For many, the arts serve as an escape from the real world. A music hall can serve as a sanctuary from the barbs and arrows flung across social media, choking news feeds with politics.
David Alan Miller sees music as such a haven. And, though the upcoming American Music Festival celebrates the anniversaries of the women’s suffrage movement and the rise of the LGBTQ community movement, the Grammy Award-winning conductor and music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra insists on keeping this all about the music.
“We serve a very broad public,” said Miller. “We don’t want to have a particular political agenda. We have people on all sides of the cultural landscape.” Miller, who attributes his curiosity in history to the classical music that surrounds him, knew of the Stonewall Uprising anniversary before he started delving into the back stories surrounding the women’s suffrage movement. “It seemed like a fascinating thing to build the festival around. It really grew out of my interest in New York state history much more than making a political point.”
The Albany Symphony’s American Music Festival will return to Troy with performances and happenings at EMPAC, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, the Tiffany-adorned St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Troy’s Monumental Square starting Thursday, May 30 through Sunday, June 9.
The American Music Festival Sing Out! New York explores the storied legacy of New York’s rich cultural history in the fight for inclusion and equality. Two milestone anniversaries frame the festival: the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.
“I began researching the history of the suffragist movement last year in advance of its centennial [and] I discovered that many of the seminal events of the movement happened right here in New York,” said Miller. “At the same time, I knew that June 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, that amazing moment in Greenwich Village when members of the LGBTQ community stood up and demanded true equal rights for all. By exploring these movements together, we send the message that the fight for social justice and equal rights never includes just one interest group but applies to all of us.”
The 2019 American Music Festival, Sing Out! New York is a national festival celebrating New York’s leading role in championing equal rights through innovative concerts, close encounters with today’s most adventurous artists and composers, interactive workshops, collaborative community events, film screenings, and artistic happenings across Troy, and the New York Capital District.
Miller the music for the festival, which will turn downtown Troy into a national hub and incubator for new American concert music featuring 50 new or recent works by 38 composers, including 27 world premiere performances. The Festival includes works by acclaimed composer-activist David Del Tredici, and four-time Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer, John Corigliano, as well as performances by composer/performer Molly Joyce, the Argus Quartet and soprano Hila Plitmann. Sing Out! New York kicks off on Thursday, May 30 with First Draughts Reading Session & Beer Tasting and runs through Sunday, June 2 in Troy. The musicians then embark on a four-concert regional tour in Schuylerville (June 6), Albany (June 7), Schenectady (June 8), and Hudson (June 9), New York.
The stories of the heroic figures who led these movements, the critical events in these histories, and their meaning to our lives today anchor each festival event.
On Friday, May 31, the Dogs of Desire, combining the power of popular culture with the finesse of a classical ensemble, will premiere five commissions inspired by the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, Frederick Douglass, the twelve months after Stonewall, Alice Duer Miller’s Women are People, and Sojourner Truth. Composer Clarice Assad, in collaboration with Girls Inc., will create a multi-media work based on Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech “Ain’t I A Woman.” The Albany Symphony will premiere a suffragist inspired piece by composer/performer Tanner Porter on Saturday, June 1 alongside Pop-Pourri with soprano Hila Plitmann, David Del Tredici’s first in his series of works based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and John Corigliano’s Piano Concerto with pianist Phillip Edward Fisher. Committed to giving new music life beyond a concert hall performance, Albany Symphony will record both Pop-Pourri and the Piano Concerto for commercial release, further solidifying the American Music Festival and New York’s Capital District’s status as a capital for new music in America.
New York State Executive Director of Tourism Ross D. Levi said, “Sing Out! New York is a terrific addition to the slate of events taking place across New York State this summer to celebrate WorldPride and commemorate Stonewall 50, and the concerts will inspire travel to the Capital-Saratoga vacation region. Empire State Development and I LOVE NY are excited to support this great series of events and the always innovative work of the Albany Symphony.”
“The Albany Symphony Orchestra continues to be a leader among orchestras nationwide through visionary programming that expands the role classical music ensembles play in our communities and demonstrates the power of our creative culture to unite us,” said New York State Council on the Arts Executive Director Mara Manus. “Through unique collaborations and commissions, Sing Out! New York will illuminate New York’s pioneering role in social justice, from the passage of women’s suffrage to the Stonewall Uprising. NYSCA is proud to support the Albany Symphony and the Sing Out! New York tour, and we look forward to celebrating our state’s historic support and continued advancement of equal rights for all at the American Music Festival.”
The American Music Festival Sing Out! New York includes more than 22 concerts and events over two weekends starting on Thursday, May 30 and again on Thursday, June 6. Other festival highlights include a film screening of the powerful new documentary “Of Rage and Remembrance” which shares an intimate portrait of John Corigliano and his Symphony No. 1; Del Tredici’s Bullycide, performed by the Argus Quartet at the Tiffany designed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; Late Night Lounge performances on Friday and Saturday night; and a family-friendly open air suffragist brunch with free musical performances in Troy’s historic Monument Square. On Saturday afternoon at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, David Alan Miller and a 14-member chamber orchestra will premiere four newly commissioned melodramas by Evan Mack, Jorge Sosa, Molly Joyce, Judy Bozone, and Bora Yoon inspired by other heroes and pioneers. The 2019 American Music Festival will break out from the concert hall with free outdoor concerts at Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville (June 6), Albany’s Jennings Landing in Albany (June 7), Schenectady’s Mohawk Harbor (June 8), and Basilica Hudson in Hudson (June 9).
“The American Music Festival is the annual blossoming of the Albany Symphony’s commitment to the music of our time, to giving voice to the stories, aesthetics, thoughts, and emotions of our society right here, right now,” said Executive Director Anna Kuwabara. “The Festival is a hub for new music, and it is our opportunity to celebrate and unite our community, to transform lives and be transformed through the power of music. The four free Sing Out New York! Tour events are our joy and honor to present. The program in each community includes Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, sing-alongs, and summertime favorites. The centerpiece of each is one of the newly commissioned works from the Dogs of Desire concerts earlier in the Festival. Along with great music, we look forward to bringing attention and business to each site with family activities, food trucks, fireworks, and other festivities.”
Community artistic collaborators for the free Sing Out! New York Tour concerts in Albany, Hudson, Schenectady, and Schuylerville include Capital Repertory Theatre, Albany High School Chorus, Girls Inc., and Hudson-based choreographer and Innkeeper Adam Weinert. Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. with family-fun and pre-concert performances starting at 5:30 p.m. Patrons can also enjoy local fare from New York State restaurants and breweries onsite at the American Music Festival Craft Beer & Food Trail.
The American Music Festival and Tour is made possible with New York State funding through Market NY/Empire State Development, New York State Council on the Arts and the Regional Economic Development Councils, as well as funding from the National Endowment of the Arts. Additional support is provided by M&T Bank, Galesi Group, Price Chopper/Market 32, Rivers Casino & Resort, Beekman 1802, the Howard & Bush Foundation, FairGame Arts Grant, and Mohawk Honda with promotional support from the Times Union, iHeart Media, and WMHT Classical FM.
The American Music Festival is a multi-day national festival of innovative concerts, new music, and artistic happenings around Troy, NY. Curated by Grammy Award-winning conductor David Alan Miller, the Festival features concerts, composer reading sessions, recording sessions, symposia, educational activities, and special events that push the orchestra beyond the concert hall and into the community.
For over 20 years, the American Music Festival has served as an incubator for new American music by showcasing the diverse voices of America’s living composers with several world premiere works and dozens of composers-in-residence, including early career composers enrolled in a five-day workshop and reading session with Yale professor and composer, Christopher Theofanidis. At the center of the Festival is the Albany Symphony and the Dogs of Desire, the orchestra’s innovative chamber ensemble, which serves as a laboratory for America’s most adventurous composers.
Set on the edge of urban revival, Troy is home to 120 unique boutiques, art studios, cafes, breweries, and restaurants, as well as the legendary Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. Located along the Hudson River and ideally situated between New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Montreal, and Toronto, The Festival takes place on the first weekend in June.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.