A festival for organ music, honoring Marian Anderson, and more

BSR Classical Interludes, March 5-23, 2024

3 minute read
Close up details of organ pipes, rustic and with blue and gold, patterns painted on them
The Philadelphia Organ Festival arrives this March. (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Organ Festival.)

Wow, this is one busy musical month. We’re previewing a baroque comic opera, a world premiere orchestral work nestled among some other great music, and a major music festival. And just in case you missed it, the excellent Philadelphia venue formerly titled after a communications company—Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Cultural Campus—announced it is changing its name. It was always a little odd to be asked to “please silence your phones in Verizon Hall,” but that won’t happen anymore in the future. Instead, you’ll be asked to “please silence your phones in Marian Anderson Hall,” honoring a truly magnificent Philadelphia artist.

Brandywine Baroque: The Guardian Out-Witted
Friday, March 8, 7:30pm
Sunday, March 10, 3pm
Barn at Flintwoods, 205 Center Meeting Road, Wilmington

This popular early music ensemble is presenting a baroque comic opera by Thomas Arne (most noted now as the composer of Rule, Britannia). His 18th-century chamber opera was first performed in 1764 at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, and it’s filled with mistaken identity, extravagant schemes, and thwarted intentions. With the Brandywine Baroque Orchestra, the company includes sopranos Laura Heimes, Clara Rottsolk, and Kyle Leigh Carney; Tony Boutté and Stephen Ng (tenors); Augustine Mercante (countertenor); and Graham Bier and Ethan Whitney (basses). The Sunday performance is sold out, and there is also a Saturday evening performance in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Curtis Symphony: Ra, Mackey, and Tchaikovsky
Saturday, March 9, 3pm
Marian Anderson Hall, 300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia

The Curtis Symphony has been busy. Their latest outing is this descriptively titled concert under the baton of Atlanta Symphony music director laureate and newly appointed head of Washington National Opera, the equally busy Robert Spano. The concert features Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pathétique.” And there are two contemporary works on the program: Te Deum, a newly commissioned work by alumnus James Ra ('04), written during the pandemic that takes its inspiration from one of his mother’s favorite hymns, and the world premiere of Steven Mackey’s Aluminum Flowers, an orchestral concerto for solo electric guitar, to be played by JIJI (’15), another Curtis alumna.

Ravensong: Dancing Memories of Opera
Wednesday, March 13, 7pm
St. Clement’s Church, 2019 Appletree Street, Philadelphia

This early music collective is named in honor of the raven, a bird of myth and mystery with a tangible connection to music: ravens' quills were used to pluck the harpsichord strings. Ravensong concerts are often focused on those early keyboard instruments, but this latest one has an intriguing addition. Hubert Hazebroucq, who specializes in historic dances, will present a program of dances from French operas accompanied by Leon Schelhase on the harpsichord. Schelhase, Ravensong principal, and Hazebroucq, who is director of the European company Les Corps Eloquents, will interpret works by Jean-Henri D’Anglebert and Jean-Baptiste Lully, the royal composer of instrumental music for the Sun King, Louis XIV. Among the evening’s works will be the beautiful Passacaglia from Lully’s opera Armide.

Partners for Sacred Spaces: Philadelphia Organ Festival
March 15-23, various times
Various venues

This impressive eight-performance, 10-day festival spreads across Philadelphia (and the region) with concerts on historic pipe organs in some of the area’s most beautiful venues: Tindley Temple, Rodeph Shalom, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Girard College Chapel, Unitarian Society of Germantown, St. Luke’s Germantown, and Longwood Gardens. Produced by Partners for Sacred Places, the festival is overseen by two area musicians: artistic director John Walthausen and festival director Jay Fluellen. That impressive list of venues is matched by an equally impressive list of collaborators: the Philadelphia Orchestra, Marian Anderson Historical Society, Artcinia, the Crossing, and Opera Philadelphia. Many of the organists also have ties to the area, including Chelsea Chen, Matthew Glandorf, Amanda Mole, Alan Morrison, Parker Kitterman, Walthausen, Daryl Robinson, and Alcée Chriss. If you love organ music, this is a can’t-miss event.

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