Clinton Symphony Orchestra to highlight music of two Clinton-native composers

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CLINTON — The Clinton Symphony Orchestra of the Mohawk Valley will present two acclaimed singers from the Juilliard School of Music and feature music written by two local composers for its first performance of the year at Clinton Performing Arts Center at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20.

Featured guest artists from the renowned Juilliard Opera department will include soprano Kathleen O’Mara and baritone Gregory Feldmann on a program that will highlight music composed by Ben Moore and Ben Phelps, both natives of Clinton.

Music Director Charles Schneider said highlighting the music of local artists helps bring an awareness of the talent located practically right in area residents’ back yards. Ben Moore is the son of Dr. Roger and Joanna Moore, of Clinton. Roger Moore is president of the Clinton Symphony Orchestra of the Mohawk Valley.

“Dr. Moore and his wife Joanna have a family, and Ben Moore, their son, is a well-known composer who has music being played all over the country,” Schneider said. “As an opera composer, he is very active at Glimmerglass Opera (in Cooperstown) with his work over the summer. Anytime I can grab him I do, and I’ve tried to incorporate a lot of his work” into performances, “which is wonderful and exciting. If we don’t support our local composers, who will?”

The highly acclaimed director went on to describe Moore’s music as “very accessible” with “wonderful melodies and drama,” and now the featured Juilliard singers will perform music that he has composed.

The only piece performed in the concert repertoire that is not operatic will be Phelps’ “Tear of the Clouds.” Phelps grew up in Clinton and is a recent graduate of Colgate University where he studied music composition.

“We try to feature young pianists and composers who’ve spent their lives in Clinton, and we try to promote the town aspect, including young performers,” Schneider said. “’Tears of a Cloud’ is a very descriptive piece of music.”

As for the Juilliard singers, O’Mara is a soprano from Fort Washington, Pa. She graduated from Westminster Choir College with her bachelor’s of music degree in voice in may and is attending the Juilliard School for her master’s of music degree, where she studies with Edith Wiens.

O’Mara has performed Iolanthe in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe and Zemire in André Grétry’s Zemire et Azor with Westminster Opera Theater, covered The First Lady in Mozart’s Magic Flute with the CoOPERAtive Program, covered Barbarina in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro with Music Academy of the West and covered Governess in Britten’s Turn of the Screw at the Juilliard School.

She has participated in programs including the CoOPERAtive Program, Curtis Summerfest, Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Vocal Academy, and Music Academy of the West. O’Mara is also a Toulmin Scholar.

Baritone Feldmann, of York, Pa. is pursuing a master’s of music degree at The Juilliard School, under the guidance of Sanford Sylvan. With Juilliard Opera, Feldmann performed the role of Ananias in Britten’s Burning Fiery Furnace, as well as L’horlage Comtoise and Le Chat in a concert production of Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges in Alice Tully Hall. He will make his role debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni in April. 

This past summer, Feldmann was a Gerdine Young Artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he sang the role of A Messenger in Verdi’s La traviata. He will return to OTSL in 2019 to cover Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. On the concert stage, Feldmann made his Carnegie Hall debut in Handel’s Israel in Egypt with MasterVoices, conducted by Ted Sperling. 

Music Director Schneider has programmed a wide variety of styles and genres that covers three centuries of operatic favorites for the Jan. 20 concert. Although much of the repertoire is Italian — from Rossini and Puccini, to Mascagni and Leoncavallo — the orchestra will also highlight the music of French composers Bizet and Charpentier.

Music from Germany, including “Hansel and Gretel,” and Vienna, will round out the program. The concert will end with the famed, “Lippen Schweigen” waltz from Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow.”

“This particular concert will be almost all opera, with two wonderful singers coming up from Juilliard. The singers will be performing basically the whole second half of the program, and a lot of the orchestra repertoire comes from the world of opera,” said Schneider. “Rossini overtures and ‘Hansel and Gretel’ are very well known, and the concert is kind of a wonderful potpourri of famous and well-loved music from the world of opera.”

About five years ago, Schneider said Dr. Roger Moore approached him with the idea of “getting back” and putting together a “real, serious symphonic orchestra” that would only play symphonic music.

“It wouldn’t be a pops orchestra and that was the genesis” of the Clinton Symphony, the musical director said. “We were excited to get a symphony orchestra back to the main stream of classical music in the greater Utica area.”

Clinton Symphony Orchestra of the Mohawk Valley always showcases a concert in January, with the idea to “get everyone to come and hear us,” and it usually performs at least twice a year, Schneider said. The orchestra is now in its fourth year.

“We try to do at least two concerts during the calendar year, and we spend a lot of time fund-raising to get the money we need to produce a concert,” said Schneider. “Usually that’s somewhere in the $24,000 to $26,000 range. It takes a lot of money to put that many players on the stage, and we’ve always managed to keep our public informed about our fund-raising. More grant money has been coming our way, and we’ve also gotten wonderful support form the Winter Foundation where we can get as many students as we can to our performances so we can start building our audiences from the ground up.”

The Charles Winter family Fund, led by Katharine Winter and administrated by Richard G. Parker, has provided funds for student tickets. College students are required to show I.D.

For further ticket information, check the orchestra’s website at www.clintonsymphonyorchestra.org or call 315-404-2016.

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