The New Hampshire Philharmonic is planning a full evening of classical music, storytelling and artwork for its upcoming concert.
The concert will be held Saturday, April 28, at the Palace Theatre. Award-winning violinist Sirena Huang will perform Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, and the full orchestra, led by music director Anthony Princiotti, will perform “Firebird,” the classic Russian ballet set to music by Stravinsky. The “Firebird” segment of the program will be choreographed to artwork by local schoolchildren as part of their “Drawn to the Music” project. Pat Cunningham, principal clarinetist of the orchestra and local music teacher, will also perform Weber’s clarinet concertino.
Huang, gold medalist of the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians held in Korea in 2009, has performed as a soloist with more than 40 orchestras, including the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Weimar in Germany and Russian Symphony Orchestra. Cunningham has been the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s principal clarinetist since 1985. She has performed with New England Symphony Orchestra, Nashua Symphony Orchestra, New England Wind Symphony and more, and she directs the high school concert and marching and jazz bands for the Merrimack School District.
The New Hampshire Philharmonic, the oldest orchestra in the state, has been performing since 1905. Led by Princiotti, who studied at Juilliard, Yale and Tanglewood with conductors including the legendary Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, the 55-person orchestra is comprised of professional soloists, adult amateur musicians and a dozen high school and college students. This structure allows the students a “rich education process through the rehearsal process,” says Paul Hoffman, executive director of the organization.
Hoffman has worked with the organization for the past 10 years.
“We’ve really built something, and taking New Hampshire audiences on a musical journey has been really fun,” he said. “The audiences are really responsive. … Once we get them to trust us — that we’re going provide a strong musical product — they will come along with us.”
Hoffman says that the “Firebird” portion of the program will feature the orchestra performing Stravinsky’s 25-minute piece. Twenty-foot images of student artwork from the “Drawn to the Music” project will be projected on a screen above the stage as the orchestra plays. The project, which is in its sixth year, asks children all over the state to listen to the chosen piece of music at school or at home, draw something related to the piece that moves them, and submit their work to the orchestra, which performs three to four times per season and alternates between the Palace and Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
Over the years, more than 3,000 students from 35 Granite State schools have participated in the project, Hoffman said. This year, 100 drawings by children from kindergarten through sixth grade from 10 New Hampshire schools will be presented during the concert, Hoffman said. Represented schools will include Bedford’s Memorial Elementary School, Concord Community Music School, Epping Elementary School and Manchester’s St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Elementary School.
These drawings will tell the full story of “Firebird,” Hoffman said. “Every year it’s a different piece. There is a lot of great music out there, and we try to pick a piece that will present a compelling experience to adult concert-goers. We’re [looking for] really big, important, substantial works in the classical repertoire that benefit from having a visual guide.”
Hoffman says that the project is a beneficial experience for the kids, and that adult concert-goers have sung its praises, as well.
“We hear back that the adults actually find the music much more powerful because they see the visualizations by the kids,” Hoffman said. “This isn’t [a] family afternoon matinee; it’s a master works concert. The kids illuminate the music, adding a whole other layer to the concert.”
Hoffman says this year’s drawings use bold imagery and rich colors, to which the music is well-suited. It’s fun to see the students’ imaginations go on a journey with the fairytale, he said.
The best part of being executive director of the organization is imagining what kind of experience the audience will have at each of its concerts, Hoffman said.
“There are emotional ups and downs,” he said. “It is music in real time, and there is an arc to it. … It’s fun for me to be in conversation with [Princiotti] about what the audience is going to experience. We try to give something that’s heartfelt and sincere.”
“At the heart of our organization, we feel that every human needs an honest emotional experience,” Hoffman added. “We can help provide those authentic emotional experiences through the music.”