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Orchestras offer alternatives to striking DSO

of the Oakland Press

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Oct. 4 is the day Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians went on strike — but not necessarily the day the (classical) music died in Detroit.

Though all in the metro area music community view the stoppage with sorrow, the fact remains that there is a classical community that has long offered options other than the top-line orchestra housed at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. And the DSO strike — which appears closer to resolution after proposals from both sides last week — has presented an opportunity for all of those alternatives.

“We are picking up a few people from the DSO,” acknowledges Doris Kennedy, ticket manager for the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, which turns 50 this year. “These people are missing the DSO, so they’re coming to us — which, of course, we appreciate.

“It’s like the Rochester Orchestra is hiding out here. People who live in Rochester are like, ‘Wow, there’s a symphony here?’ This has made them more aware.”

Julia Kurtyka of the Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra, which is in its first year of shifting venues for its concerts, says her organization has been busy “trying to get the word out that, ‘Hey, y’know what? There are other groups around, and actually doing some good things.’ ”

The BBSO, however, did find out that the specter of the DSO remains a competitor; one of its early season concerts butted up against one of the periodic shows the striking DSO musicians have been playing to stay visible and working during the impasse.

“Their concert on that particular day ended up being just within hours of ours, and I think it actually hurt us,” Kurtyka notes. “We want to support them, but business is business, and when putting these concerts together they need to take into consideration other things that are already scheduled because we all want to work together.”

Nevertheless, it’s clear that fans of orchestral music have plenty of alternatives to fill their ears while the DSO remains on the picket line — and even after it returns to work. Here’s a look at 15 of the best bets for the classical aficionado.

Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra

Of course Ann Arbor has a symphony — one that’s been around since 1928 and in 1986 became a fully professional, unionized orchestra with five full-time staff members. Music director and conductor Arie Lipsky is in his 11th season with the A2SO, whose latest album — “Felter Violin Concerto,” featuring three pieces by American composer Paul Felter — came out in December.

Next Concert: The A2SO holds a Mozart Birthday Bash at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Michigan Theater, 603 Liberty St. The composer’s Serenade No. 12, Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major and Symphony No. 36 in C Major (aka “Linz”) will be performed. Tickets range from $10-53, with discounts for students and seniors. Lipsky and the concert’s soloists will present a lecture at 7 p.m.

Information: 734-994-4801 or visit www.a2so.com.

Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1975, the BBSO has been a leading orchestra in the metro area with a dozen Detroit Music Awards for Outstanding Community Orchestra. Founding maestro Felix Resnick put the BBSO on its course, later joined by Charles Greenwell, who remains the principal music director and conductor. The BBSO also operates a Symphony & Schools program throughout Oakland County and maintains an annual Young Artist Competition. It’s also backed artists such as the Moody Blues, Yanni, Smokey Robinson, Art Garfunkel and Henry Mancini and released a recording, “Sounds of the Season,” in 1996.

Next Concert: The BBSO season continues on Feb. 13 with “A French Valentine,” featuring guest conductor John Thomas Dodson and violin soloist Caroline Goulding playing a romantic repertoire at 7 p.m. at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield Township. Tickets are $27 for those aged 18 and older.

Information: 734-525-7578 or visit www.bbso.org.

Dearborn Symphony Orchestra

The “other” DSO is in the midst of its 49th season, currently under the direction of Greek native and Wayne State University music professor Kypros Markou, who follows in the footsteps of Nathan Gordon — who led the DSO for its first 25 years — Leo Najar and Leslie Dunner. This DSO’s ambitious schedule features a six-concert season that stretches into May, rather than the usual four programs most community orchestras present.

Next Concert: Guest pianist and conductor Rich Redenour leads the DSO in its annual Pops Concert at 8 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. Markou will serve as guest violinist and perform the Ervin T. Rouse staple “Orange Blossom Special.” Tickets are $10-30.

Information: 313-565-2424 or visit www.dearbornsymphony.org.

Detroit Medical Orchestra

Here’s something a little different — a consortium of Wayne State University School of Medicine students and faculty members, along with physicians and nursing staff members from other area hospitals. The DMO formed in 2010 and gave its inaugural performance shortly thereafter. The Arbor Opera Theater’s Warren Puffer Jones is the musical director and conductor.

Next Concert: The DMO will perform Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major, aka “The Great,” at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16, in the Community Arts Auditorium, 450 Reuther Mall on the Wayne State campus in Detroit. Admission is free.

Information: 313-577-1429 or visit www.prognosis.wayne.edu.

Flint Symphony Orchestra

With a six-concert season and other special programs, the FSO has been around for 91 years and is a destination of sorts for many of its principals. Enrique Diemecke, the FSO’s music director and conductor of more than 20 years, splits his time in Flint with posts at the Long Beach (Calif.) Symphony and the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, while concertmaster Andrew Jennings teaches at the University of Michigan and Oberlin College, is co-chair of chamber music at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Mass., and performs with the Concord Piano Trio.

Next Concert: Soprano Pia Broden-Williams sings the overture to Verdie’s “La forza del destino” at 8 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Flint Institute of Music, 1025 E. Kearsley St. Corelli’s “Suite for String Orchestra” and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G Major are also on the docket. A pre-concert talk takes place at 7 p.m.

Information: 810-238-1350 or visit www.thefim.org.

Grosse Pointe Symphony Orchestra

The GPSO was conceived over coffee in early 1953 and launched a year later, with a January 1954 rehearsal and a concert two months later. Conductor emeritus Felix Resnick has served 50 years with the orchestra, while current music director Joseph Striplin, who’s been with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 1972, took the baton in 2008.

Next Concert: “A Tribute to Mom” at 7 p.m. May 1 in Parcells Middle School auditorium, 20600 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods. The repertoire includes Rossini’s overture to “Semirade,” Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite” and Mozart’s “Symphony Concertante” with soloists Beatrice Budzinsky and Greg Staples. Classical music scholar John Guinn gives a pre-concert lecture at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15, $12 for seniors and free for 18 and younger.

Information: 313-432-4600 or visit www.gpsymphony.org.

Macomb Symphony Orchestra

Operated by the Macomb Symphony Guild and led by music director and conductor Thomas Cook, the MSO’s current season has shown the orchestra’s range with concerts of Scottish music and a “Nutcracker” collaboration with the Michigan Ballet Theatre, while an evening of Beatles music is slated for April.

Next Concert: Coloratura soprano Karin White will join the MSO for its “Go For Baroque” concert at 3 p.m. March 13 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Macomb Community College, 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township. Tickets are $18 and $15 for students and seniors.

Information: Call 586-286-2045 or visit www.macombsymphony.org.

Metropolitan Youth Symphony

Check out potential future symphony professionals in this nonprofit endeavor, which began its 28th season with nearly 250 students from elementary, middle and high schools from 45 metro area communities. The MYS comprises four ensembles, including a full-size Symphony Orchestra, a String Symphony, a Concert Orchestra and a Junior Strings section, all of whom create independent concert repertoires.

Next Concert: The MYS’s annual Winter Concert takes place Feb. 6 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn.

Information: Visit www.metropolitanyouthsymphony.org.

Oakland Symphony Orchestra

The semi-professional ensemble based in-residence at Oakland University began a new era of its 35-year history this season, changing its name from the Pontiac Oakland Symphony and bringing Gregory Cunnigham, OU’s director of orchestral studies, to the podium as music director and conductor.

Next Concert: The 14th annual David Daniels Young Artist Concert at 3 p.m. Jan. 30 will feature solo performances by winners of the Oakland University Department of Music, Theater and Dance Concerto Competition along with Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” and Komarov’s “Fall From Three Memorials.” The concert takes place at the Varner Recital Hall on the OU campus in Rochester Hills.

Information: 248-370-2030 or visit www.oakland.edu.

Plymouth Canton Symphony Orchestras

Led by music director and conductor Nan Washburn, the PCSO empire comprises three entities — the Plymouth Symphony, Orchestra Canton and the Celebration Youth Orchestras. The ensembles have won four awards from the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP) and habitually covers a wide range of works; its 65th season will conclude on March 5 with the world premiere of composer Katherine Hoover’s “J.M. W. Turner,” inspired by four paintings by the English romanticist.

Next Concert: A “Sunday Soiree” will feature chamber pieces for harp, flute and string quintet at 2 p.m. today at the First United Methodist Church, 45201 N. Territorial Road, Plymouth. Maurice Draughn is featured on harp, and a pre-concert talk takes place at 1:15 p.m. Tickets are $25, $20 for seniors and $10 for students.

Information: 734-451-2112 or visit www.plymouthsymphony.org.

Rochester Symphony Orchestra

The RSO turns 50 in 2011 under the first-year guidance of music director and conductor Clark Suttle, a veteran of the Buffalo Symphony and Monterey (Calif.) Symphony who replaced longtime predecessor James Fenwick Hohmeyer.

Next Concert: The RSO wraps up its season with A Golden Celebration on April 29 in the Adams High School Auditorium, 3200 W. Tienken Road, Rochester Hills. The concert will feature the winner of the annual Young Artist Competition. Tickets are $25 for adults, $5 for students.

Information: 248-651-4181 or www.rochestersymphony.com.

Royal Oak Symphony Orchestra

The ROSO — formed from the ashes of the Troy Symphony Orchestra in 1994 — has featured seasonally appropriate works by Richard Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov and Gustav Holst during its 16th season. Musical director and conductor John Robertson studied at Oakland University with Gregory Cunningham teaches orchestra in the Berkley School District and also serves as director of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and summer conductor at the Orion Chamber Music Society’s string camp — and practices Kung Fu, which certainly makes the musicians pay attention.

Next Concert: Violinist Helen Lee performs Jean Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto in D Minor” at 8 p.m. March 11 at Dondero Auditorium, 709 N. Washington St., Royal Oak. The ROSO will also play Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations. Tickets are $10, $7 for college students and seniors, free for 18 and younger.

Information: 248-988-6991 or visit www.RoyalOakOrchestra.org

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra Musicians

The DSO may be down, but the musicians are hardly out of service. Since shortly after the strike began, combinations of the orchestra’s roster have gathered to perform throughout the community to maintain awareness and raise money for the strike fund. Those remain in place even as negotiations have reopened towards a settlement.

Next Concert: DSO concertmaster Emmanuelle Boisvert and guest conductor Kenneth Kiesler from the University of Michigan will participate in “Boisvert Plays the Beethoven Romances,” which will include two Beethoven pieces as well as Brahm’s “Academic Festival Overture” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, 467 Fairford Road, Grosse Pointe. Tickets range from $20-$50.

Information: Visit www.detroitsymphonymusicians.org.

University Chamber Orchestra

Formed a year ago as a sister ensemble to the Oakland Symphony, the UCS is comprised of Oakland University students and directed by Alan MacNair, the school’s adjunct instructor of orchestral ensembles. The UCS is charged with performing two concerts per semester.

Next Concert: 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 at Varner Recital Hall on the Oakland University campus in Rochester Hills. Tickets are $8.

Information: 248-370-2030 or visit www.oakland.edu.

Warren Symphony Orchestra

Performing since 1973, the WSO is a three-time Detroit Music Awards winner for Outstanding Community Orchestra and has appeared with P.D.Q. Bach, Robert Goulet, Corky Siegel, the Kyiv Ballet and the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble. Oakland University’s Gregory Cunningham joined the WSO this year as music director and conductor, replacing award-winning founding maestro David Daniels.

Next Concert: “Russian Masterworks” takes place at 3 p.m. on April 10 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts.

Tickets are $23 for adults, $20 for seniors, $10 for college students and free for all others.

Information: Call 586-754-2950 or visit www.warrensymphony.org.

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