Monday, December 17, 2007

Musician Spotlight: Richard Parnas

Let’s face it: musicians tend to live pretty cool lives.The recent success of video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band proves that people love the thrill of creating something to be heard by others (even if it only means hitting four multicolored buttons in a sometimes uncoordinated fashion.).

Richard Parnas, Principal Viola player for the ASO, is no exception. Parnas grew up in Saint Louis, MO eventually moving to Philadelphia to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. Although he entered on a violin scholarship, the draw of the viola made him switch instruments the first week of school. Indeed, he believes that a “person always knows whether he prefers violin or viola.” After spending four years in the Navy and one season with the Saint Louis Symphony, Parnas began a 35 year career at the National Symphony Orchestra as Principal Violist in 1955. In 1992, he became Principal Violist for the ASO and has held the post for the last 15 years.

Throughout the years, Parnas has seen his share of memorable performances including playing William Walton’s Viola Concerto with the ASO, soloing at Carnegie Hall and performing at the Library of Congress with the Julliard Quartet. Perhaps most incredibly, he was part of the National Symphony’s string quartet that performed 3 concerts a year at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in return for the use of its Stradivari instruments. According to Encyclopedia Smithsonian,

“Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, and established his shop in Cremona, Italy, where he remained active until his death in 1737. His interpretation of geometry and design for the violin has served as a conceptual model for violin makers for more than 250 years.

Stradivari also made harps, guitars, violas, and cellos--more than 1,100 instruments in all, by current estimate. About 650 of these instruments survive today.”

These concerts continued for 10 years and not surprisingly, Parnas favorite piece he has played was Harold in Italy by Hector Berloiz who composed it specifically for the Stradivari viola.
Parnas has played a spectrum of music under conductors who favored the classics to those that preferred the contemporary. However, in the future, he believes orchestras will have to “mix up the seasons with some modern pieces along with the Beethovens and the Mozarts” in order to be successful. To this end, Parnas is looking forward to playing Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis with the ASO in 2008. Written by modern English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams, the piece features “really nice parts for the violin and viola.”

Thus, Parnas’ musical career, rich with rare experiences, has passed both state lines and time lines. And while you may not see a situation like this play out on the next Guitar Hero, we still think it’s pretty rock and roll.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Post Holiday Concert Update

Thank you to everyone who made our annual Holiday concert a success on Sunday. A special thanks goes out to our Co-Chairs, Angels, Santa's Helpers and businesses that helped make this a night filled with lots of singing and eating! The Orchestra combined with the Trinity United Methodist Choir, Emmanuel Choirs, and Alexandria Choral Society's Children's Choir, truly made these radio favorites come to life in an intimate setting.

Santa even tore himself away from the workshop to make a special appearance! We're flattered that he would come all the way from the North Pole just to see us perform and make the event extra special for all the children.

The tunes spanned from old to new with a standout being "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Though we all know Charlie and his dog, Snoopy, do you need a refresher on Sallie, Marcy, or Franklin? Check out The Official Peanuts Website to relive childhood memories or learn something new.

Can you guess who our favorite character is?

Hint: His favorite composer is Beethoven.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Holiday History

This first snowfall is making us even more excited for our annual Holiday concert this Sunday, Dec. 9 at Trinity United Methodist Church at 3pm. You might not realize it, but some carols have lengthy and interesting histories.

For example, did you know that "Greensleeves" is an old English ballad that can be traced back to at least 1580 and may be about Anne Boleyn? Moreover, this classic has been referenced everywhere from William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor to a recent episode of The Office. (Wikipedia)

Or that "Jingle Bells" originally began as a Thanksgiving song? (

Or that, according to, the popularized version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is quite different from the original? (this song will not be featured at the ASO concert)

Check out the links below to buy tickets and learn more about some favorite holiday carols!

Links of Interest
Buy Tickets

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Blustery Day

There's no other word besides blustery for today. Of course, that word is probably most associated with beloved children's book character Winnie the Pooh. While Pooh may not be Whitman or Dickenson, A.A. Milne imbued him with a lot of wisdom. One of the best is his explanation that:

"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you."

At the ASO, we hope that our art is something that grabs you, that pulls you in, and leaves you fufilled but still wanting more. Though "hums" may find you while listening to a jazz cd in your car or reading about Impressionists at your local book store, we hope that you'll come out to the Schlesinger Concert Hall. Let the arts find you in the atmosphere, the music, the educational lectures, and the company of people who share the same passions you do.

If your passion is holiday music, please don't forget about our holiday concert this Sunday, Dec. 9 at 3pm at the Trinity United Methodist Church. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at or via phone at 703-548-0885.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Thanks

First of all, we hope everyone had an amazing, family-filled, and stress-free, Thanksgiving! The supermarkets were packed and parking spaces were few, but it was definitely worth the turkeycranberrysaucestuffingmashedpotatoes mix on our plates. Though Tara the intern was getting visions of that smoking dry meatless turkey from Christmas Vacation, her first Thanksgiving on her own was pretty darn good.

Did you know that Ben Franklin wanted the national bird to be the turkey? It must be a much more regal bird than we give it credit for.

Finally, even though it's past the holiday, we want you to know how thankful we are for all of our patrons, volunteers, donors, and supporters. We're so lucky to have you all year, not just around the holidays!

Links of Interest

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Hazy Shade of Winter

We hope everyone was careful driving into work today with all that fog. Does anyone really know what fog is? The definiton is just at hazy as the thing itself. According to Wikipedia, fog is:

"a cloud in contact with the ground. Fog differs from other clouds only in that fog touches the surface of the Earth. The same cloud that is not fog on lower ground may be fog where it contacts higher ground such as hilltops or mountain ridges. Fog is distinct from mist only in its density. Fog is defined as cloud which reduces visibility to less than 1 km, where as mist is that which reduces visibility to less than 2 km."

Even though there's fog on the roads, we don't want you to be foggy about ASO's upcoming concerts. On Sunday, December 9 at 3pm, ASO will be presenting its annual holiday concert (Trinity United Methodist Church, Alexandria). Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online or via phone at 703-548-0885. The ASO will be playing all the seasonal favorites and we encourage you to sing along. As ususal, the more the merrier!

Looking ahead, the new year will bring us three more concerts (Euphoria, Rapture, and Bliss) each being presented on a Saturday night and a Sunday Matinee. We'll also be hosting our annual Children's Festival in June.

We've got lots of great things coming and hope you'll all be here to join us!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beethoven and Brahms success!

To everyone who came out to our November 3 performance, THANK YOU! We had great attendance and an enthusiastic response. A special thanks also goes out to all our wonderful volunteers (including those from SOLA and T.C. Williams) who helped ensure the night ran smoothly.

Keep warm with the thoughts of mulled apple cider, piping hot cornbread stuffing, and the fuzzy feeling you'll get attending the upcoming holiday concert.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

We hope you're enjoying a great excuse to eat lots of candy (it is a holiday, after all). Around the office, we plan to enjoy our favorites: Heath Bars (Adrien), Reece's Peanut Butter Cups (Melissa) and Milk Duds (Tara the Intern). Tonight is also a great night to watch scary movies such as Dracula and Halloween or maybe some not-so-scary like Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein starring Gene Wilder. Speaking of Wilder, he also played the title role in the 70s' classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which would also be an appropriate movie for tonight. ("Who can take tomorrow/Dip it in a dream/Separate the sorrow/And collect up all the cream?/The candyman.")

But maybe in you're in the mood for something so good its scary? Be sure to get tickets for ASO's "Exuberance" happening this Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8PM (Schlesinger Concert Hall, NOVA Community College, Alexandria). You'll hear Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and German Dance No 12 as well as Brahms' Symphony No. 4. We promise you're in for a treat, not a trick!

Links of Interest:
Buy Tickets
The History of Halloween
The World's Best Candy Bars?

Monday, October 29, 2007

You like me, you really like me

We confess. Though everyone wants their name in lights, we rather like having ours in small black newsprint. In case you missed it, Mark J. Estren of the Washington Post reviewed ASO's opening night performance featuring Carlos Cesar Rodriguez! Halloween came a little early as we received linguistic treats like "thrilling performance," "thunderous applause" and "sheer sonic splendor." Read the whole article here.

P.S. : Only the first section is about us but feel free to read about another ASO, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, below it.

October already?

During our last posting back in May, we were just starting to reap the benefits of Daylight Savings Time with increasingly longer days. Can you believe it's now almost time to turn the clocks back? On Sunday, Nov. 4, give a shout out to Ben Franklin (who first conceived the idea) as you blearily get out of bed. Since, it is a Sunday though, don't get too angry with him. He did have a hand in that whole electricity thing which powers your home, and more specifically that very alarm clock. Hm. On the other hand, maybe you should grumble. Loudly.

But! All is not lost for that weekend. On Saturday, Nov. 3, you can leave the country without all the annoying jet lag, lost time, and pesky conversion rates by attending ASO's second performance of the season, "Exuberance." Transport yourself to Old World Germany and Austria, as the ASO performs Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 and German Dance No. 12 along with Brahms' Symphony No. 4 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall (NOVA Campus, Alexandria).

What exactly makes these pieces special? According to Peter Fay, WETA "Around Town" panelist and ASO concert lecturer, Beethoven's German Dance No. 12 showcases a "lightness and airiness" that the composer takes to "new musical heights." In addition, Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 is a hidden jewel nestled between his better known Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5 and has been called by Robert Schumann "a slender Greek maiden between two Norse gods." It's like seeing your favorite band play something from their back catalogue that you rarely get to hear live. You might not hear it again for a while, but it doesn't matter, because you always have it in the back of your head.

Not to be outdone, Brahms' Symphony No. 4 is a grandly sweeping piece now considered to be one of Brahms' undoubted masterpieces. It would be that last symphony Brahms' would write before his death in 1897.

Tickets are $20-$80 with special discounts for students, seniors, and group sales. For more info or to purchase tickets, visit or call 703-548-0885.
Links of Interest:

Friday, May 18, 2007

ASO Music Director wins Best Conductor Wammie!

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s own Music Director, Kim Allen Kluge, was recently decorated as the 2006 Best Conductor at the annual Washington Area Music Awards (the Wammies). Maestro Kluge, as the well-known champion of the ASO’s inter-disciplinary programming and community engagement, was selected from a pool of DC area conductors and music directors.

photo: Carol Pratt

Congrats, Kim!

The ASO was also nominated in the best orchestra category.

For more on the Wammies, visit

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A few pictures...

Dear All,

Thought I would include a few pictures from our last concert - all taken by Carol Pratt.
It was certainly a spectacular concert with attendance figures we hope we can match in May.

Some pictures of our musicians, some to show just how busy we were with patrons re-subscribing for our 2007-2008 season during intermission and after the concert.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

2007-2008 season just announced!!!

Dear Friends,

With a fabulous brochure trumpeting our increased marketing efforts, the ASO just announced the 2007-2008 season. Full into can be found on our website, (click on the 2007-2008 link). But here's a sneak peak:

The Joy of Music and Motion

Subscriber savings through May 5, 2007. Call 703-548-0885 for more information or tickets.

Celebrating our collaboration with several area dance companies, programs during The Joy of Music and Motion season span the orchestral repertoire. Highlights include: Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Dvorak's Cello Concerto (with Lynn Harrell, above), Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, Debussy's La mer, Bach's Double Violin Concerto, Liszt's Totentanz (with Carlos Rodriguez), and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 (Italian). Partners include BosmaDance, Bowen McCauley Dance, Heritage Signature Chorale, Alexandria Choral Society, the Metropolitan Chorus, and the Alexandria Performing Arts Association.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A WHIRLWIND STORY - our Music Librarian the superhero

While we often here of crazy stories involving performers or conductors (running off of a plane directly onto a concert stage, flying batons, forgotten music or instruments, strings breaking during a performance...), it's not often orchestras get to thank their music librarians for their diligence and perseverance.

Our Librarian, Joe Tersero, jumped through major hoops recently to secure the ASO with the parts for Korngold's Midsummer Night's Dream at our last concert. He captured his thoughts on paper:

Due to numerous high hurdles to jump, this story was one of the best examples of the question “To Be or Not To Be” for one very exhausted music librarian.

When I did my preliminary search for the sheet music, I found that the music to Korngold’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was not readily available from any of the major publishers. In addition, I was surprised to find out that none of my major symphony orchestra colleagues knew anything about this work or how to get the sheet music.

An internet search revealed a recording from 1999 by the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra in Berlin, with Gerd Albrecht conducting. I thought for sure this would reveal the source of the sheet music; but unfortunately, I received no response from either Gerd Albrecht or the Berlin Orchestra. I found out later that there have been several orchestras in Berlin with the name “Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra” and several of those have gone bankrupt.

Further research also revealed that Eric Korngold re-orchestrated Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the 1935 Max Reinhardt film on the same story staring James Cagney and Michey Rooney. Part of the difficulty in finding this work is due in part because Korngold really didn’t want to take credit for his contributions to this endeavor, instead leaving most of the credit to the original source composer, Felix Mendelssohn. Knowing that the music was taken from a motion picture limited the possible sources. I thought for sure I had my sheet music. A call to the most knowledgeable individual of motion picture sheet music, John Waxman, son of the great composer Franz Waxman, revealed JoAnne Kane Music Service, in Culver City, CA, as a possibility. Unfortunately, they did not have the music but were able to refer me to the correct studio, Warner Brothers.

I was first met with a negative response and was informed that the sheet music was no longer in the Warner Brothers Library and that it had been donated to the University of Southern California (USC) library. Sadly, I was told that the odds of my getting the sheet music were next to zero.

However, an encounter with Mr. Keith Zajic at Warner Bros., Executive Vice President, Business Affairs (Music) was extremely positive. In my faxed request, I had mentioned that we wanted to perform this work as part of the “Shakespeare in Washington” event beginning in January 2007 (lasting for six-months) to honor the works and influence of William Shakespeare. Apparently, these were the magic word - I received a faxed & signed letter of permission, as follows: “This will confirm that Warner Bros. Picture (“WB”) grants permission for the use of the orchestral sheet music including score and parts to the above mentioned film for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra concert as specified in your October 25th correspondence…”.

Wonderful! October 25th 2006 - I thought for sure we were done! Unfortunately, the fax also came with the following note, “you will coordinate the copying details of such sheet music, score and parts with Noelle Carter at the USC Film Archives Library. It is my understanding that Noel works on a part-time basis.” Part time basis was correct, Noelle only worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays and was about to go on vacation.

She was able to copy all 532 pages of the old, over-sized manuscript score. Unfortunately, by the time she finished, December was here and we both went on our respective vacations. By January, I was very concerned as the concert was on February 3 and there were no parts to be had! Conductors are absolutely phenomenal when it comes to interpreting music and keeping 70+ musicians together. Unfortunately, when they wave a stick and the musicians don’t have music nothing happens! To wit, the librarian suffers.

Upon Noelle’s return, my next step was to tell her exactly which sections we wanted to perform and have the pages of the performance parts copied. The Korngold score was one of the most meticulous manuscripts I’ve ever seen, extremely easy to read and understand. I thought the individual parts for the musicians would be the same way. Wrong! Unfortunately, Noelle is not a music librarian and could not understand all of the road maps found in sheet music. As a librarian used to getting music to the musicians in plenty of time to practice, I was starting to question my abilities and really began to wonder whether this concert was going “to be or not to be.” Fortunately, Noelle was able to recommend someone who had done previous music research in the USC archives, Gary Dov Gertzweig, a wonderful composer and violinist.

With his help we were able to identify all of the pages we needed to make this performance happen. First, we received the string parts. Except for a few missing pages, I thought we were really almost done this time. The missing pages were copied and sent along with the winds, brass and percussion parts. The string books were now complete and ready to be sent to the Concertmaster, Claudia Chudacoff, to start the bowing process.

Much to my dismay, the winds, brass and percussion parts were not so complete. The USC Archives was missing these parts for two of the 19 sections we wanted to perform. In addition, Noelle had been offered and accepted a new job with the LA Times. She would no longer be available to help. With the first rehearsal less than a week away, I put on my Super Librarian outfit and used the music engraving software program Finale™ to extract the rest of the parts. I finished a day before the first rehearsal. Despite not having the practice time normally provided to musicians, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Kim Allen Kluge, gave an absolutely brilliant performance of this historic work on February 3, 2007.

Other information about the motion picture:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

March 3rd Maestro Musing!

This just in from our Music Director, Kim Allen Kluge...

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're half way there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there

"Somewhere" Music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

I'll never forget the first time I saw the film version of Bernstein's West Side Story. It was shown to a bunch of stunned adolescents in my seventh grade English class. The collective searing sobs of my classmates still resonate in my memory. That dramatic encounter with West Side Story inspired me to seek out other composers' renditions of Romeo & Juliet, which I have relished through the years. I am looking forward to sharing four of these versions with you at the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra's March 3rd concert entitled "Glorious Love, Tragic Love".

This event, inspired by the Shakespeare in Washington Festival, will feature two singers from Signature Theatre – Erin Driscoll and Tim Tourbin. The ASO's "Glorious Love, Tragic Love" showcases four composers' intensely felt and deeply personal renditions of Romeo & Juliet: from the wild-eyed Berlioz and quintessential romantic, Tchaikovsky, to the contemporary sounds of Bernstein and the popular film score of Rota/Mancini.

I never cease to be thrilled by the variety of musical approaches to this immortal tale. How does each composer treat the futility and hopelessness of the longstanding feud between the two families? The first heart-pounding encounter between Romeo and Juliet that shatters their worlds? The red-hot passions of their ensuing love scenes? Most telling, how do they communicate the overarching theme of a love so intense that it transcends even death? I never fail to be moved by this music. Even though we know the outcome, the journey puts us in touch with the most idealistic, the most "pure" part of ourselves.

We'll find a new way of living,
We'll find a way of forgiving

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

$, $, and more $

Big news here in the ASO offices since last week! One of our supporting groups, the Concerto Foundation, successfully raised a core $200,000 endowment to help the ASO continue bringing major guest artists to the Alexandria community.

Led by a gift of $100,000 from Frank and Betty Quirk, long-time patrons of the ASO, 20 $5,000 matching gifts brought the total endowment fund to its current level. The Quirk's quite wisely stipulated that their gift had to be matched and urged fellow ASO supporters to contribute.

We all hope the Concerto Fund, or the Heart of the Symphony Fund (as we're calling it now), will only continue to grow. Earnings on the endowment's principle will be used to help underwrite the annual appearance of a major soloist with our own orchestra here in Alexandria. While past seasons have featured Midori, Peter Serkin, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Lynn Harrell will join the ASO in April of 2008!

Many, many thanks to the Quirks for leading this campaign for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Meet the ASO - an interview with Joan Singer

From time to time we hope to bring you interviews from across the ASO - volunteers, musicians, board members, and staff. Here is our first one - a conversation with Joan Singer, longtime violinist with the ASO.

At a glance:
Performs regularly with the Baltimore Opera and Fairfax Symphony
Founder and Director of QuinTango – – a quintet dedicated to musical performances of the tango
She has been playing with the ASO on and off since moving to Alexandria 30 years ago

What was your most memorable performance with the ASO?
"One of the concerts I remember vividly was a performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. All of us were so nervous before the concert and warming up on stage. It certainly turned out to be a great concert, but I’ve hardly ever been that nervous before playing such a difficult a work."

What would you say defines the ASO and separates from our colleagues?
“One of the great things about the ASO has been to see the way it’s brought the arts community together in Alexandria. It’s a very supportive, caring community. The original concerts at TC Williams really were a catalyst for that. So many people I know in the area are so proud of the ASO.”

You also direct another performing arts groups in the area – QuinTango. You must share Kim’s passion for exploring new repertoire and presenting classical music in different ways, no?
“Absolutely. The programming Kim brings to each season is always interesting. I actually helped him find the bandoneĆ³n player the other season since I’ve been so involved in tango performances lately and knew about the instrument. The ASO is all about accessibility but expanding the repertoire too – similar to QuinTango branching out and bringing our concerts into classrooms in addition to appearances with orchestras.”

Friday, January 26, 2007

Maestro Musings - for Feb. 3, 2007 - Triple Treat!

Before each concert our Music Director Kim Allen Kluge shares his thoughts with readers. Here is his first Musing for 2007, detailing just how unique our next concert is:

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra & The Shakespeare in Washington Festival present “Where Dreams Dwell”

What do a Classical Master, Hollywood Composer, and Rock Music Icon have in common? Their musical interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will appear together on the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s February 3rd Shakespeare in Washington concert. The international list of participants for the festival includes The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Kirov Opera, American Ballet Theatre and…The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra.

Elvis Costello and The Shakespeare in Washington Festival? Yes, rock icon Elvis Costello has composed a classical rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And guess what, it’s an astonishingly good symphonic score. It’s fresh, imaginative, and really makes the orchestra sing. I was so amazed when I received the conductor’s score that I contacted the publisher and learned that Mr. Costello had written over two hundred compositions for classical music ensembles. It really shows! Costello fan, or not, one can’t help but be beguiled by this music that is jazzy in feel and full of romantic lyricism and color.

I will give a short “tutorial” immediately preceding the performance. In the great Wagnerian tradition, Costello uses leitmotifs, or specific musical themes, to represent the “Dream”, or the magical realm of the forest, or Puck’s mischievousness, etc. Each musical theme is easily recognizable and will produce the “Ah Ha!” effect on the listener when they least expect it.

Two other musical portrayals of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will round out the program. Benjamin Britten’s widely acclaimed masterpiece will be excerpted. We will also include music from Erich Korngold’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1935 film score. (Yes, he is the composer for the Robin Hood movie starring Errol Flynn).

It is eye-opening to compare different composer’s interpretations to the same inspiration. On this program we have a Classical Master, a Hollywood Composer and a Rock Music Icon. And the results? Some startling similarities and some equally fresh and delightful differences.

Join the Alexandria Symphony’s Shakespeare in Washington concert on February 3rd for a triple treat.


Welcome to the newly created Alexandria Symphony Orchestra blog!

We hope to take a few steps in the upcoming months to re-position the ASO and use some recent technology to increase our visibility in the greater Washington, DC area. While we are indeed starting with a blog, podcasts and e-newsletters are hopefully right around the corner.

The goal of this blog is to bring the views and opinions of the ASO community to the public. In order to reach that goal, postings from our staff and Music Director will appear alongside thoughts from our volunteers, musicians, Board members, and audience members.

Do not hesitate to write or comment on other ways the ASO might better engage loyal supporters and potential attendees. We exist to serve the greater Alexandria community and hope you will find this blog informative, inspiring, and above all, entertaining!