ASO plans ‘Big’ show: ‘Big Band Blast’ concert coming to Altoona’s Mishler Theatre

Courtesy photo / Nicholas Palmer, who was the music director and conductor of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2006, returns to conduct “Big Band Blast.” Palmer is now the music director of North Charleston Pops in South Carolina.

Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Most people–whether they realize it or not–are familiar with the sounds from the Big Band era.

From familiar tunes like the “Pink Panther” theme to “Rhapsody in Blue,” many favorite songs will be heard reverberating through the walls of the Mishler Theatre for Altoona Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming “Big Band Blast.”

“The Mishler’s perfect acoustics make the theater a fabulous venue for a Big Band sound. It is still an extremely popular musical genre, and when the Mishler fills with brass, it’s a chilling, goosebump-type of reaction,” said Katherine Shaffer, executive director of the Blair County Arts Foundation.

The show will feature a toe-tapping, lighthearted good time for the audience. Returning to Altoona for the show will be Nicholas Palmer, who was the music director and conductor of the ASO from 1997-2006. Palmer is now the music director of North Charleston Pops in South Carolina. He is excited to return to the area for the “Big Band Blast.”

“This is a wonderful orchestral and a community that really supports the arts. This is the second season in a row that I will be conducting a pops concert with the ASO, and I am honored to be the orchestra’s principal pops conductor,” he said.

“It’s always a warm Altoona homecoming for Nick Palmer. He was an engaging and wonderful conductor for many years, and audiences are thrilled to have him at the helm for the pops concert,” Shaffer said.

Pamela Snyder Etters, executive director of the ASO, is also looking forward to Palmer’s return to the Altoona stage.

“We are very excited to have Nick joining us once again. When he was the full-time conductor of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, patrons enjoyed his personality, charisma and conducting style,” she said.

In addition to the orchestra, the show is featuring Rich Ridenour, who put the “Big Band Blast” program together and has performed it across the country. The performance features music of the Big Band era by well-known names such as Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.

“He (Rich) is a very talented pianist and very funny guy, too. He and I have worked together for over 20 years,” said Palmer.

Ridenour is a renowned pianist, having performed with the orchestras of Indianapolis, Atlanta, Kansas City, Topeka, Harrisburg, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Charleston and more. He has also collaborated on songs with famous musicians, such as Martin Short, Carol Lawrence and Smokey Robinson.

The show he’s put together will be lively and fun for the audience.

“(The show will be) a very light-hearted experience, perfect for a first-timer. The music is mostly upbeat and recognizable. The audience will no doubt feel a connection to the stylings on stage, and concerts like this one can ease them in to the orchestral experience,” said Snyder Etters.

She recommends the concert for first-timers who are new to orchestral shows.

“I feel that pops concerts have the ability to break the stigma that many place on orchestras. Orchestras are fun, exciting, very entertaining and truly for everyone,” Snyder Etters said.

The ASO ended their classical season with the powerful “Carmina Burana” and are following it with this merry, entertaining show that showcases the orchestra’s range and programing diversity.

The show will be the setting to blast off the audience into ASO’s next season.

“Aside from the fact that (the audience) will simply enjoy the evening of some classic Big Band favorites, they will also be the first to know what’s up next for the ASO. The Altoona Sym­phony is on the eve of celebrating 90 years in existence, and this is just the concert to send us soaring forward into our next big program,” Snyder Etters said.