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Reengagements by celebrated soprano Renée Fleming, master trumpeter Chris Botti, Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. & Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Kenny G
After an unprecedented year where living rooms became concert halls as the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presented a nearly entirely broadcast season, Music Director JoAnn Falletta, Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell, and the musicians, board and staff of the BPO announced a 2021-22 concert season that welcomes audiences back to Kleinhans Music Hall.
A press release stated, “From favorite masterworks to world premieres, to a diverse array of contemporary artists, and the best of Broadway, Hollywood and the radio, the BPO’s 2021-2022 concert season will fill hearts with joy, as only the thrill of live music can.”
Following their postponements last season due to the pandemic, leading soprano Renée Fleming will sparkle as the “Classics” series finale (June 11), and “too-cool-for-words” trumpeter Chris Botti highlights the “Pops series” on Valentine’s Day weekend (Feb. 12).
Other season highlights include the eight most famous notes in classical music, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Sept. 24-25); the return of legendary big band the Glenn Miller Orchestra (Sept. 17-18); BPO concertmaster Nikki Chooi’s turn at the Mount Everest of violin concertos, Brahms’ Violin Concerto (Oct. 23-24); audience favorite Joyce Yang tackling the infamous Grieg Concerto for Piano (Nov. 5-6); Rashidra Scott and Windborne Productions’ one-night-only tribute to the legendary Whitney Houston (Nov. 13); guest conductor Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops with Gershwin’s love letter to the City of Light, “An American in Paris” (Nov. 20-21); a semistaged performance of Mozart’s great comedic opera, “The Magic Flute” (Jan. 22-23) with the SUNY Fredonia Hillman Opera Program; Jim Curry’s acclaimed tribute to “The Music of John Denver” (March 11-12); and the return of violin phenom Augustin Hadelich with the technically mesmerizing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (March 19-20).
The BPO said it has “a longstanding commitment to presenting diverse programming, supporting diversity among its artists, and engaging with every part of the Western New York community in a meaningful way.”
This season, transgender activist, educator and concert pianist Sara Buechner returns to show her prowess in Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 (Oct. 9-10); a commission by composer Jessie Montgomery, “Coincident Dances” (Feb. 4-5), pays homage to the hustle and bustle of New York City; Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear performs the driving and dramatic Piano Concerto of Adolphus Hailstork, a Rochester native (Feb. 18-19); Carlos Simon’s “The Block” (April 1-2) paints a portrait of African American culture in urban cities and the rural south; Jonathan Bailey Holland’s “Motor City Remix” (April 8-9) is a vibrant ode to his home city of Detroit; and composer Wang Jie’s “The Winter that United Us” (June 11), written specifically for the BPO and Kleinhans Music Hall, closes the “Classics” season.
Special commissions this season include a lively and percussive “Classics” season opener, Daren Hagen's Bandanna Overture (Sept. 24-25); Gabriela Frank’s “Three Latin American Dances” (Nov. 20-21), which pays homage to her South American heritage; former BPO music director Michael Tilson-Thomas’s “From the Diary of Anne Frank” (Jan. 14-15), an evocative musical narration of the story of Anne Frank; Kenneth Fuch’s “Point of Tranquility” (March 19-20), inspired by abstract expressionism; Russell Platt’s Symphony: Clyfford Still (April 23-24), a musical interpretation of abstract impressionist works by Still that hang in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; and David Ludwig’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (May 13-14) written for his new wife, violinist Bella Hristova, who performs it.
Rounding out the season: A special performances by Leslie Odom Jr. (Mar. 25), who received an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Sam Cooke in the film “One Night in Hollywood,” and a Tony Award for his turn as Aaron Burr in the original Broadway cast of “Hamilton”; and the multi-Grammy Award-winning king of smooth jazz, iconic saxman Kenny G (June 1).
“We are just so thrilled to be back to make live music for the entire Western New York community once again,” Falletta said. “The musicians and I have missed our audiences dearly. We are so proud of our broadcast concerts from this past year, but nothing compares to a live performance in the warmth and beauty of Kleinhans Music Hall. To share that raw emotion, that power, that inspiration with our cherished patrons is something that cannot be replaced.”
New this year, Saturday evening performances move to an earlier start time of 7:30 p.m. The popular dinner service at Henry’s at Kleinhans will begin taking reservations at 5 p.m., with a newly designed table d’hote service. The Friday morning “Coffee Concert” series (select Fridays at 10:30 a.m.) and Sunday matinee series (select Sundays at 2:30 p.m.) remain options for those who prefer a daytime concert.
The annual BPO gala will move from its traditional spot at the top of the season to the grand finale, in conjunction with Fleming’s performance. Dinner and ticket packages will be announced at a later date. Inquiries can be made to the BPO’s special events line at 716-242-7824. Proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit the BPO's reemergence from the pandemic.
The BPO has developed a safety plan and protocols for Kleinhans Music Hall in accordance with “New York Forward” guidelines for large-scale performing arts and entertainment venues, and will continue to follow all local, state and federal health and safety guidelines. For the latest information, visit bpo.org/safety-protocols.
The BPO on stage at Kleinhans. (Photo by Matt Digati/courtesy of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra)
Additional season highlights include:
•“Dancing In The Street – Music Of Motown,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, with Russell conducting, and the vocals of Shayna Steele, Chester Gregory and Bernard Holcomb. This show will offer Motown hits made famous by Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. Iconic hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’ll Be There,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “My Girl” and “Superstition” highlight an evening of classic soul.
•“Tango Caliente,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, with Bradley Thachuk conducting. The BPO called this “A night of seductive, fiery tango classics with sizzling soprano Camille Zamora and dazzling bandoneón virtuoso Hector Del Curto. Award-winning and internationally acclaimed Argentinian dancers Celina Rotundo and Hugo Patyn join the BPO for an evening dedicated to the dance of romance – prepare to fall in love!”
•“Bewitching Broadway,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct 30, with Russell conducting. This is pegged as Broadway favorites in a Halloween revelry from shows such as “Sweeney Todd,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Wicked.” Come in costume for “an evening of fiendish fun and fabulous frolic!”
•“John Morris Russell’s Holiday Pops,” at 10:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 16-17; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19, with Russell conducting and vocals by George Brown and Zoe Scruggs. Celebrate the holidays with “Mr. Christmas," maestro Russell, and festive “Pops” favorites with the BPO. Gather the family to enjoy Western New York’s favorite holiday tradition—as inspirational and joyous as it is heart-warming and fun.
•“Star Trek v. Star Wars,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan 29, with Russell conducting. Experience the full splendor of the original orchestral scores from the two greatest sci-fi franchises of all time. Music by legends James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, Michael Giacchino and John Williams highlight an evening that includes “backstage” stories, trivia and movie lore from half a century of television and film adventures.
•Sultans of String, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26, with Ron Spigelman conducting. Canada’s JUNO Award-nominated cultural ambassadors of world music serve up their signature genre-bending mélange of Spanish Flamenco, gypsy jazz, Middle Eastern folk, and Cuban rhythms that “bring audiences to their feet with an irresistible urge to dance!”
•“Gospel According to Swing with Byron Stripling,” at 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 29; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30, with Stripling conducting and performing trumpet and vocals. The BPO said, “A jubilant concert experience bursting with the spirit of gospel music, and bubbling with the influences of jazz and blues, including ‘He’s Got the Whole World,’ ‘Go Tell It On the Mountain’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’ From Mahalia Jackson to Aretha Franklin, through the influences of Bessie Smith and Duke Ellington, this stirring concert will set your soul on fire!”
•“Star-Spangled Salute,” at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 27; and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 28, with Bradley Thachuk conducting. Experience a Western New York Memorial Day tradition as the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus joins the BPO in a program filled with inspiring music and red, white and blue pageantry.
To subscribe, call 716-885-5000, visit bpo.org, or stop by the Kleinhans box office between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Single tickets to all BPO events will go on sale following Labor day.
Major support for the BPO is provided by M&T Bank, Calspan, Elderwood, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and KeyBank. Government support is provided by Erie County, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“The BPO Rocks.” (Photo by David Candlena/courtesy of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra)