Plenty of surprises in store at ASO’s American Music festival

David Alan Miller, the music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, has invited anyone who wants
Clarice Assad will bring her Off the Cliff group to EMPAC in Troy on Friday.
Clarice Assad will bring her Off the Cliff group to EMPAC in Troy on Friday.

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TROY — David Alan Miller, the music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, has invited anyone who wants to do some “really exciting listening” to come to the ASO’s American Music Festival: “Songs of the Rolling Earth.” The four-day environmentally themed event, which includes everything from a nature walk to various music groups performing 35 pieces by 33 composers and 18 world premieres, might require a schedule calendar.

“We wanted more happening to make it more of a robust festival,” Miller said.

Fans can expect to hear the always entertaining Dogs of Desire, which will perform eight pieces, including premieres by Conor Brown, Robert Honstein and Clarice Assad, whose piece was commissioned by GE Renewables. The ASO will perform four works with two premieres by composer/educator Jessie Montgomery and Loren Loiacono.

The often surprising Composer-to-Center Stage Reading Session will feature the three composers that Miller selected from 60 who sent him scores: Kai-Young Chan (University of Pennsylvania doctoral student), Liliya Ugay (Yale master’s student), Michael Brown (Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute residency).

“I looked for a composer with an individual special voice and one who understood how to use the instruments of the orchestra so that they were polished with a real perspective,” Miller said.

That they were also from different places played into his decision, he said.

Albany Symphony American Music Festival

Today

* Tiffany Tour of Troy. 1 p.m., meet at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 3rd and State streets. Free

* Dogs of Desire Open Rehearsal. 3 p.m., EMPAC, 110 8th St., Troy.

Free with festival pass

* Composer to Center Stage Reading Session. 7:30 p.m., EMPAC. Free

* Living Poets Musical Theatre. 9 p.m., Evelyn’s Café at EMPAC.Free

Friday

* ASO Concert Preview. noon, Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave. Free

* Dogs of Desire. 7:30 p.m., EMPAC. $10, Free with festival pass

* Off the Cliff, after Dogs’ concert, EMPAC. $10, Free with festival pass

Saturday

* Powerhouse Pianists. 9:30 a.m., Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. $10, Free with festival pass

* Tigue Percussion Ensemble. 11 a.m., EMPAC. $10, Free with festival pass

* Yale Composers Art Song Project. 1 p.m., St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Free

* ASO Pre-concert talk. 6:30 p.m. EMPAC. Free with ticket

* ASO concert. 7:30 p.m., EMPAC. $19-$60

* Living Earth Show. after ASO concert, EMPAC. $10, Free with festival pass

Sunday

* Mohawk-Hudson Nature Walk. 11:30 a.m., Margaret Craven Snowden property, Martin Road Extension, New Scotland. Free

Festival pass: $99

MORE INFO: 694-3300; www.albanysymphony.com

There are several new ventures: The Tigue Percussion Ensemble blends pop, avant-garde and contemporary music in an hour-long format. Poets from the region will read their works, especially those connected to music. Thirteen composers from Yale University each contributed an art song, which nine ASO musicians and four singers will perform as a song-cycle and Miller will conduct.

Contemporary pianists Stephen Gosling and Blair McMillen will give an hour-long recital of two-piano works by John Adams, Frederic Rzewski and Mary Ellen Childs from their latest CD, “Powerhouse Pianists, Vol. 2 (AMR, 2015).

“We’ve done a lot of two-piano stuff together,” McMillen said. “We’d known each other from Juilliard and we’re even neighbors. But playing together is real tricky. You need to line up your attacks.”

There are also after-concert happenings: Following the Dogs’ concert, Assad brings her Off the Cliff group, which blends jazz, avant-garde, classical and Brazilian music. After the ASO concert, the Living Earth Show of electric guitar and percussion will feature music by the Sleeping Giant composer collective that is ending its two-year ASO residency.

Other events include a Dogs’ open rehearsal; guided tours of the Tiffany windows in five Troy churches, and a nature walk with the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy; a concert preview at noon at the Albany Public Library; a pre-ASO concert talk with Miller and vocalist Talise Trevigne.

Young performers

Montgomery also oversaw seventeen children, all of them string players, from Albany’s Giffen Memorial and New Scotland elementary schools who created “Young Voices of Albany Oratorio,” which they will perform for invited guests tomorrow.

“In the beginning the kids were a little apprehensive because there was a mixed level of playing and the kids from one school didn’t know the kids from the other school,” she said. “But after the first few classes — we met every two weeks during their school day for ninety minutes — they began to come together and got really excited. They were aware of this being a special opportunity.”

Miller said he hopes the festival doesn’t overwhelm because he’s in his element.“ I look forward to this festival every year. It’s what I live for,” he said.

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