ALBANY — The Albany Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has announced it has been selected as one of four orchestras to perform during this year’s SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras. Co-presented by the John F. Kennedy Center and Washington Performing Arts, the weeklong festival will celebrate both the contributions and skills of contemporary North American orchestras in the nation’s capital April 9 through 15.
Teaming up with Discover Albany, Albany County’s official tourism promotion agency, the ASO also hopes to use the opportunity to promote the cultural and community assets of the Capital District in our nation’s capital.
Now in its second year, the festival is intended to celebrate “the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of orchestras and chamber orchestras by creating an immersive festival experience.” SHIFT will be composed of mini-residencies, with each orchestra presenting educational events, symposia, and community events in venues around Washington, D.C., as well as full-orchestra performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Other participating orchestras are the D.C.-based National Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
“We’re particularly honored and excited to be in company with three very impressive national orchestras,” said ASO Music Director and Conductor David Alan Miller, noting that the budgets for those orchestras fall between $12 million and $36 million. “So, the Albany Symphony, with our $2.7 million budget, is punching way, way, way above our weight.”
Calling the SHIFT model “radical” and “exciting,” Miller said the Kennedy Center is requiring each participating orchestra to bring two additional kinds of programs in addition to the full orchestra program on Wednesday, April 11. The 18-member pop chamber orchestra Dogs of Desire will perform a collection of compositions by the Sleeping Giant composers collective at the Blind Whino, an arts collective in D.C., on Thursday; and a youth music education program will be run by members of the orchestra and composer Clarice Assad.
“An incredible opportunity to show the panoply, the variety, the diversity of all of our different creative and unique activities,” he said.
For its full orchestral performance, and its Kennedy Center debut, the ASO will perform a collection of contemporary works that explore the history of Upstate New York through the lenses of the bodies of water that surround and connect our communities called “The River Flows Through Us.”
“I want to assure everybody that not everything the Albany Symphony does is water themed,” said Miller, referring to the symphony’s celebration of the bicentennial of New York’s Erie Canal that took place last summer, Water Music NY. “The confluence of these two great rivers makes the Capital Region a very special place,” he explained, citing cellist Yo-Yo Ma, whom he said spoke at length about how waterways connect communities.
The announcement took place at the new Albany Capital Center, in front of the culture mural in its main lobby, which depicts the Albany Symphony being conducted by Miller, who has led the orchestra since 1992.
Nationally recognized for its commitment to new works by living American composers, the ASO is unique in its commitment to performing new works by modern composers, thereby exposing audiences to a new generation of orchestral music. It has received more ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming than any other orchestra in America, 26 to date, including the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music in 2013 and 2014.