The arts organizations in the Miami Valley have been doing a terrific job of turning lemons into lemonade.
“At the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, it’s not just lemonade. It’s also lemon bars and lemon meringue pie and lemon curd and lemon sorbet!” says Neal Gittleman, artistic director of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. “We’re doing lots of things to keep as much of our artists’ music and dance in people’s lives as possible.”
The latest news is A Celebration from Carillon Historical Park, which invites viewers to tour Dayton’s Carillon Park virtually while enjoying performances by the orchestra, Dayton Opera and Dayton Ballet. The program, much of which is being recorded live by ThinkTV at select locations throughout the 65-acre, open-air history museum, will premiere on Saturday, Sept. 12, and be available for 45 days. The streamed performance is a continuation of the DPAA’s popular Summer Streams program.
The program will feature works for ensembles including Dvořák’s “American Quartet” for strings. Solo works will be performed by percussionist Michael LaMattina, harpist Leslie Stratton, and trumpeter Charles Pagnard.
Singer Maya Vansuch will perform “O mio babbino caro” and “America the Beautiful” accompanied by two DPO string quintets. Dayton Ballet will offer an excerpt from “The Great Gatsby.”
How it came about
Although the DPAA has been forced to cancel or reschedule live, in-theater performances through Dec. 30 and many of the collaborative premieres we’ve been anticipating will now be held in the 2021-2022 season, many of us have been enjoying Summer Streams, the DPAA’s free concert series. Soon to be announced is a new season of programming of virtual concerts: Autumn Streams and Winter Streams.
“For now, the safest stuff we can do is via radio and internet streaming,” says Gittleman. “By New Year’s Eve, we hope to be able to start doing hybrid live/streamed performances in a way that’s safe for performers and audiences alike. But since mid-March, we have to be patient, we have to be innovative, and we have to be nimble. Public health conditions can change very quickly and we need to be ready to adapt.”
The Carillon concert
The roots of this latest creative collaboration date back 15 years to the festive Memorial Day Philharmonic concerts held at Carillon Park. Since 2012, the Dayton Ballet and Dayton Opera have been included in the annual celebration as well.
At first, the two organizations were hoping the live concert — which typically attracts between 1,500 and 5,000 people — could be moved to Labor Day.
“We realized that wasn’t going to work either, so we started talking about another solution, rather than just canceling the event,,” says Carillon Park’s president and CEO Brady Kress. “We decided instead of focusing on the audience coming to the Town Greene for the concert, we could take them on a tour of the entire park — but with music. They’ll get a taste of different buildings and different views. We’re hoping this program will encourage visitors to come to the park.”
In keeping with the Memorial Day program’s “Americana” theme, it’s also the theme of the upcoming concert. A memorial sequence will honor those whose lives have been lost in the pandemic. To connect with Carillon’s 1905 Wright Flyer III, a music video is being set to William Bolcom’s “Wilbur and Orville,” a piece the DPO commissioned in 2003.
Gittleman, who has spent the past few months turning out videos for the DPAA, says he’d never thought of himself as a visual-type person. “Obviously, as a conductor, I’m ear-oriented,” he says. “But most of the videos I’ve created are focused on the music. So even something very visual, like the ‘Garden of Cosmic Speculation’ stream, was still rooted in the music. So at every turn I asked myself, ‘What’s going on in the music, and what kind of thing can I do with the images to reflect and augment the musical activity?’”
The feedback, he says, has been positive. “My favorite critique came from someone who asked whether the video camera for the ‘Beethoven Ninth Symphony’ stream was on a boat!” he says. “The answer is that it was hand-held.”
The two primary locations for the performances are the James D. Dicke Family Transportation Center — that houses the 1835 B&O#1, a Barney & Smith parlor railcar, an authentic Conestoga wagon and John Quincy Adams, the oldest existing American-built locomotive — and the beautiful new Eichelberger Pavilion, a two-story event space.
The Pavilion, dedicated last September, is part of the latest additions to the park. “The theming follows historic artifacts in our archive,” explains Kress. “The wallpaper, light fixtures, and carpet all contain the same decorative scroll work found in our NCR cash register collection, the largest on display in the world. The railings around the perimeter are reproductions of the upper railing found historically on James Ritty’s restaurant, the Dayton inventor of the cash register. The far wall contains a large original painting depicting the only time the Wright brothers ever flew together on May 25, 1910. This new venue can hold over 700 guests for dining at Carillon Park.”
Gittleman says the new ballroom has amazingly reverberant acoustics — almost like St. Mark’s in Venice. “So we’re performing two pieces there that will suit the acoustical environment: a Giovanni Gabrieli piece for two brass choirs and the Barber ’Adagio for Strings,’” he says. “I lobbied to perform ’The Trolley Song’ in front of the trolley in front of Carillon’s Transportation Center, but ’America the Beautiful’ won out!”
Gittleman is especially excited about this Carillon concert because it’s giving him the opportunity to conduct again, albeit with a mask.
“For a few days I can dial back my work as a video and audio ‘content creator’ and go back to what I really love doing,” he says. “Making music with the amazing musicians of the DPO!”
HOW TO GO
What: “A Celebration from Carillon Park” featuring the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Dayton Opera, Dayton Ballet and a tour of the historic park.
When: The concert will premiere at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, and will be available for viewing for 45 days. If you register in advance, on the day of the streaming premiere, you’ll click on the registration link, select the concert and enjoy. Each performance will also be available for on-demand viewing after the premiere.
More info: www.daytonperformingarts.org