Civic Symphony of Green Bay: Music you like by people you know

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | civic symphony | nov. 2016

Photo by Paul GassThis may be the year, the year you step back into the orchestral world, either as a listener or perhaps, as a musician. The Civic Symphony of Green Bay is celebrating its 22nd season and has three outstanding concerts remaining for the 2016-17 season that are not to be missed. The GB Civic has something for everyone, offering an eclectic collection of material that balances the traditional with the modern, drawing from influences and sounds, both new and old.

Each year, the symphony puts its best efforts forward to produce concerts that simultaneously engage local audiences and highlight local talent on the stage, which in the Civic's case, is comprised of both volunteer and professional musicians.

Here's a look at the remaining three concerts for the 2016/2017 season.

Concert II: Music, the Universal Language

November 11, 2016 — 7 p.m.

The second upcoming concert of the season offers family-friendly selections that are perfect introductions to the symphony for youngsters. The opening feature of the evening is the introduction from “Also Sprach, Zarathustra, Op. 30" by Richard Strauss.

The performance then centers around “The Planets" by Gustav Holst, a seven-part movement that has selections woven around the planetary systems and stars of the universe and should prove stimulating both aurally and visually.

“No longer is the symphonic experience: come, sit, listen, clap, stand and leave," says Jill Quigley, a 13-year volunteer and the Civic Symphony's marketing representative.

“Currently, we're working with a local astronomy club and we will have simultaneous visuals displayed throughout the concert. Stunning images of the planets along with photographs taken by the Hubble telescope are featured and will be shown throughout, creating a visual delight for the audience."

In addition, the St. Norbert's College Women's Chorus will be in performance during one of the movements. Concealed in the theatre's wings, the choir will add to the celestial atmosphere of the evening, creating a truly modern interpretation to the experience.

Young and old alike will appreciate a dynamic conclusion with the “Star Wars Medley" by John Williams, arranged by James Burden. The Civic's brass section will feature highly in this selection.

“This is truly a family-friendly event," says Quigley. “There may be surprise costumed characters, as well as other interactive events, so stay tuned for those surprises."

A reduced family ticket rate is also available. A family of four can enjoy the concert for only $40. Additional ticket fees may be applicable.

Concert III: Future Shining Stars

February 18, 2017 — 7:30 p.m.

The third concert in this series will open with “Festive Overture, Op. 96" by Dmitri Shostakovich. Featured in this concert will be the winners of the Pansky Competition, which is hosted by the symphony bi-annually.

Winners of the competition, which are of high school and collegiate levels, receive a cash prize as well as an opportunity to perform with the orchestra onstage during the February concert.

“We see some amazingly talented youth," says Quigley. “Most of them have never played in an orchestra before. They get the entire symphonic experience and that includes practicing during rehearsals, dress rehearsals and finally, on the stage performing for the audience, which amazes most in attendance."

This concert will conclude with the “Orchestral Suite in G, op. 55" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and will include “Elegie," “Scherzo" and “Tema con Variazioni."

Photo by Paul GassConcert: IV: The Songs of the Earth

April 9, 2017 — 3 p.m.

The final concert of the season promises to be its most dynamic yet, with a theme that runs predominately on blues and jazz, and if you've not heard it played by an orchestra, you'll want to include yourself in this concert experience.

“This is something completely different than anything we've done before," says Quigley.

The evening will include “Cuban Overture" by George Gershwin, “Big City Blues" and “Pavanne" from “American Symphonette No. 2" by Morton Gould and “Jungle Drums" by Ernesto Lecuona. Additional features include “The Lamp Is Low" by Jack Cooper and “Night Creatures" by Duke Ellington, which features Adam Gaines on trumpet. Gaines is an associate professor of music at UWGB.

The finale includes “Take the A Train" by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, as arranged by Fred Sturm.

Moving Forward

The Civic Symphony of Green Bay is growing and changing, striving to improve its symphonic experience for the sake of its musicianship and for the benefit of its audience. In essence, the symphony is growing up.

“We used to perform at high schools," says Quigley. “But we're growing, the orchestra is growing, and now we're performing at the Meyer Theatre. But change needs to happen in order to continue growing and moving forward."

With the Civic Symphony those changes come from an active board of directors.

“It really is a group effort," says Quigley. “The board is a volunteer group that puts a tremendous effort into each and every season. The orchestra next year will be so different from the orchestra this year, there's that much energy and support by the board."

Some changes are easily recognizable and aimed with the comfort of the audience in mind.

“In the past, if patrons had a seat preference, they had to arrive to the theatre hours early, and drape their jackets over the seats," says Quigley.

That hassle has been completely eliminated. Today, patrons have the ability to select their seats and purchase tickets online through TicketStar.

Still, other changes can be seen on the stage, where the symphony is actively seeking new talent to blend with its veteran performers led by conductor Seong-Kyung Graham, who returns for her 12th season with the Civic Symphony.

Most of the musicians in the symphony are volunteers. They represent a diverse group of individuals of varying ages and professions that come together to make music together. The symphony, in an attempt to bring new talent to its performances, is active in accommodating the busy lifestyles of its performers. A musician need not sign up to participate in every concert in order to express their passion for music.

For founding member and violinist Mary Nielsen, playing in the symphony has been a source of passion, one she's enjoyed for 22 years.

Over that time Nielsen has also served the symphony as a member of its board of directors as well as other committees. Prior to retirement, she participated in each of the symphony's four seasonal concerts, but has since adjusted her schedule, and the symphony has been happy to accommodate her.

“I appreciate the flexibility that the symphony offers which allows me to do this," says Nielsen.

Deirdre Rasmussen represents the some of the symphony's newer talent. She plays the oboe and English horn and joined the symphony three and a half years ago.

“I became a member by serendipity: A friend of mine heard me play oboe (which, in 2012, I had not done for a long time) and recommended me to her friend, a symphony oboe player who was moving away. I played the February 2013 concert and suddenly I was in. I can't think of a nicer group of people to play with."

Today, Rasmussen performs in all four concerts for the symphony's season. She borrows a phrase from Marie Kondo to say that her involvement in the symphony “sparks joy" both in herself and others.

“We are all working together to make beautiful music," says Nielsen. “Being able to continue to play has been a very important part of my life."

In an attempt to encourage new members, the Civic Symphony has taken pains to make the process of becoming a member an encouraging and welcoming experience. Even if it's been years since prospective members have played an instrument, the symphony is eager to offer its encouragement to players of all levels.

“The symphony has plenty of resources and will connect you with the proper individuals to help you to prepare for concert play," says Quigley. “Haven't played for 20 years and are thinking of resuming? The Civic Symphony has resources to help you prepare for concert play.

“People contacting the symphony with desires to continue or return to music, whether it's in percussions or woodwinds or brass, don't need to jump through a million hoops to do it."

The symphony wants to encourage anyone who is interested in playing in the orchestra to visit their website. Once there, you'll be guided to fill out an application.

Whether you play an instrument or enjoy listening to music, the Civic Symphony of Green Bay welcomes you to spend the remainder of their 2016-17 season with them.

For more information on the Civic Symphony of Green Bay or to inquire about joining the orchestra visit GBCivic.org.

For tickets visit TicketStarOnline.com.

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