Conservatory ready for big season

By Josette Keelor

Building upon the success of last year’s season, Shenandoah Conservatory at Shenandoah University in Winchester has announced what managing director Sloan MacRae calls its biggest, most diverse season yet.

“We’re sort of on the map now,” MacRae said. After last season’s popular performance by Doc Severensen and the production of “Don Giovanni,” he said, it was easier to bring in more superstar talent for this season.

In a recent press release announcing its upcoming performance season, the university listed Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” Mendelssohn’s “Piano Trio,” and stage plays “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Secret Garden” among its selections through next spring.

New this year will be additional performances at the Bright Box Theater in downtown Winchester, allowing for performances like “Downtown Ghosts,” by EDGE music ensemble on Oct. 10, and the new music series offering “EarCandy” on Nov. 1 and March 1, “Unsilent Night” on Dec. 7, and a 75th birthday celebration for Dutch composer Louis Andriessen playing “La Girb” on April 12 and The Complete String Quartets on April 13.

Partnering with the Strathmore in North Bethesda, Md., Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, the National Gallery and Great Noise Ensemble to bring Andriesson to Winchester, the university will debut its season of Shenandoah New Music. Violinist Monica Germino will perform with the Shenandoah wind ensemble and then with the entire string quartet in residence at The Julliard School in New York for “Andriesson 75.” MacRae said the concert on April 13 will include Andriesson’s entire string quartet repertoire.

The season will kick off Sept. 7 with the ZOFO Duet’s special event in the Armstrong Concert Hall at the university. MacRae said the university was able to secure the Grammy-nominated duo in part because of its Humbert D Steinway piano in the Armstrong Concert Hall, a world-class piano purchased in the winter of 2012, that attracts talent from around the world.

“They love it,” MacRae said. “They think it’s the best piano they’ve ever played on.”

The season’s first performance at the Bright Box Theater, at 15 N. Loudoun St. on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall, will be a free new music launch party on Sept. 14, including a piece called “In C” by composer Terry Riley, which MacRae said feels like improvisation though it’s actually choreographed musically.

Consisting of 53 short musical phrases that different musicians perform at different times, “It sort of has this flash mob feel to it,” MacRae said.

MacRae said the university’s partnership with Bright Box Theater is a “great way to take advantage of an intimate setting.”

“You know, the audience is right in their lap,” he said. “To have that held in a small venue where you know you can see everything, you can see their fingers, you’re just right there, it’s almost cinematic. It will be unforgettable”

The conservatory’s usual mix of guitar, string, wind, percussion, piano and jazz performances, faculty recitals and dance concerts will set the stage for additions like the series “The World of Piano” performed by John O’Conor on Sept. 29, Ursula Oppens on Nov. 3, Jeremy Denk on Feb. 9, Nikolay Khozyainov on March 30 and Pascal Rogé on April 13. Special guest artist, Airmen of Note, will perform on Oct. 18 and the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors on Jan. 24.

Stage plays will include “Side Man,” Sept. 20-22; the youth theater’s “All Shook Up,” Oct. 26-Nov. 3; “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,” Feb. 7-9; and “The Hollow,” April 11-13. The symphony orchestra will perform the opera “Cendrillon” or “Cinderella” by Jules Massenet for Main Stage Opera April 25-27.

“We’re starting to think of ourselves as the Kennedy Center in Winchester,” MacRae said. Although he concedes it sounds like an exaggeration, he said the conservatory now offers as many series as the Kenney Center in Washington does, and because of the level of talent it can bring in without the problem of traffic or parking fees, it’s a comparable alternative to traveling the 60 miles to D.C.

“We’re starting to match them production-wise,” MacRae said. “We’re starting to think of ourselves that way and we’re hoping our audiences will as well.”

For more information about Shenandoah Conservatory’s upcoming performance season, call 540-665-4569 or visit www.su.edu.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com