ALBANY — At The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Saturday, Nov. 11-12, the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s (ASO) November concert series will feature beloved works in the repertory and riveting new pieces. Grammy Award-winning composer Michael Daugherty will be featured in pre-concert talks, supervising the Albany Symphony’s commercial recording of his featured works, which include “Last Dance at the Surf” and “To the New World.”
“I’m very excited to have this recording of these major works that all have to do with flight, all recorded by the wonderful Albany Symphony Orchestra,” said Daugherty. “David Allen Miller and the Albany Symphony is the orchestra that records the most New America music of any orchestra in America. They’ve been doing it consistently for decades.”
The performances of these works are an exciting opportunity for audiences to experience ASO’s November season in full effect. From tragedy to discovery, the compositions are designed to have the audience walk away thinking about the legacy of flight.
“‘To the New World,’ a riveting tribute to Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission, is a glorious tone poem about space travel,” said Music Director and Conductor David Alan Miller.
On Sept. 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech, “We choose to go to the Moon,” was an invitation to seek out a world beyond our own, pushing forward America’s race to become the first country to land a human on the Moon. Daughtery composed “To the New World” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the first walk on the Moon by astronaut Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969.
The piece features three movements that track the journey of the mission. “Like the rocket, which separated in three stages after lift-off, and the spacecraft, which was divided into three modules, my 22-minute composition is in three movements,” he said.
In the first movement, Moonrise, he seeks to evoke the same awe and mystery that the astronauts may have experienced when first seeing the new horizon outstretched before them. This attention to historical detail in the three movements of Moonrise, One Small Step, and Splashdown is essential to Daughtery.
As a collector of autographs and historical memorabilia, Daughtery is drawn to the past as an inspiration.
“Those are particular time periods that I find interesting,” he said. “I always do a lot of historical research.”
In addition to research, he also utilizes his own memories of the past with the Surf Ballroom in Iowa as the inspiration for “Last Dance at the Surf.” Childhood road trips in his home state of Iowa introduced him to the legendary Surf Ballroom.
“It’s using experiences that I’ve had as a kid and grew up with that give me an emotional framework as I’m writing the piece,” he said. “It’s not just about the notes on the page; it’s also about emotions and feelings about things in the past and memories that mean something to me.”
In memory of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper, who gave their last performances at the Winter Dance Party tour in 1959 before the fatal plane crash, and in celebration of the Surf Ballroom being declared a National Historic Landmark in January 2021, Daughtery’s composition is a tribute to the music legends.
“Last Dance at the Surf” infuses the ambiance of nights spent dancing in the Surf Ballroom with a medley of sounds: woodwinds, a ‘“rockabilly” section, swooning violins and hushed lower strings and trombones, and even sleigh bells. The piece takes an energetic twist, then transforms into an atmospheric, wistful coda.
“Three final chords resonate: although the dance is over, the music and memories of the Surf Ballroom live on,” said Daughtery.
Another featured piece of the show is “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss Jr., an iconic piece that is one of the most consistently played in classical repertoire. While the original piece contained a choir and lyrics, audiences at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall will experience the instrumental version. Fans of pop culture will recognize it as recently being used throughout the 2021 award-winning Netflix series, “Squid Gae.”
“I’m particularly excited to present Tchaikovsky’s glorious Third Symphony, the work of a brilliant young composer that leads the way directly to his major masterpieces, “Swan Lake” and the Symphony No. 4,” continued Miller.
The evening will conclude with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3, also known as “Polish.” Fans of ballet will recognize the work from the “Diamonds” section of George Balanchine’s full-length ballet “Jewels,” which premiered in 1967.
“This gorgeous concert will absolutely delight you, bringing two Romantic masterpieces together with Michael Daugherty’s amazing orchestral tour de force,” said Miller. “Audiences of all ages will love this program.”
ASO recently announced that Anna Kuwabara, the executive director of ASO, will be stepping down from her position on Jan. 31, 2024, after a six-and-a-half-year tenure.
“We all appreciate Anna’s hard work, dedication and kindness over the past several years, particularly her inspired leadership guiding our orchestra through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Miller.
“I am grateful to and honored to have worked with the Symphony staff, talented musicians and David Alan Miller, the dedicated Board and Vanguard volunteers, and amazing Symphony supporters,” said Kuwabara. “I’ll keep the Albany Symphony close to my heart as it heads towards its 100th anniversary.”
For information regarding the upcoming season, visit: www.albanysymphony.com.