Music director plans programs new for Valley
The symphony society's director predicts there will be dancing in the aisles.
By GUY D'ASTOLFO
YOUNGSTOWN -- Randall Craig Fleischer, the new music director of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, wasn't kidding when he said he was going to bring in some fresh programming.
Fleischer, who was hired last year after an extensive search, will begin his first season with the baton in the fall. He recently released his schedule for his inaugural season.
When he was hired, Fleischer promised to try some things that are new to the YSO, including collaborations with pop-music groups.
That promise will come to fruition Nov. 8 when the YSO kicks off its Pops series with a concert by retro swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Backed by the YSO, Voodoo Daddy will take the stage in pinstripe suits, fedora hats and spectator shoes.
"It's going to be pretty lively," said Patricia Syak, executive director of the Youngstown Symphony Society. "It's like nothing we've done in recent years. There will be dancing in the aisles."
On Dec. 1, the Pops series continues with a holiday music extravaganza featuring Jodi Benson, who is the voice of the Little Mermaid in the Walt Disney animated film of the same name. Dancers from the Ballet Western Reserve, a children's choir from Youngstown schools, the Little Rascals from Easy Street Productions and Kenny Eldridge and the Jesus Celebration Singers will join in. "It will be more of a musical revue than a concert," said Syak.
Next is a Feb. 9 concert with Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee Ben E. King of the vocal group The Drifters and guest conductor Stuart Molina.
The Pops Series concludes April 5 with a concert featuring Poncho Sanchez, whom Syak calls the world's greatest Latin jazz percussionist.
Fleischer will also make an immediate impact on the traditional Masterworks Series.
"About half of the music will be by living composers," said Syak. "For a Masterworks concert, that's something you don't usually see."
One of those living composers is John Deak. On Nov. 10, the YSO will perform Deak's "Jack and the Beanstalk." In this unique work, Fleischer and guest artist Harold Robinson, double bassist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, will communicate in words and music to tell the children's story.
"We're asking families with small children to come to this show," said Syak. "'Jack and the Beanstalk' will be performed in the first half. The children will be excused in the second half for activities with Mr. Robinson, while the parents can stay to hear the orchestra."
The Masterworks Series will begin Oct. 20 when Rachel Barton Pine makes her debut with the orchestra in Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto."
In January and May, guest vocalists will join the YSO. Jubilant Sykes will sing a collection of folk songs and spirituals on Jan. 12; and on May 3, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and soloists from the Metropolitan and New York City opera companies will join the YSO in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Some guest artists will return. On March 8, Van Cliburn gold medalist Olga Kern will return to perform Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto; and on Feb. 16, Youngstown favorite Richard Stoltzman will perform Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with guest conductor Gisele Ben-Dor.
Another new element in 2007-08 will be the Family Series, to be held in the Ford Family Recital Hall.
On Nov. 4, Fleischer and the YSO will be joined by Heidi Joyce, who in addition to being a stand-up comic and actress is also Fleischer's wife. Together, they will explore rhythm in an interactive program "The Beat Goes On."
On April 16, the Family Series will present Symphony Under Construction, a concert that will define the elements of composition -- melody, harmony and form -- in a high-tech interactive program in which the audience will actually compose a symphony.