Behind the Scenes

Music Director Candidate Spotlight: Alastair Willis

Alastair_just a personThe search for the HPO’s next Music Director continues with Maestro Alastair Willis as the first candidate this season to take the stage this Saturday for Opening Night: Laplante Plays Beethoven.

Alastair Willis is the first out of six Music Director Candidates to audition this season following Gemma New who made her guest conductor appearance during last year’s Pastoral in May. After spending the summer in Seattle with his family and training for a couple triathlons, Alastair is set to commence his concert season with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra as their Music Director.

In case you’re wondering, Alastair won’t be leaving the Illinois Symphony Orchestra for the HPO. In fact, most Music Directors take on multiple postings with orchestras around the world, making international travel part of the job package. In addition to manning his post with the ISO, Alastair guest conducts for orchestras on multiple continents. Last year, his total international travel time added up to be six full months during which he conducted the Orquesta Sinfonica de Rio de Janeiro, Ensemble Impuls in Germany and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Despite spending half a year on the road and in the air, Seattle has been the home base for this maestro ever since he was appointed as Seattle Symphony’s assistant conductor in 2002.

Alastair conductingThe IIllinois Symphony Orchestra will see much of Alastair this season, but he’s scheduled to conduct the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra this November along with his visit with the HPO this week.

With his many years under the baton, some of Alastair’s most notable highlights include his Grammy nomination for best classical album in 2009 for his recording of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortlieges with the Nashville Symphony and Opera for Naxos. He also toured with internationally beloved cellist Yo-Yo Ma during the Silk Road ensemble performances by the Seattle Symphony. Alastair has since conducted the ensemble with residencies in New York, Chicago and North Carolina.

Alastair was born in Acton, Massachusetts and lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England where he lived until he was 25. Alastair remained in England to pursue on honors bachelor degree at Bristol University and earned a post-graduate certificate of education degree from Kingston University, where he then taught music at both primary and secondary schools. He later earned his Master’s of Music from Rice University’s School of Music.

Don’t miss Alastair yoru chance to see Alastair this Saturday, September 20 at 7:30pm for Opening Night: Laplante Plays Beethoven. You can hear a Pre-Concert Talk from Alastair, part of the HPO’s Inside the Music series, at 6:30pm in the Great Hall in Hamilton Place, just one hour before the concert.

Listen to Alastair talk about his appointment as Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra:

 

2 concerts next season that you can’t miss

…according to these musicians.

There are so many fantastic works and exciting programs to pick from in this upcoming 2014-15 Season, but here are the top two concerts in which bassoonist Melanie Eyers and horn player Neil Spaulding are most excited to perform.

IMG_5365_2Melanie Eyers

“I am looking forward to Sci-Fi Spectacular on March 21 because I get a huge thrill performing music from the movies, and I have the best seat in the house to appreciate our amazingly dedicated and consummately professional HPO Brass section (they make it sound so easy!). Also, I am a lifelong fan of Star Trek and Star Wars, and I am looking forward to working with the wonderfully talented Larry Larson again.”

Sci-Fi Spectacular is happening on March 21 featuring guest conductor David Martin and Larry Larson.

 

MHP_7663Neil Spaulding

“I’m looking forward to playing Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet because it is such incredibly beautiful, passionate and moving music. It really is one of the great pieces of art of the last hundred years!”

The program for Romeo and Juliet on February 21 includes a number of works devoted to the infamous Shakespeare play, including ones by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Berlioz.

 

 

Since it’s Neil’s favourite piece next season, take a look at Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Suite 1:

Behind the Scenes: What does it take to plan a season?

IMG_1811What does it take to put together an orchestra’s season? Lots of time, knowledge, forethought and planning—two years worth of planning, to be exact.

Sometimes it might seem that planning a season of orchestral music would be easy—you just put together some of the greatest music in history into a year of performances and there you have it! …but there’s a bit more to it.

Our Artistic Advisory Committee, composed of musicians and administrators, meets regularly throughout the year to talk about programming the best works for our audience in future years. To arrive at the best program, the committee first puts together a skeleton framework that consists of repertoire we feel the audience will most enjoy or a specific soloist or conductor we would like to highlight. From there the jigsaw puzzle begins as the HPO works with artist managers and musicians to ensure factors like schedule availability, repertoire demands, finances and concert programming fit into a coherent vision of a season for our audience.

This long view planning cycle allows us to program exciting and dynamic concerts that feature the best of our HPO musicians and guest artists that we can offer our patrons. This summer, we’re firming up the 2015-16 season. While we might have the 2016-17 Season almost complete, we’re choosing to leave it a bit looser in anticipation of our Music Director!