Prepare to be enlightened.
The Altoona Symphony Orchestra will perform its third classical concert of this season, "Music of Enlightenment," at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, with a special guest performance by Nicholas Will, the director of music and organist for the Cathedral.
The concert, conducted by Maestra Teresa Cheung, will be the first performed under new ASO executive director Chrissey Wagner, who took over the position just this week.
"I have always been very interested and passionate about the symphony," said Wagner, a native of Hollidaysburg. "I have a strong appreciation for the arts. My mom was involved with the symphony years and years ago, and I attended those with her.
"I have a daughter that's a music major at Penn State, and my children are involved in school orchestras and local ensembles. The arts are so important, and it seems the arts are always the first thing to be cut. It's important for people to realize how important the arts are and not let it go."
Wagner, who has a degree in business development and marketing from Penn State, came to ASO from her previous position as director of development at Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries.
If you go
What: Altoona Symphony Orchestra's "Music of Enlightenment"
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona
Tickets: $30 for general admission and $10 for students. Tickets must be bought in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door. For tickets, call 944-9434.
"I look forward to getting more people involved and aware of the symphony," she said.
"I want to get the younger generation involved and get into schools more. I want to build more support, enthusiasm and interest."
That all starts with this weekend's concert.
Will is currently studying for his Masters of Music degree in organ performance at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. He received his bachelor's degree in sacred music from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, winning the school's Andre Marchal Award for Excellence in Organ Performance.
He has served as organ scholar at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh and was the dean of the Duquesne chapter of the American Guild of Organists. He has also performed recitals throughout Pennsylvania and in West Virginia, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts.
It is a "rare privilege," Will said, for an organist to play with an orchestra, "especially one as polished as this group. I am simultaneously thrilled, humbled and honored to play with the Altoona Symphony Orchestra."
The orchestra will perform "Sospiri" by Edward Elgar, "Suite in G Major for Organ and Strings" by Ottorino Respighi, "Concerto No. 1 for Organ and Orchestra in F Major" by Josef Rheinberger and "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Will will perform a solo piece, "Introduction and Passacaglia in D Minor" by Max Reger, as well as playing with the orchestra on the other works.
"I will play all the pieces on the Cathedral's historic 1931 Steinmeyer organ," said Will, a native of Martinsburg. "All of the pieces were written in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, and so they suit the instrument extremely well. In particular, the Steinmeyer is an ideal vehicle for the music of Reger and Rheinberger.
"One would have to travel to Germany to find a more suitable instrument to perform this music, which is part of what makes this concert so special."
Both Wagner and Will are looking forward to the concert, including the different location from the Mishler Theatre.
"[The Cathedral] is a beautiful venue to have a concert," Wagner said.
"The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is honored to host the Altoona Symphony Orchestra," Will said. "And I am thankful for Maestra Cheung's vision and hard work to make this concert possible."
Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.