One upside to moving is the opportunity to make new friends. That's how the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra is treating the fall performances of its 2017–18 season, which found Baltimore City's only community orchestra—which is made up of Johns Hopkins staff, students, faculty, and alumni and local musicians—heading downtown while its Shriver Hall home is being renovated.
"We did reach some people who didn't know about us," says Jed Gaylin, HSO music director, of the orchestra's season debut performance at the Baltimore War Memorial in October. The change of venue gave the HSO the chance to reach out to classical music fans who didn't know about it, even people in the university's Homewood community.
"People don't always know everything that's going on on campus, and it's not to anyone's fault," Gaylin says. "It's just because it's a very rich campus life, and there's a lot going on. But the orchestra is a special thing. It's a really beautiful town-and-gown experience. We have a roster of close to 200 musicians at this point, so for other people in Baltimore to know about it, to be out in the community in this way, is really great."
The HSO returns to the War Memorial on Dec. 3 with a program that complements the War Memorial's grand setting. The evening begins with Johannes Brahms' "Tragic Overture" and "Variations on a Theme by Haydn," a pair of shorter, emotionally potent Romantic pieces. The second half of the program features Maurice Duruflé's sumptuous Requiem, featuring the JHU Choral Society, the Baltimore School for the Arts chorus, and vocal soloists Monica Reinagel and Jason Buckwalter.
The emotive sweep of the program complements the cathedral-like acoustics of the War Memorial, starting from the ground and reaching toward the heavens. "The Duruflé is a 20th-century piece that looks back at Gregorian chants and French plainsong," Gaylin says, pointing out how this Requiem borrows from traditions of liturgical music that aim to lift their congregations. "It's music as a soufflé, where everything is upward and arch-shaped, that the Duruflé does incredibly beautifully. And that contrasts with Brahms, which is very much from the German tradition of pulling ideas from the soil. So one sculpts into heavens, and the other pulls from the earth, a nice study in contrasts and a very exciting program."
For the spring 2018 semester, both the HSO's smaller Concert Orchestra and full Symphony Orchestra concerts will take place at the university's Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center, adjacent to the Homewood campus.
Because Shriver Hall is also where the HSO normally rehearsed, the renovations added an extra variable to its already complicated formula for scheduling rehearsals, concert prep, etc. "Our musicians are also launching rockets and working in biomedical engineering and studying Romance languages," Gaylin says. "We have to balance what fits our students and our community's lives, but it's nice to know that this juggling is temporary, and when we do get back into Shriver Hall, it's going to be a much better experience for all involved—listeners and the orchestra."
If you're going
Dec. 3. Symphony Orchestra: Duruflé Requiem and Brahms, 3 p.m., War Memorial, 101 N. Gay St., Baltimore, MD 21202. $14 adults; $12 senior citizens (60+); $12 JHU faculty, staff, and alumni; free JHU students; $6 non-JHU students (with valid ID). Tickets here.
Feb. 25. Concert Orchestra: Strauss Serenade and Mozart Symphony No. 31, 3 p.m., Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center, 3509 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218. FREE admission.
March 3. Symphony Orchestra: Schubert, Smetana, and Dvorak, 8 p.m., Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center, 3509 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218. $14 adults; $12 senior citizens (60+); $12 JHU faculty, staff, and alumni; free JHU students; $6 non-JHU students (with valid ID). Tickets here.
April 29. Symphony Orchestra: Season finale with concerto competition winners and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, 3 p.m., Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center, 3509 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218. $14 adults; $12 senior citizens (60+); $12 JHU faculty, staff, and alumni; free JHU students; $6 non-JHU students (with valid ID). Tickets here