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Lawrence Eckerling discusses programming

Lawrence Eckerling discusses programming

Evanston Symphony Board member Robin Ashton asked ESO Maestro and Music Director Lawrence Eckerling about how he programmed this year’s subscription series line-up.

Ashton: Maestro, how do you go about programming a season. Do you start with a theme or what?

Eckerling: I actually start at the other end. I put together strong programs first, and then the theme emerges. Our first goal is to do programs that are entertaining and rewarding. It’s really different every year. In this particular season, the guest artists were an integral part of the plan. It’s partially a matter of who you might find available, and it’s also that we just want to collaborate with them.

In the case of Orff’s Carmina Burana and Chichester Psalms by Bernstein, it was long planned. Carmina Burana is the second most popular choral work of all time, behind only Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And, by May, we’ll be a bit after the fact, but it’s Leonard Bernstein’s Centennial. Once we have the North Shore Choral Society on board, we can do things such as Chichester Psalms, which I dearly love. One of our soloists, Michelle Areyzaga (who has performed with us often), will also perform Bernstein’s “Glitter and Be Gay,” which is one of her signature pieces. And I really also wanted to do John Williams tribute to Bernstein For New York (To Lenny! To Lenny!) Only problem is it’s not published. But Mr. Williams promised me if it’s not published by next spring, he’ll lend us his personal set of parts.

Ashton: What other considerations come into play?

Eckerling: You always have to look at what’s marketable. And if any pieces are less known—the Stephenson and some of the Bernstein—we need to make sure we have popular stuff to pair with them. So, we put together Stephenson’s Liquid Melancholy, which is a new piece clarinetist Bruce Yeh champions, with the Dvorak “New World” Symphony and Smetana’s Bartered Bride dances. And we paired the Bernstein pieces, which are not as well known, with Carmina Burana.

Also, the orchestra plays significantly better now than when I started 15 years ago. And we enjoy revisiting the great masterworks as an improved ensemble. Hence, Brahms’ First Symphony and the Dvorak “New World”. Once we have some of the larger works we want to do, I go about filling out the rest of the program with the soloists and other interesting pieces.  For example, I can’t wait to do the Jacob piece, The Barber of Seville Goes to The Devil in the March concert. And, every once in a while, I like to do things just for strings, hence the Grieg Holberg Suite.

It’s really, really fun. Fun counts, for me, the orchestra and the audience.

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Musical Insights

Free Pre-Concert Preview Series!

Enhance your concert experience with a sneak preview — Composers come alive and their passions take center stage when ESO General Manager David Ellis and ESO Maestro Lawrence Eckerling take you on an insider’s tour of the history and highlights behind the music.

Maestro Lawrence Eckerling and David Ellis will explore the October concert program in depth.

The Merion
Friday, October 19 at 1:30 pm,
The Merion Crystal Ballroom at
1611 Chicago Avenue at Davis Street, Evanston.
FREE and open to the public.

Light refreshments will be served and casual tours of newly renovated apartments will be available after the program.