The new year’s initial flush rides a wave of hope for something better ahead, an optimism we all need about now. Cue the horns.
Customary “fanfare” takes on a titular role when Mobile Symphony Orchestra (MSO) presents the next of their seasonal series, Fanfare!, on Jan. 23 and 24 at the Saenger Theatre (6 S. Joachim St.). Four performances will be spread out over both days, affording more opportunity for indulgence. More on those momentarily.
First, the program. In accordance with the title, the concert begins with bright panache from John Cheetham’s “A Brass Menagerie.” This suite for brass quintet opens with an effervescent urgency that pulls listeners along a rollicking 20-minute exploration. It’s easy to see how the contemporary composer flourished in the 20th century’s fresh approaches to tonality, harmony and melody.
The ensemble then performs Michael Kamen’s ethereal composition for brass quintet, a nearly magisterial shift. Warm and lyrical, it’s another contemporary work, not even 20 years old yet.
Horns cede the spotlight to strings for Suite No. 3 of Ottorino Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances.” A graceful, whirling beginning gives way to a soaring conclusion, complementing the preceding works and heightening the show’s dynamic range.
The most historic piece, Camille Saint-Saëns’s “Carnival of Animals,” is also the biggest showpiece. Though composed in the 19th century, it was later embellished with touches from a mid-20th century American humorist.
“Paired with the witty verse of Ogden Nash, [‘Carnival of Animals’] presents the animals of the orchestra in all their variety, humor and beauty — from ‘Fossils’ to ‘Cuckoo’ to ‘The Swan,’” MSO Music Director Scott Speck said in a release.
Most notably, the work features a pair of pianists who build intensity to its finale. MSO principal pianist Robert Holm will be joined by Doreen Lee, a colleague from the University of South Alabama.
Measures for the ongoing pandemic are in place. Only 400 attendees will be allowed in the 1,900-seat Saenger per performance to allow for social distancing. Seats will be marked out to ensure such. Masks are required and the performances are only an hour long. The Saenger will be sanitized between performances.
On a good note, this makes for flexibility in serving attendees’ schedules. Saturday features shows at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Sunday’s matinees are 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
The concerts are sponsored by the J.L. Bedsole Foundation, along with Dick and Betsy Otts. They’re also made possible by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Concerts will be available online to members uncomfortable with attendance. Online content is unavailable without season membership.
Four-concert memberships are available for $60 to $228. Tickets to individual in-person performances are $15 to $82. MSO offers a discounted $99 membership for any three concerts in the yellow price zone where tickets are usually $64 each. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 251-432-2010 or in person at the MSO box office (257 Dauphin St.). Student tickets are $10.
Through the MSO Big Red Ticket program sponsored by the Alabama Power Foundation, students in kindergarten through 12th grade can attend the Sunday performance free when accompanied by a paying adult. More details can be found online at mobilesymphony.org.
The COVID-19 economic downturn has touched many in the Mobile Bay area, and despite the effect on cultural components, one entity is extending assistance for those caught in the crunch.
The History Museum of Mobile (111 S. Royal St.) has joined Museums for All, a signature access program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services in encouraging regular museum attendance among those of all backgrounds to build lifelong habits. That means those receiving food assistance (SNAP) benefits can visit the History Museum for free upon presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. One card will allow free admission for up to four guests, seven days a week.
“We don’t want admission prices to be a barrier. Everyone deserves to experience arts and culture through museums,” History Museum of Mobile Marketing and Events Manager Stephanie Evans said.
The History Museum has also partnered with the Autism Society of Alabama to create a social narrative and sensory map. A social narrative uses pictures and text to detail what can be expected in a new setting, to support someone with autism in understanding social context. The accompanying sensory map helps avoid over-stimulation by identifying levels of ambient noise or sensory stimulation in each gallery. The map helps visitors locate crowded areas, less crowded areas, noisy areas and quiet areas.
Those are available at historymuseumofmobile.com/visit-us.
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