As it celebrates its 75th birthday this year, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic is bringing a wealth of orchestral entertainment to Fort Wayne.
While faithful fans can still expect many of the Masterworks that have long defined the Philharmonic’s history, new fans can expect some exciting and unique ways to enjoy the orchestra along with entertainment that has withstood the test of time.
Celebrate the Phil’s 75th
And what would a milestone birthday be without a bit of cake? The official party takes place at the Arts United Center on Oct. 18 with a free — yes, free — Birthday Bash that recreates the Philharmonic’s first concert 75 years ago.
In addition to a remarkable lineup of music, as exciting now as it would have been in 1944, there’s even a slice of cake for those who attend.
Older fans may remember that first concert, but for those who may not have been around to enjoy it, the program includes “Preludes to Carmen” by Bizet, “Symphony No. 8 in B Minor” by Schubert, “Overture to ‘Tannhauser’” by Wagner, “Soliloquy for Flute and String Orchestra” by Rogers, “Rhapsody for Oboe and String Orchestra” by Barlow, and “Les Préludes, S. 97” by Liszt.
Also coming in the early part of the season, an evening of Tchaikovsky for opening night (Oct. 5) and a full program of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (Nov. 2). Other crowd pleasers include “Music from the Marriage of Figaro” (Nov. 6 and 10), “Peer Gynt and Polovtsian Dances” (Jan. 11) and “Ravel’s Bolero” (Feb. 22).
But the Fort Wayne Philharmonic is also mindful that a new generation, with diverse musical tastes and young children, are looking for ways to connect to symphonic music. The orchestra has big plans to meet that demand.
First up is a new wrinkle to the Pops series, one that brings together film and music in a unique and thrilling way. This season screenings of the Indiana-centered sports film Rudy and the iconic Star Wars are among the highlights of a season full of new twists and turns.
“This is going to be awesome,” said Caleb Young, associate conductor of Fort Wayne Philharmonic, who will be wielding the baton at both events. “I love how the films bring in new audience members to the Phil. That’s a big goal of this series.”
It’s been a major summer project for Young who admits that he’s spent three months preparing for the Oct. 12 performance with the film Rudy.
“Accompanying these films is the most challenging thing we do by far,” he said. “All of the elements have to be lined up just right. And people know this music and these films, and they know how they expect them to be. They’re also used to hearing it played by the London Symphony Orchestra, so we really have to up our game.”
For those who imagine the orchestra working together for months to accomplish such a delicate balance, think again. Given the sheer volume of concerts and events for which the musicians play, it would be impossible for them to devote that much time together in preparation.
Instead, it’s incumbent upon each member of the orchestra and its conductor to be ready to go when the time comes — for whichever performance is on hand.
“We really have to do our homework and be ready to go,” Young said. “There is so much music and a lot of things we have to work on over time. It’s logistically difficult but so rewarding. I’m really so excited because those nights are so much fun. You see people getting all dressed up but then really getting into the films and cheering when their favorite characters come on the screen.”
Rudy will be made especially thrilling for fans who have cheered the real-life story of Rudy Ruettiger, the inspiration behind the film, because Ruettiger and the film’s director, Decatur native David Ansbaugh, will present a talk and Q&A on hour before the film begins.
And if all of that floats your boat, then in February, the notion of dressing up for the Philharmonic might take a little turn in a different direction when Star Wars (the original or Episode 4, depending on your perspective) hits the Embassy screen for another film-plus-orchestra spin.
Few scores have proven as durable and beloved as the John Williams contribution to one of the most treasured films ever.
A family favorite, the chance to hear the Philharmonic accompany Star Wars will come on two nights — Feb. 26 and 27 — in a performance which is sure to attract many.
Of course, the very young children might need things a little tamer and decidedly shorter, which is where the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Family Series comes in. With a “Halloween Spooktacular” coming on Oct. 20, Young promises some fun and funny entertainment.
“I am chomping at the bit to do the Family Series this year,” he said. “For the first one, the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir and Fort Wayne Ballet will be joining us, and one of the pieces is ‘Godzilla Eats Las Vegas’ which is everything you have loved if you’ve watched Godzilla movies.”
Even these morsels don’t come close to scratching the surface of what the Fort Wayne Philharmonic has on tap in the coming months.
Add in the two annual main stage collaborations with Fort Wayne Ballet (The Nutcracker in December and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in March), their popular Holiday Pops (Dec. 13-21 at the Embassy and at various dates in nearby counties), a Cole Porter celebration in March (in collaboration with the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre) and a tribute to ABBA coming in May, there’s something for everyone.
One additional highlight will be the upcoming Violins of Hope exhibit, a massive undertaking under the direction of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.
Numerous performances will accompany the three-week visit of one of history’s most poignant collections, and in one of the largest collaborative efforts in history (certainly the largest in Fort Wayne history), the Phil is being joined by 35 partners to make Violins of Hope a memorable and special celebration of history and the arts.
Violins of Hope, which will bring dozens of special events and exhibits to Fort Wayne through November, springs from an exhibit of musical instruments which survived the harrowing days and journeys of the Holocaust.
Still more Masterworks, led by the Philharmonic’s musical director Andrew Constantine, round out the busy season.
All performances can be found on the orchestra’s website (fwphil.org) along with ticket and venue information.
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November 17 • Honeywell Center