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Albany Symphony’s American Music Festival To Span Two Weekends And Include 27 World Premieres

The festival, which runs from May 30 through June 9, will include 22 concerts, presenting 50 new or recent works by 38 composers.

Albany Symphony
David Alan Miller conducting the Albany Symphony. (Gary Gold)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Albany Symphony likes a challenge. In 2017, the Grammy Award-winning Capital Region orchestra celebrated the bicentennial anniversary of the Erie Canal by touring the entire length of it (more than 300 miles), while playing at seven stops along the way—sometimes even performing from a barge floating on the water. Though no barges or canal trips are planned for this year’s summer program, the symphony is hoping to outdo itself yet again, this time with its annual American Music Festival.

Since 1998, the festival has been a summer tradition for the Albany Symphony, serving as an incubator for new American classical music, innovative concert experiences and artistic events and performances that take place throughout Troy and the Capital Region. This year’s festival, which has been dubbed “Sing Out! New York,” is promising to be the biggest yet, with more concerts and world premieres than ever before. How big exactly? Spread out over two weekends from Thursday, May 30 to Sunday, June 9, the Albany Symphony will perform more than 22 concerts and musical events, presenting 50 new or recent works by 38 composers, including a staggering 27 world premieres (some concerts comprise only world premieres). “It’s really an incredible amalgam of all sorts of different music, different pieces, different styles,” says David Alan Miller, the symphony’s Artistic Director and Conductor. Miller has served as the symphony’s conductor since 1992, emphasizing a slate of contemporary classical music and newly commissioned works. He even won a Grammy in 2014 with the Albany Symphony and Dame Evelyn Glennie for Best Classical Instrumental Solo. “We’re highlighting a bunch of guest artists, such as the Argus Quartet, and this great new women’s voice consortium—four brilliant singers from Bard College—called IAMIAMIAM, as well as a local composer and Skidmore College Professor Evan Mack.”

Two landmark anniversaries will help underpin the festival’s concerts and celebrations: this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, considered the birth of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, as well as the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. “We have these two great social justice milestones that we want to celebrate, and they both have strong connections to New York State,” says Miller, who points out that famous female suffragist Susan B. Anthony’s childhood home was in Washington County. “So we’ve really built the festival and the related tour around that theme—in fact, about 80 percent of the pieces were written specifically for the festival.”

Expect a panoply of innovative, new musical works, including a whole concert’s worth of spoken-word pieces, or “melodramas,” called “Speak Out, Justice”; a combination beer tasting, reading session and concert; and even a special film preview of Of Rage and Remembrance, an intimate documentary about the creation of John Corigliano’s powerfully moving Symphony No. 1, which commemorates friends Corigliano lost to AIDS. There will also be an exclusive dinner with the chance to meet the composer himself, whose compositions have earned him a Pulitzer Prize, five Grammys and an Oscar for Best Film Score for the 1998 film The Red Violin.

Most of the American Music Festival’s lineup will take place at various venues around Troy, most notably at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC). However, during the second weekend of the festival, the Albany Symphony will go on a mini-tour of the greater Capital Region, with four free concerts under the stars. In addition to playing popular singalongs and some classical music favorites, such as Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, these special shows will celebrate local history with newly commissioned works. The first of these outdoor concerts kicks off here in the Saratoga area at Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville on Thursday, June 6.

Tickets and festival passes to the American Music Festival are currently on sale and can be purchased online or through the Albany Symphony box office. Check out the complete schedule of events below.

Thursday, May 30
Composer Masterclass
EMPAC Studio Beta at 2pm

Dogs of Desire Open Rehearsal
EMPAC Concert Hall at 4:30pm

“First Draughts” Composer Reading Session & Beer Tasting
EMPAC Theatre: 7-10pm

Friday, May 31
Literacy Through Songwriting – Student Performance
Giffen Memorial Elementary School at 10:30am
Invitation Only

“Prevue” Concert Talk
Albany Public Library at 12pm

Film Viewing: “Of Rage and Remembrance: A Portrait of John Corigliano”
EMPAC, Fundraiser Dinner: 5-6pm, includes a meet and greet with John Corigliano
Film Viewing: 6-7pm

Dogs of Desire Concert
EMPAC Concert Hall at 7:30pm

Late Night Lounge: Molly Joyce, Breaking and Entering
EMPAC Cafe at 10pm

Saturday, June 1
IAMIAMIAM: Raise Your Voice!
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall at 9:30am

“Speak Out, Justice”
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall at 11am

Argus Quartet
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 2pm

Molly Joyce – YousaidShesaidHesaid
Arts Center for the Capital Region Gallery at 4pm

Pre-Concert Talk
EMPAC Concert Hall at 6:30pm

American Music Festival Orchestra Concert
EMPAC Concert Hall at 7:30pm

David Del Tredici Film Viewing: “The Secret Music of David Del Tredici”
EMPAC at 10pm

Late Night Lounge: Clarice Assad
EMPAC Cafe at 10pm

Sunday, June 2
Free Outdoor Concert: Music in the Square
Monument Square in Downtown Troy
Suffragist Brunch: 11am-12pm
Free Outdoor Performances: 12–2:30pm

Free Concert Tour: June 6-9
All performances take place at 7:30pm

Thursday, June 6
Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville

Friday, June 7
Jennings Landing in Albany

Saturday, June 8
Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady

Sunday, June 9
Basilica Hudson in Hudson

Jeff Dingler
Jeff Dingler

Jeff Dingler is saratoga living's Senior Writer. He's a graduate of Skidmore College and a professional musician.

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