Redefining Romanticism: ASO continues season-long theme with upcoming concert

Courtesy photo / Maestra Teresa Cheung will conduct the Altoona Symphony Orchestra during its concert on Saturday at the Mishler Theatre.

The Altoona Symphony Orchestra continues its season-long tribute to William Shakespeare at its next concert on Saturday called “Romanticism Redefined.”

Honoring the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, the ASO will play selections from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with some help from the Hollidaysburg Area High School brass ensemble.

ASO director and conductor Teresa Cheung also is continuing to play on the season’s theme, “roman-ticism,” with music celebrating ancient Romans.

The concert opens with Mendelssohn’s “Intermezzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and will be followed with selections from “Spartacus” by mid-20th century composer Aram Khachaturian of Soviet Georgia.

Spartacus, Cheung explained, was a Roman slave who led a revolution, and the late Khachaturian made him a folk hero in his compositions.

“We tend to think of folk songs as simple, but some are not simple at all,” she said. “His music has a particular character to it that is complex. … His music is so exciting but very difficult to play.”

Following an intermission, the HAHS ensemble will join the symphony in “Nocturne” and “Wedding March” also from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“We’re very excited to participate in this collaboration,” said HAHS director of bands Scott Sheehan.

Members of the brass ensemble participated in the ASO opening concert at the Hollidaysburg Canal Basin Park last year, but this is the first time for the high schoolers to play at an ASO season concert, he said.

“We were doing that piece (“Wedding March“) as part of our halftime show in the fall, and (Cheung) invited us to join in then,” he said. “It was a way for her to announce this concert. We’re real excited.”

The brass ensemble includes 15 students playing trumpets, French horns, trombones and tubas, he said. Most participate in the HAHS orchestra, so have experience playing a symphony.

“But certainly not of the caliber of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra,” Sheehan said. “They’re very excited. They know this is a big deal, … and they’re working hard to do their very best. They know these opportunities don’t come every day.”

The six trumpet players will join the ASO in the final four selections of the concert, Ottorino Respighi’s “Feste Romane,” or Roman festival.

The selections are:

* Circenses, like circus, which was when gladiators battled wild animals in the Roman Coliseum, Cheung said.

“In the music, you can hear the lions roaring and then you can hear some of the early martyrs in the battlefield, like early Christians singing a meditative prayer,” she said. “It’s a juxtaposition.”

* Il Giubileo, or the Jubilee, which represents the papal tradition celebrated every 15 years. “In the music, you kind of hear people are quietly walking toward this area, like up in the mountain outside of Rome. You hear a lot of church bell. You hear a lot of tranquility.”

* L’Ottobrata, or The October Festival. “We don’t have to explain to Altoonans what Oktoberfest is,” Cheung said. “This is the harvest festival. The music is very festive, but you can hear very quiet moments, like a serenade.

“In the very end, there’s a strange instrument that comes in,” Cheung said. “The mandolin is being used in the orchestra to play. It’s just very colorful.”

* La Befana, for “The Epiphany.” It is when “everybody goes wild at the Piazza of Verona. … Everyone is drinking and drinking the music in, getting rowdier and rowdier. And you can see someone getting drunk in the orchestra. Not literally, but from the music,” Cheung said.

This will be ASO’s first time playing that particular piece, so isn’t to be missed, she added.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.


If you go

What: Altoona Symphony Orchestra’s “Romanticism Redefined” concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Mishler Theatre, downtown Altoona

Admission: $13 to $35 for individual tickets

Tickets/more info: