By George Basler
After more than a year’s absence, the Binghamton Philharmonic will return to the Broome County Forum Theatre on June 19 for two concerts of Baroque music.
And Paul Cienniwa, the orchestra’s executive director, is excited for both the musicians and the community. For the musicians, the program is a chance to be together again after a long time apart; for the community it “is one of the steps to get back to normal, and we feel great to be part of it,” he said.
The concerts will also mark the beginning of a busy summer for the BPO that will feature “pop up” concerts in the community and the first ever Summer Chamber Music Festival.
A return to home
The June 19 concerts, entitled “Back to Baroque,” will conclude a challenging 2020-21 season. COVID-19 restrictions forced the BPO to cancel concerts set for The Forum. Instead, it worked to keep live music alive by holding a series of “Social Gathering Concerts” at various locations in the community. The performances featured a limited number of musicians and small audiences.
COVID-19 is impacting the June 19 event as well. The Philharmonic had originally planned to conclude its season with a performance of Beethoven’s massive “Ninth Symphony” with a large chorus and full orchestra, but the pandemic made planning a program of that size unfeasible, Cienniwa said.
In its place, the orchestra will perform a Baroque program with a smaller ensemble of 12 string players and a harpsichordist. The program had originally been scheduled for at St. Patrick’s Church in Binghamton last fall but was canceled because of the pandemic. Conducted by the Philharmonic’s Music Director, Daniel Hege, the concert will include Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3,” Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” Vivaldi Sinfonias and more, Cienniwa said.
There will be two performances at 6 and 8 p.m. Seating will be limited to 250 patrons per performance. Tickets must be pre-purchased, and all attendees must wear masks.
“While we have to follow certain limitations of COVID-19 safety measures, such as smaller audience and ensemble size, we are still very pleased to end our season with live music in our beloved concert hall,” Cienniwa said.
For more information or to order tickets, call 723-3931 or visit www.binghamtonphilharmonic.org. Tickets are $50/$35/$20.
A busy summer
After the Baroque concerts, BPO will pivot to its summer programs.
The orchestra is planning to replicate its “Concerts in Every Corner” program from last year, Cienniwa said. That program featured “pop up” performances by Philharmonic musicians at different spots in the community. Unlike last year, the orchestra will announce the locations in advance. The concerts begin July 7 and will last through August.
In addition, BPO is planning its initial Summer Chamber Music Series in Binghamton and Greene. The series “presents an opportunity for us to engage areas of our community that we don’t normally reach,” Cienniwa said.
The series will start July 17 and 18 with free outdoor concerts featuring the Binghamton Philharmonic Brass Quintet. The quintet will perform “Music from the Americas,” an eclectic concert of works from two hemispheres, including pieces from Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Argentina.
The July 17 concert will be at 5 p.m. at the NoMa Community Center, 85 Walnut St, Binghamton (rain venue: Salvation Temple Church, 80 Main St.). The program will be repeated at 3 p.m. July 18 at the 1810 Juliand House, 2 E Juliand St., Greene (rain venue: Immaculate Conception Church, 1180 NY-206, Greene).
The chamber music series will continue with two ticketed events in August, Cienniwa said:
The Trio Pastoral Woodwind Ensemble will perform a concert celebrating female composers at 5 p.m. Aug 14 at the Salvation Temple Church and at 3 p.m. Aug. 15 at Zion Episcopal Church, 10 Chenango St., Greene. General admission tickets are $25 for either program.
Cellist Michael Newman and Friends will perform the works of Clara Schumann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Darius Milhaud, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Peter Schickele at 5 p.m. Aug. 21 at Centenary-Chenango Street United Methodist Church, 438 Chenango St., Binghamton, and at 3 p.m. Aug. 22 at Greene High School, 40 S. Canal St., Greene. General admission tickets are $25.
For more information on the series, visit www.binghamtonphilharmonic.org or call the BPO box office at 723-3931.
COVID, in one way, was beneficial for BPO because it gave the orchestra time to assess its role in the community, Cienniwa said. “We want to reach out to parts of the community we’re not reaching,” he added.
To do this, the BPO is planning an educational outreach effort to include school music lessons and working with underprivileged children, he said. The Philharmonic is also scheduling a festival in January 2022 honoring its founder, the late Fritz Wallenberg. The Wallenberg Festival will feature performances by the Binghamton Community Orchestra and the Binghamton Youth Symphony, as well as the Philharmonic.
And beginning Sept. 25, with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, the Philharmonic will be back at The Forum for a full season.
While it has been a challenging year, Cienniwa is optimistic for the future. “We’re coming out of this with much stronger Philharmonic,” he said.