based on several high and low moments in the music, reflecting the moods, rhythms, and narratives of the piece. An example being the big solo for the trumpets during Pictures at an Exhibition. Wyard will also be one of the pre-concert’s lectures to discuss why and how he created the images. Lipskey said this is the first time the A2SO audience will see the popular piece performed with a visual element. That isn’t the only first of the evening though.

“This is the first time we have done this kind of a kaleidoscope of programming from opera to light Broadway selections to the classical ... with its video component, which is very exciting,” Lipsky said, adding that he thinks this performance will be a season highlight.

The rest of the Main Stage performances this season will range from celebrating Mozart’s 300th birthday (January 27) -- where A2SO principal clarinet Chad Burrow will perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto -- to some exceptional soloists performing with the symphony, like award-winning violinist Jinjoo Cho (November 11), who has performed with the orchestra in the past, and 18-year-old cellist Zlatomir Fung (October 21). Then there’s the last show of the season, which Lipsky is very excited for.

“We finish the season (April 21) with one of the greatest pieces ever written, Requiem by the great Italian composer Verdi,” Lipsky said. “This will engage a huge chorus of up to 150 voices joining the 100 people in the orchestra.”

Included in those 150 voices will be the UMS Choral Union, one of this season’s performers from Michigan. Other Michigan performers include soprano Jacqueline Echols, and local high school students, who will be performing in the annual Holiday Pops show (December 15), which Lipsky said is becoming quite popular. The Holiday Pops show will be the second of the A2SO’s three Pops Concerts this season. The first will be The Music of Star Wars (October 7-8), featuring the works from all the films, and The Music of Harry Potter (March 3-4) will round out the series.

“I love the music of Star Wars,” Lipsky said. “This is a first for us. The music of John Williams is very demanding for the orchestra. ... I’m looking forward to that.”

While the A2SO takes on some firsts this season it will also continue programs like
KinderConcerts, free 30-minute concerts designed for children aged two to five, and the five hour-long Chamber Concerts, which combine programs to include newer pieces with time-honored classics and is for all ages, especially their more seasoned listeners.

Shows like those allow the symphony to continue their mission of nurturing the love of music in the community for all ages and educating the public about music. Fulfilling that mission is one of the reasons Lipsky has stayed with the symphony for over 15 years.

“Education and commitment to the next generation of music is something that’s very important to me,” he said. “We are really offering this array of pieces that cover all the way from babies and toddlers to the senior citizens.”

And with the symphony’s growth -- they currently have more subscribers than ever before -- comes the responsibility to maintain the high standards developed by the quality of music they provide.

“I invite the audience to join us and enjoy the music in the key of A2 as we call ourselves,” Lipsky said.


Dana Casadei is a freelance reporter covering arts and entertainment in Michigan.


Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra kicks off its 2017-2018 season with BROADWAY • BERNSTEIN • BRAVISSIMO! on Saturday, September 16 at the Michigan Theater. Visit a2so.com for more information and tickets.