Wherever anyone goes in downtown Troy starting today through Sunday, they’ll find some concert connected to the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s 2019 American Music Festival “Sing Out! New York Tour.”
“It will be joyful,” said ASO music director David Alan Miller. “We’re reaching for a broader audience, which is why there are so many events.”
That means that besides the usual Dogs of Desire and ASO concerts, there’re beer tastings, films, a festival with local jazz/folk bands, dinner with a composer, visits from historical dignitaries and even a vegan brunch.
What’s different is that this year’s festival has a theme: equality and social justice. This year is the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City’ s Greenwich Village, which sparked the gay rights movement.
“Every year we like to add new elements to the festival,” Miller said. “I became fascinated by our shared history and that the state was the bastion of equality and social justice. So I read a lot of books; drove out to Seneca Falls and went down to the Stonewall Inn.” (The Inn is still in operation and was declared a National Monument in 2000.)
He decided to draw attention to these events by putting the festival within that context. Rather than just commission new music as he’s done in the past or schedule outstanding pieces written by living composers, Miller wanted to involve community arts groups, which individually worked with the composers on the festival’s theme or program works also inspired by the theme.
For instance, Loren Loiacono and members of Capital Repertory Theatre focused on the Suffragist Origin Story and words by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; Andre Myers and the Albany High School Chamber Choir were inspired by Frederick Douglas’ words. Other composers like Evan Mack were inspired by Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage (orchestra/narrator); and David Del Tredici focused on the bullying of gays and suicide (Argus String Quartet).
Composer Molly Joyce’s works spotlight three inspirations in three events: journalist Nellie Bly’s 19th century articles on prisons and asylums (orchestra and narrator); on physical disability (Late Night Lounge); and the women’s perspective versus that of the man’s based on Schubert’s song cycle “Die Schone Mullerin” (“The Beautiful Miller Girl”) (YouSaidSheSaidHeSaid).
“I tried to incorporate such concepts through recalling Bly’s established mood throughout her article and imagining the music in the situations she describes,” Joyce said. “At the lounge event. . .the material includes lyrics I wrote grounded in disability studies particularly. . .in my case of acquiring a disability and facing physical loss and absence.”
Composer Viet Cuong had other concerns as he worked with Hudson-based choreographer Adam Weinert inspired by the Stonewall event (Dogs).
“I sent him ideas and he sent videos back. It’s amazing [how he] wove the lines together rhythmically,” Cuong said. “It’s contemplative and how using humor to get through difficult times evolves and becomes more rambunctious. Multiphonics are big and there are no singers.”
The composers’ reading session, which happens tonight, performs twelve of composer Christopher Theofanidis’ students’ works each of about five minutes. The films are: John Corigliano’s “Of Rage and Remembrance” a documentary about those afflicted with AIDS; and “The Secret Music of David Del Tredici” about gays.
After this weekend, the ASO takes to the road for free concerts at 7:30 p.m.: June 6, Hudson Crossing in Schuylerville; June 7, Albany’s Jennings Landing; June 8, Mohawk Harbor Schenectady; June 9, Basilica Hudson in Hudson.
American Music Festival
WHEN: Thursday, May 30 – June 2
WHERE: EMPAC, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
HOW MUCH: $40-$10 at various events; $60-$19, ASO concert; $99, pass
MORE INFO: 518-694-3300; www.albanysymphony.com
THURSDAY, May 30: Composers Reading Session and Beer Tasting, EMPAC, 7 p.m.
FRIDAY: Corigliano film and dinner, EMPAC, 5 p.m.; Dogs of Desire concert, EMPAC 7:30 p.m.; Molly Joyce Late Night Lounge, EMPAC, 10 p.m.
SATURDAY: Works by women composers, vocalists, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 9:30 a.m.; four world premieres, TSBMH, 11 a.m.; Argus String Quartet, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2 p.m.; Molly Joyce and Schubert, Arts Center for the Capital Region Gallery, 4 p.m.; ASO concert, EMPAC, 7:30 p.m.; Clarice Assad at Late Night Lounge, EMPAC, 10 p.m. or Del Tredici film.
SUNDAY: Music in the Square festival, Monument Square, 11 a.m.