Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTODiane Wittry, Music Director-Conductor, Allentown Symphony Orchestra, “To The Moon And Back!,” 7 p.m. May 4, State Center for the Arts, Easton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTODiane Wittry, Music Director-Conductor, Allentown Symphony Orchestra, “To The Moon And Back!,” 7 p.m. May 4, State Center for the Arts, Easton.

Allentown Symphony lands ‘Moon’ concert at State Theatre

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

It’s not the distance from the Earth to the Moon (on average, 238,855 miles), but the distance from Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown, to the State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton (approximately 16.5 miles via American Parkway and U.S. Route 22 East) requires a fair amount of logistics for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, 7 p.m. May 4 “To The Moon And Back!” concert.

The concert asks the cosmic question: Where were you on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took mankind’s first steps on the lunar surface?

The ASO concert at the State Theatre celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with classical music and movie theme music inspired by the moon and by space exploration, accompanied by photos from NASA.

The concert program includes: Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” John Williams’ “Star Wars Theme,” Holst’s “The Planets: Mars” and Horner’s “Theme from Apollo 13.”

“Anytime you take an orchestra on the road, there’s always logistics,” says Diane Wittry, ASO Music Director-Conductor.

“There are music stands, stand lights, percussion equipment and, of course,” Wittry adds with a chuckle, “the conductor’s podium.”

The 65-member ASO rehearses at the State Theatre earlier on the day of the May 4 concert.

“With this, I’ve built PowerPoint slides to go with the concert, particularly, ‘Mars’ and ‘Jupiter’ from ‘The Planets.’

“We’re including these wonderful NASA photos that we’re going to be showing behind the orchestra. And they’re really designed to emphasize and enhance the motion of the music.”

Wittry was helped in researching and formatting the photos by Todd Sulivan of Easton, a NASA “Solar Systems Ambassador,” who presents a lecture, “100 Billion Earths: The Future of Space Science,” 5:30 p.m. May 4, Acopian Ballroom, State Theatre. The lecture is included in the concert ticket admission.

The ASO “Moon” concert at the State Theatre is an expansion of the ASO “Family Concert” presented at Miller Symphony Hall earlier in the 2018-19 season.

It’s believed to be only the second time (the first was more than 10 years ago) that the ASO has performed at the State Theatre.

“This is the first time we’ve done a formal evening concert,” says Wittry.

“I call it a crossover concert. The concert is all about space, and there’s really some fantastic classical pieces about space.

“But I couldn’t imagine a concert without delving into these iconic movie scores that centered on space exploration.

“The really fun thing is that composers like John Williams really draw the majority of inspiration from composers like Strauss. So, to hear the music from ‘Star Wars’ next to Holst’s ‘The Planets’ works really, really well.

“It’s different from the family concert. At that concert, we only did excerpts from ‘Mars,” and didn’t play many of these other pieces, like ‘E.T’ and the theme from ‘Star Trek.’”

Planning for the ASO “Moon” concert at the State began two years ago.

“As part of our mission to serve the broader community, it’s good do see our orchestra play outside Miller Symphony Hall.

“I think it’s a direction that I would like for the Allentown Symphony as a means to reach more people in the community.”

The ASO has twice presented concerts at the the Levitt Pavilion, SteelStacks, Bethlehem.

The State “Moon” concert program by the ASO is:

“Space Odyssey 2001,” Richard Strauss; “Theme from Apollo 13,” James Horner; “Clair de Lune,” Claude Debussy; “Symphony No. 41 (Jupiter),” W.A. Mozart; “Theme from E.T.,” John Williams, and “Jupiter” from “The Planets,” Gustav Holst.

After intermission, the program continues with ”Mars” from “The Planets,” Gustav Holst; “Star Trek Main Theme,” Jerry Goldsmith; “Moonlight Sonata,” Ludwig van Beethoven,” in an arrangement for piano and orchestra, with Graeme Burgan, piano; “Music of the Spheres,” Josef Strauss; “Rocket Man,” Elton John, sung by Easton High School student Jonathan Burrus. and “Star Wars Suite Main Title,” John Williams.

“They all blend so well together,” Wittry says of the program. “It’s really a good concert for any age.”

Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132; Information: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715