In one of the most innovative moves yet, the Albany Symphony Orchestra will cruise or entertain on the shores of the Erie Canal from July 2 to July 8 in Water Music NY. It’s all part of the canal’s 200th anniversary celebration.
What gave the ASO’s music director David Alan Miller the idea for the project was closer to home.
“It’s the tri-centennial anniversary of Handel’s ‘Water Music,” Miller said.
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When that piece premiered July 17, 1717, a barge with King George I and other royals cruised up the Thames from Whitechapel to Chelsea — a distance of six miles, followed by another barge with Handel and his 50 musicians. Londoners who had boats took to the waters to hear the concert.
The king so enjoyed the piece, he had the musicians repeat the performance on the way back, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The ASO musicians will number only 32 but they’ll be aboard a barge provided by the New York State Canal Corporation either performing from the barge or at a landing site near the canal. All 90- minute concerts start at 8 p.m. and are free. Each concert is a collaboration not only with local performing groups but also with celebrations/street fairs in the local communities to spotlight their particular cultural resources, products, food, beverages and activities. Some locations will have fireworks. Funding for Water Music NY came from a $296,055 Market NY Program grant of the Empire State Development tourism division.
At each concert, selections from Handel’s “Water Music” and Sousa marches will be performed. What makes it especially interesting for the ASO is that each concert will feature the world premiere of a new piece by composers mostly new to the orchestra.
On Sunday, July 2 at Albany’s Jennings Landing Amphitheatre, Daniel Schlosberg’s “Work Song” premieres. His collaborators were the Empire State Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble and the Skidmore College Storytellers Institute.
“My work is four songs, one of which Skidmore is doing as spoken word,” Schlosberg said. “I was inspired to use traditional songs about the canal, so I used text from an ode to the canal given at its opening ceremony and from an anonymous worker on the canal.”
The concert on Monday is at the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction. Annika Socolofsky worked with Capital Repertory Theatre to compose “Beyond the Pines.” Charles Steinmetz and his inventions and labor rights of the time were her inspirations, she said. Actors will narrate and Socolofsky herself will sing.
Angelica Negron’s “Places” will not only be a premiere at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park on Tuesday, it will feature an instrument she invented.
“I call it a water synthesizer,” she said. “I love electronic music and with this I can use programmed frequencies.”
Its eerie sounds are a bit like a theremin, an electronic music instrument patented in 1928, but Negron’s uses boxes of water with electronic connections. She collaborated with Mohawk Valley Kids, the Mohawk Valley Youth Chorale and the River Valley Ringers for her five-movement work.
The barge will be at Rotary Park in Little Falls on Wednesday where Benjamin Wallace’s “The Little Falls Lock” premieres along with the Mohawk Valley Choral Society and composer-in-residence Ben Wallace.
On Thursday, the concert will be at Baldwinsville’s Paper Mill Island Amphitheater where Ryan Chase’s “Waking Water” premieres with the Syracuse Pops Chorus. The barge docks on Friday at Brockport’s Welcome Center where Loren Loiacono’s “Long Level” premieres and the Golden Eagle String Band, a Smithsonian Institute Folkways recording gold medalist, performs along with dancers Eddie Murphy and Mariah Mahoney. The final barge concert on Saturday at Lockport’s “Flight of Five” Locks features David Mallumud’s composition of the same name.
All concerts have rain locations.
Water Music NY/Albany Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: July 2-8 at various locations, all at 8 p.m. (Albany, July 2; Schenectady, July 3; Amsterdam, July 4)
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 518-694-3300; www.watermusicny.org