Albany Symphony gets ready for a busy 5 weekends

A large crowd attends a past performance of the Albany Symphony Orchestra at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam. The ASO returns there on July 3. (photo provided)

A large crowd attends a past performance of the Albany Symphony Orchestra at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam. The ASO returns there on July 3. (photo provided)

Albany Symphony Orchestra music director David Alan Miller is going to be very busy in the next few weeks. The orchestra’s TrailBlaze NY project starts Thursday June 2 and runs through July 3.

“It’s a rolling festival of seven stages over five weekends,” Miller said with a laugh.

And all those concerts will feature new works, many of them world premieres, as part of the orchestra’s annual American Music Festival. But this year, the festival is to celebrate the official opening of the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile hiking, biking trail that extends from New York City to Rouses Point and Albany to Buffalo that began in 2017 and was completed last December.

“The premise of the festival started three years ago when the state allocated $200 million to make this the longest and largest trail in the United States,” Miller said. “The orchestra is very good at doing projects, such as our celebrating the Erie Canal (2017) and social justice (2019), and we love doing them. So I asked for us to develop a whole festival to tell the state’s story and its uniqueness. . .to be the artistic megaphone for these gorgeous, gorgeous trails. I’m also an avid biker and I’ve been trying some of them out.”

It is for those reasons that the festival, which begins on Thursday with an open rehearsal of the Dogs of Desire in the afternoon at Cohoes Music Hall (a first for the ASO) followed that evening with Gloria Cheng’s piano recital during which she performs new music from seven composers, the events locally will then move to seven other cities.

“It’s really about getting people out on the trail and to connect the communities in a celebration,” he said.

The Dogs will be rehearsing new works by five composers: Natalie Draper, Jack Frerer, Bobby Ge, Loren Loiacono and Andre Myers. For Ge, it is especially exciting.


“ ‘In Search of Standard Time’ is the longest piece at 23 minutes and the largest scale work considering the forces involved that I’ve ever written,” he said. “It’s also the first work I’ve written in the last six months, so I’m totally, super, super excited.”

This is the second piece Ge has written for the ensemble, which specializes in performing only new music. And he is still pretty amazed at how he got to this point. As a kid he played piano but didn’t begin writing music until college at U.C. Berkeley, where he was a physics major.

“Physics is extremely difficult and I used to work for hours in a lab,” Ge said. “But during lab while I was waiting for results, I began writing music. When I discovered I was spending more time doing that than on physics, I decided to go into music.”

He did his masters at Peabody Institute, took a couple of years off and just began his doctorate at Princeton University. His list of performed works and awards continue to grow.

“Music is about storytelling,” he said. “How you go from one mood to gradually another to a different emotional journey. It’s what motivates me.”

On Friday, the Dogs will give the concert and audience members can sojourn to Table 41 Brewing Co. (188 Remsen St.) and Jordan Taylor Hill, who plays traditional music from West Africa, hip hop and world traditions.

On Saturday morning (June 4), composers Tanner Porter, Takuma Itoh and Carlos Bandera worked with wildlife and marine biologists to create new works. That afternoon Sandbox Percussion perform Andy Akiho’s “Seven Pillars,” which won the group a Grammy nomination. That night, the full orchestra performs the American premiere of John Williams’ “Prelude and Scherzo”; John Corigliano’s new “Triathlon” with saxophonist Timothy McAllister; Steven Stucky’s “Radical Light”; and Gabriella Smith’s “Field Guide.” After the concert check out Carol Daggs at Lucas Confectionary (12 2nd St.).

On Sunday morning, there will be concerts and food vendors in Troy. Later that afternoon Sandbox Percussion and local percussionists perform John Luther Adams’ “Inuksuit.” That night, ten new composers get their work performed with composer Christopher Theofanidis giving them a critique at the music hall.

The orchestra then goes on the road and all the concerts are free and include everything from food and family activities to fireworks. The ASO will perform one of the new works at each of the concerts as well as Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” Viet Cuong’s “Re(new)al” with the Sandbox Percussion, favorites from John Williams, John Phillip Sousa, and a folk song sing-a-long. Most events start at 5 p.m. with concerts at 7:30 p.m.

Up first is June 11 at Schuylerville’s Hudson Crossing Park, followed June 19 in Kingston at the Hutton Brickyards – the first time the ASO has performed here.

On June 24, it will be in Hudson at the Basilica Hudson; June 25 with quintets at Olana State Historic Site in Hudson; July 1 at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady; June 2 at Jennings Landing in Albany; and July 3 at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam.

“All this took a lot of planning. We did it strategically to cover the largest region,” Miller said. “It’s a nice elbox of choices and the mayors have all made it possible.”

Currently, proof of vacinations are required for indoor events; masks are optional.

Albany Symphony Orchestra’s Trailblaze NY

(main events)
Thursday, June 2, 7:30 p.m.: Cheng recital; Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
Friday, June 3, 7:30 p.m.: Dogs of Desire; Cohoes Music Hall
Saturday, June 4, 7:30 p.m.: ASO, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
HOW MUCH: $75, festival pass; some events $10; others $42-$69
MORE INFO:; 518 694-3300

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

Leave a Reply