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Carnival of the Animals Bring a Veritable Zoo Onstage at Hochstein

October 12, 2009

Rochester, NY – An entire musical zoo will take the stage at the Performance Hall at Hochstein when the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra roars to life with Saint-Saëns’ clever Carnival of the Animals on Sunday, November 1 at 2:00 pm, as the centerpiece of its first orKIDStra concert of the season.  Just in time for an extended Halloween celebration, guest conductor Brett Mitchell leads the RPO in a concert featuring works demonstrating how animals can tell a story, culminating in Saint-Saëns’ 14-movement piece depicting different animals while poking fun at other composers of the time.  Guest narrator James VanDemark – speaking his own updated verses – is joined by pianists Krishna Thiagarajan and Joseph Werner.  Children are encouraged to come in costume, especially as their favorite animal.

Carnival of the Animals opens with “Introduction and March of the Lion” then proceeds to represent hens and roosters, wild donkeys, tortoises, an elephant, kangaroos, an aquarium, an aviary, a cuckoo, fossils, and a swan, in between which Saint-Saëns calls attention to the mandatory practice scales of piano students.  A number of these movements will be familiar to audiences, as they become recognized in their own right through cartoons, ballets, and solo instrumental works.

In keeping with the animal theme, other pieces on the program include the “Ballet of Little Chicks in Their Shells” from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, “Hedwig’s Theme” from John Williams’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov, and Copland’s “Circus Magic” from his score to The Red Pony, among others. 

Mr. Mitchell and the guest soloists are well-known for their versatility in a variety of roles.  Brett Mitchell is currently Assistant Conductor of both the Houston Symphony and the Orchestre National de France.  Since joining the Houston Symphony in 2007 as a recipient of an American Conducting Fellowship, he has led the orchestra in several dozen concerts each season. His performances with the orchestra have been broadcast nationwide on both SymphonyCast and on National Public Radio’s Performance Today.  In 2008, Mr. Mitchell was chosen by Kurt Masur to receive the inaugural Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Scholarship.  In 2009, he conducted the Baltimore Symphony in a master class with Marin Alsop, and in 2010 will conduct the Cleveland Orchestra in a master class with Franz Welser-Möst.
In addition to acting as narrator, James VanDemark – better known worldwide as a solo double-bassist and locally as the professor of Double-bass at the Eastman School of Music – also has written updates to all 14 of the original 1949 Ogden Nash verses, with references to reflect the culture of 21st century American children.  The two pianists performing with the Orchestra also wear more than one “hat”: Krishna Thiagarajan has been a performing pianist in Europe as well as a professor of piano at the collegiate level, and currently is the RPO’s Interim Vice President of Artistic Operations, while Joseph Werner, the RPO’s pianist and local chamber music performer, also serves as the Orchestra’s personnel manager.

Although ideal for children of all ages, RPO orKIDStra concerts – sponsored by Wendy’s Restaurants of Rochester – are designed for families with young children ages 3 and up.  RPO performances are made possible in part with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; the State of New York; Monroe County; and the City of Rochester. 

General admission tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for children, available online 24/7 at www.rpo.org, by phone (454-2100) in person from the RPO Box Office, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-5:00 pm (non-concert Saturdays, 10:00 am-3:00 pm); and seven days a week at area Wegmans.  A convenience fee may apply.


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