A Postcard from Europe … to the Heart of Jacksonville

Courtney Lewis, pictured in Amsterdam, during the third stop on the New York Philharmonic’s Europe/Spring 2015 tour.

Courtney Lewis, pictured in Amsterdam, during the third stop on the New York Philharmonic’s Europe/Spring 2015 tour.

Recently, I was on a multi-city tour of Europe in my role with the New York Philharmonic. Here are some of my thoughts about music as we toured.

The London residency began with the Philharmonic’s music director, Alan Gilbert, addressing the Royal Philharmonic Society. His incisive speech outlined a vision of what an orchestra can and should be in the 21st century. Faithful readers will note many parallels with my own ambitions for the Jacksonville Symphony, especially concerning our role in the community, the meaningful presentation of new music, and the need for collaboration with other arts organizations. Alan also discussed the transformative effect several musical projects have had on the staff and musicians of the Philharmonic. The most recent of these is a staged production of Stravinsky’s ballet Pétrouchka, an enormous spectacle involving puppets, dancers and live video projections. On top of playing, the production requires the orchestral musicians to take part in diverse and irreverent ways. At one moment the cameras zoom in on the percussion section surreptitiously slamming shots of vodka, while the tuba player furtively peers into a peep show booth. In a breath-taking display of chutzpah, the Philharmonic brought the whole production to London on Sunday night, to dazzling effect.

In April, I was in Jacksonville for principal bassoon auditions. With over one- hundred and forty candidates, it had been a long few days of listening, and I wandered over to Indochine, the Thai restaurant in Downtown, for dinner. On my way back I noticed the huge number of people milling around, so I walked into Hemming Park. It took me a minute to remember that this was the opening night of One Spark, so consumed was my mind by the memory of hearing the opening bassoon solo of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth over and over again.

As any of you who were in Hemming Park that night know, the energy was extraordinary. The diversity and innovation on display were testament to the very special renaissance that Jacksonville is beginning to enjoy. Just as the Philharmonic channeled the unique restlessness of New York City into their production of Pétrouchka, we are launching the Jacksonville Symphony into the wider community and exploring new ways of presenting concerts to reflect and drive the energy of our extraordinary city.

Young people are driving much of the change in Jacksonville as they do all over the world. To capture some of that excitement we have established UpTempo, a young professionals group for adults age twenty-five to forty. In addition to getting special offers on several of our performances, UpTempo participants will be invited to unique after-concert parties at various venues around the city.

That youthful energy will also be on display in the development of the programs for our 2015-2016 season. Patrons will hear the classics, familiar or perhaps unknown, new music that I know you will love, and established masterpieces to move and delight. It’s with this repertoire, our new concert programs and an increased engagement with our community that we will build the orchestra of the 21st century in Jacksonville. See you at Jacoby Hall!

Courtney Lewis takes the baton as the JSO’s music director this fall. He brings a number of exciting new initiatives, including a Symphony in 60 series of three happy hour concerts, a Symphonic Night at the Movies series, a week-long residency in Clay County and three days of free community concerts to open the season.
For tickets and information, log on to JaxSymphony.org or call 354-5547. Like the Jacksonville Symphony on Facebook, follow on Twitter and share on Instagram (JaxSymphony).

Written by Courtney Lewis

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Author: Arbus

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