The Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra has billed its 2015-16 concerts as “A Season of Surprises.” And while sixth-year SSO Music Director and Conductor Kevin McMahon is providing a little insight on the fun, patrons will need to head to the Weill Center for the Performing Arts to see everything planned for this year.
Each concert will have a surprise encore, and McMahon isn’t tipping his hand on what he has planned, but he promises audiences will be smiling.
The SSO will be incorporating technology for the first time throughout the season to improve the audience experience. Supertitles will be displayed during concerts that will provide English translations of foreign languages. Additionally, during the Dec. 12 holiday concert the SSO will screen the 1982 animated feature “The Snowman” while the Orchestra performs the film’s score, composed by Howard Blake.
The Nov. 14 concert will feature the American debut of celebrated Slovenian pianist Ana Šinkovec Burstin as she joins the SSO in popular Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.
One of the biggest surprises will take shape this season, but be unveiled next season. The SSO will invite audience members to vote throughout this season to select the program for a People’s Choice concert during the 2016-17 season. Details on how the voting will work will be announced closer to the season opening concert in October.
“We know our patrons have many favorite composers and works, and the People’s Choice will allow them the unique opportunity to help us plan a concert for next season,” McMahon said. “Orchestras all over the world are looking for ways to get audiences more involved. This is the ultimate way to give our audience ownership in our music making.”
The following is an overview of each concert for the 2015-16 season:
Oct. 3 – Beginning with a Fond Farewell
The SSO will say good-bye to retiring concertmaster Debbie Williamson, who has been part of the group for 34 years. She will join McMahon as the guest soloists in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins.
The program also includes the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Keith Emerson, a member of the popular progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Jeffrey Biegel, a friend of Emerson, will be the featured soloist.
“One thing I have always tried to do in programming is balance so-called popular works, traditional repertoire and works that are not as well-known but worthy of being heard,” McMahon said. “Emerson is not a work normally programmed, but it should be heard more often. It’s also tied to the popular side due to the Emerson, Lake and Palmer connection.”
Grofe’s “Grand Canyon” Suite, which will also feature Williamson, will round out the program.
Nov. 14 – Russian to the Finnish
Burstin’s American debut will highlight a night of traditional work. The program will open with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, followed by a pair of works by Jean Sibelius – The Swan of Tuonela and his Symphony No. 7.
Dec. 12 – The Glory of Christmas
The SSO’s annual holiday concert, which includes the Sheboygan Symphony Chorus, promises to be a special evening. In addition to the screening of “The Snowman,” the orchestra will perform Respighi’s “Laud to the Nativity,” which McMahon said will include a surprise he’s saving for the performance. Soprano Anne Slovin, mezzo-soprano Erin Elizabeth Smith and tenor Robert Breault will be featured.
The program also includes Vivaldi’s “Gloria,”
which will feature Slovin and Elizabeth Smith.
Feb. 6 – Traditional and Beyond
Longtime SSO principal trombonist Jason Sebranek, the band director at Plymouth High School, will be featured on the seldom-performed trombone concerto by British composer Gordon Jacob.
“We’ve programmed more British music this season, including this work, Emerson, Blake and Lloyd Webber,” McMahon said. “This season I tried to explore areas of the repertoire we haven’t touched in my first five seasons here.”
The Jacob is the centerpiece between two very popular works – Rossini’s overture to “The Barber of Seville” and Beethoven’s Third Symphony, dubbed the “Eroica.”
March 12 – A Century of Song
It will be a night of pops standards sung by Shawn Weber McMahon, wife of the SSO’s music director. Works of Gershwin, Porter, Bernstein, Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber are on the bill.
“We’ve been saving this for my sixth season,” Kevin McMahon said. “A number of people in our organization heard her sing at Lakeland College a few years ago and suggested she be invited to sing during a regular season performance.”
The program will also include the SSO playing Liszt’s “Les Preludes” and a 23-minute piece of music from Kern’s “Showboat” that’s not often heard.
May 14 – World’s Greatest Opera Choruses and More
You’ve heard these pieces in TV commercials and at weddings … now you’ll hear them in their original setting--the concert stage. Erin Elizabeth Smith returns with the Sheboygan Symphony Chorus for a program filled with opera music, much of which McMahon said is sure to be familiar.
“We have touched on opera overtures as time has gone by, but this is first time we’re presenting an entire program of opera music,” he said. “This program will feature music that’s been part of popular culture to pieces that opera connoisseurs will appreciate and everything in between. It’s a program that will please an opera novice and the most seasoned opera goer.”
Wagner’s Wedding Music from “Lohengrin,” the Anvil Chorus, the Humming Chorus and the Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” are among the highlights.
Tickets are currently on sale for the five-concert season, including full and mini-series season tickets and individual concert tickets. Full Concert Series tickets range in price from $110 to $160. The Mini Series, which includes three of the five regular season concerts, range in price from $72 to $102. Student season passes are also available for only $45. Ticket prices for the Glory of Christmas concert on December 12th are $25, students are $15. For further information or to request a season brochure, call the Sheboygan Symphony Office at 920-452-1985.