Capital Region holiday arts preview

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Coats are being drawn tighter, gloves and mittens are emerging from long-shut drawers, and woolen sweaters are coming out of closets to air. Thanksgiving plans are emerging, soon to be followed by preparations for Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, and New Year’s. Before we know it, 2015 will be laid gently away, as we begin to unpack the idea of 2016.
The arts can be an excellent emotional, creative and psychological outlet. Resident orchestras, dance companies and theater troupes offer up celebrations of human expression that carry us through the holidays  and then on through the long days of winter.
Albany Symphony Orchestra

Albany Symphony Orchestra, the region’s resident professional symphony, is following its established practice of presenting a mixture of classical programs interspersed with avant-garde and specially commissioned pieces—as well as a regular series of interactive family programming.
The November 7th concert, “Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams,” will offer the opportunity to experience Tchaikovsky in a musical form other than the Nutcracker ballet – his first symphony, which carries the moniker of “Winter Dreams.”  Also part of the program the Sibelius intense Violin Concerto, paired with Radical Light by living American composer Steven Stucky who cites Sibelius’ architectural style as having a strong influence. The soloist will be Benjamin Beilman, noted for an intense, fervent approach to his instrument.
ASO is presenting an interactive family program on November 22 that reinterprets the fantastical realm of Harry Potter, in a musical context, while covertly teaching the audience some aspects of conducting. Join the musical wizard “Harry Sonata,” along with his arch nemesis “Lord Moldywart,” as they conquer evil within the sound worlds of composer such as Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Sousa and Strauss.
On December 6th, ASO will offer a special holiday presentation “The Magic of Christmas,” featuring young singers and dancers from the Capital Region. Visit the website for program details, which should be available as the concert approaches.
The December 19th and 20th program will feature pianist Joyce Yang, whose playing is often characterized as having a poetic, lyrical approach to chamber and symphonic music. The ‘William Tell and More” concert will feature Rossini’s culturally iconic “Overture,” alongside Schubert’s “Great” Symphony No. 9, and modern composer Michael Torke’s new piano concerto, inspired by three Manhattan bridges. The ensemble of pieces, although greatly varied in cultural origins and impetus, all share a sense of narrative and grandeur of scale.
To learn more about the season, visit www.albanysymphony.com.
Schenectady Symphony Orchestra

Schenectady Symphony Orchestra has always emphasized the importance of community, and of balancing performances by established local soloists with opportunities for up-and-coming young musicians. Case in point is SSO’s next concert, on January 10th. The soloist for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major will be Joseph Eisele, an undergraduate student of piano currently studying at Skidmore College. The concerto will be bookended by a Rossini overture (Semiramide) and Dvorak’s New World symphony. To learn more about the orchestra and its 2015-2016 Musical Journeys Season, visit www.schenectadysymphony.org.
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company

Resident company at The Egg, Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company (ESDC) is going into its 25th season as a highly respected professional dance company in the Capital Region. Artistic director Ellen Sinopoli continues her collaborative tradition of using dance to interpret and translate other artistic disciplines into vocabularies of form and movement.
ESDC has built up a series of annual traditions, many of which involve collaborations with local colleges and arts centers. The first such performance (November 6th and 20th) will be with the Opalka Gallery of the Sage Colleges. Springing off Opalka’s exhibit on the artistry and aesthetics of video games, ESDC promises a presentation that juxtaposes the digital realm with live, improvisatory and choreographed human interaction.
Other annual traditions include a cooperative presentation at Russell Sage College, featuring both ESDC and students and faculty of the college, with performances November 13th through 14th. On December 4th, there will be a repertory concert at the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli. Every year, ESDC spends time in residency at the center, developing and choreographing new works for the spring.
ESDC’s final performance for the year will be an intimate concert on December 11 at The Linda in Albany, a unique venue run by WAMC, which functions as a performance space, recording studio and general cultural center for the arts in the Capital Region. This performance promises intriguing, close encounters with the vivid and dynamic language of dance.
To learn more about the company and its 2015-2016 season, visit www.sinopolidances.org.
Albany Berkshire Ballet

For those whose holiday advent season is incomplete without it, Albany Berkshire Ballet will be offering its annual Nutcracker tour. This company, whose origins date back to the 1960s as a small dance school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has been presenting Tchaikovsky’s delightful phantasmagorical Christmas narrative for over 40 years. From its simple beginnings as an outlet for advanced dance students, this company evolved into a solid, respected professional dance company (by 1975) that has toured across the Northeast, and as far away as Canada. Albany Berkshire Ballet offers a valuable resource for classical dance, which complements Albany’s Ellen Sinopoli modern dance company.
As of the publication of this article, a tour schedule had not been established. Visit the company’s website for updates: www.berkshireballet.org.
Capital Repertory Theatre

The Capital Repertory Theatre, or “The Rep,” is unique in that it is the only resident, professional theater company in the Capital Region. Providing a diverse assortment of classics, new pieces and musical theater, the Rep has been a presence in Albany for almost 35 years. Among community-minded goals, the Rep aims to provide theater of a very high caliber, assist in creating a cultural draw to the region, and ensure that every student within the Capital Region has the opportunity to experience live theatre prior to graduation from high school.
The Rep’s holiday production this year is “Christmas Story: The Musical!”—a musical based on a 1983 film by the same name. The play takes place in the All-American Iowa of the 1940s, centering around nine-year-old Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun. Although this is more a materialistic exploration of Christmas than a philosophical look at the meaning of the holidays (as in the Jimmy Stewart film “It’s a Wonderful Life”), the humor and catchy tunes will likely find resonance with one’s childhood experience of Christmas. The show runs December 1 to 27, with previews starting on November 27. For more information, visit www.capitalrep.org.

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