RAM Talks Art: Rockford Symphony Orchestra celebrates Rockford in its season finale

"Symbol," by Thien Diep. Selected works of Rockford-inspired art created by students will be incorporated into Youth Concert performances April 23. Image of artwork provided

By Guest Columnist Julie Schaper
Executive Director, Rockford Symphony Orchestra

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra (RSO) celebrates its 75th anniversary this season. What started as an orchestra of volunteers who loved to play music has today become the third-largest professional orchestra in Illinois.

Seventy-five years is a testament that music and the arts matter to Rockford. When RSO Music Director Steven Larsen was creating the season, he wanted to celebrate all of Rockford. Pictures at an Exhibition by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, a piece of music inspired by an exhibition of artwork, offered this unique opportunity.

Maestro Larsen’s vision included a sequenced series of images inspired by the music—a turn of tables from Mussorgsky’s inspiration from the artwork. These images would depict Rockford’s defining river and natural beauty, its architecture, and of course, the people who live and work in the Forest City.

Eight professional photographers—Nels Akerlund, Jeff Anderson, Pablo Korona, Bradley Nordlof, Valerie Olafson, Steve Pitkin, Sherry Pritz and Hans Rupert—were challenged to provide images that were inspired by the music and reflected their views of Rockford. The RSO then partnered with the Rockford Park District to choreograph the images with the music to be projected in high definition above the orchestra during the performance.

This celebration includes three performances at the Coronado Theatre and two photography exhibits at Rockford Art Museum (RAM). The capstone RSO performance will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 24, at the Coronado. Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with the photo-choreography will also be featured at the RSO’s annual Youth Concerts Friday, April 23. Rockford-inspired artwork created by Rockford Public School students will also be projected during these concerts, which will be attended by more than 3,000 fifth- and sixth-graders from a seven-county area. These concerts are graciously sponsored by Alpine Bank and the Rockford Park District.

The RSO collaborated with Rockford Art Museum for two photography exhibits. Also titled Pictures at an Exhibition, the exhibit is on view April 9-June 27 in RAM’s Anderson Gallery and includes selected work by the photographers featured during the concerts. Images provided by the Rockford Photo Club are on display April 2-May 31 in the RAM Art Annex, a learning space across the hall from the entrance to Rockford Art Museum. The RSO and RAM will host a free Gallery Walk and SoundBites discussion at noon, Friday, April 23, at Rockford Art Museum, inside Riverfront Museum Park, 711 N. Main St., Rockford.

Tickets for the April 24 Pictures at an Exhibition concert are available online at www.rockfordsymphony.com and by calling the RSO Box Office at (815) 965-0049. Tickets start at $18 for adults; $6 for students. The April 23 gallery walk is free, but reservations are required for a $12 box lunch at the SoundBites discussion. To sign up, call the RSO before noon, Thursday, at (815) 972-2939.

Connect with Rockford Symphony Orchestra on Facebook and Twitter: www.facebook.com/RockfordSymphony, @RkfdSymphony (www.twitter.com/RkfdSymphony).

From the April 21-27, 2010 issue

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