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Symphony takes on a weighty topic.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Looking to boost audiences and attract national attention, the Eugene Symphony will kick off an annual festival called "Counterpoint" this fall, exploring cultural and social themes through music, the orchestra's leaders announced Tuesday.

The symphony's 2011-12 sea son will include three concerts over a three-week period as part of "Counterpoint: War and Peace." It will bring national television newsman Tom Brokaw to town to narrate a work on Abraham Lincoln. And it will include a performance of contemporary composer John Adams' orchestral work memorializing the dead from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The orchestra plans to make its "Counterpoint" festival an annual event, with different themes each year.

"Everyone who works in the arts field realizes the work we do is less and less valued in society," explained Paul Winberg, the symphony's executive director. "How do we maintain our relevance?"

"Counterpoint: War and Peace" is keyed to the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S. Civil War and the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 2001.

At its center, it will include a special Nov. 22 performance of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," with Brokaw as narrator, along with the Eugene premiere of Adams' "On the Transmigration of Souls," which the composer wrote in response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Two other concerts, both part of the regular symphony season, will include performances on Nov. 17 of Dimitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, "Leningrad," named for the beseiged city in World War II, and, on Dec. 1, of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, the "Eroica," written to honor Napoleon.

All three concerts will be conducted by the symphony's music director, Danail Rachev.

The symphony will work with other arts groups in town, Winberg said, including the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon.

The Schnitzer plans an exhibit of work about war by Portland comic journalist Joe Sacco, creator of the influential 1993 graphic novel "Palestine."

Also collaborating in the festival will be the UO's School of Journalism and Communication and other arts groups.

The symphony's an-nouncement came at a private reception Tuesday evening for donors, subscribers and musicians at the Hilton Eugene and Conference Center.

The idea for the festival grows out of the orchestra's long-term planning and reflects broad thinking about the national problem of classical music audience participation.

Eugene Symphony has maintained a solid grasp on its audience, even in the current recession. For this season, 1,469 people hold full-season tickets and an additional 429 hold part-season tickets for concerts in the Hult Center's 2,500-seat Silva Concert Hall.

But numerous studies in recent years have shown a falloff in classical music audiences nationwide.

The National Endowment for the Arts conducted an extensive audience sur vey in 2008 and found that classical music audiences, as a proportion of the total population, declined 29 percent between 1989 and 2008. The decline from 2002 to 2008 alone was 20 percent.

The West Coast and New England had the highest arts participation rates in the country, according to the survey, with about 42 percent of the population in both regions taking part in arts events in 2008. (The national average was 35 percent.)

"But it's still declining, even here," Winberg said. "How do we counteract that?"

The symphony also announced the rest of its regular 2011-12 season on Tuesday.

It will include:

Rachev conducting soprano Dawn Upshaw and the symphony on opening night, Sept. 22, in a program that includes Osvaldo Golijov's Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra.

Lawrence Leighton Smith as guest conductor on Oct. 20 for F.J. Haydn's Symphony No. 104, "London."

Guest conductor Gregory Vajda, with Eugene violin soloist Lindsay Deutsch, on Jan. 19 for Astor Piazzolla's "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires" and Felix Mendels sohn's Symphony No. 4, "Italian."

Rachev conducting trumpeter Andrew Balio on Feb. 16 for the Haydn Trumpet Concerto.

Rachev conducting celebrity pianist Emanuel Ax and the Eugene Symphony Chorus in the Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 and the W.A. Mozart Requiem on March 8.

Celebrated violinist Midori will perform in a program that includes Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto on April 19.

Pianist Adam Golka will perform in a program that includes the Franz Liszt Piano Concerto on May 17.

One other nonseason concert will be "Disney in Concert: Magical Music From the Movies," on Jan. 22; the program features Disney scores from shows like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King."


The Eugene Symphony explores war and peace through music

What: A three-week series of classical music concerts by the Eugene Symphony around the theme of war and peace

When: Concerts will be held at the Hult Center on Nov. 17 (Shostakovitch Symphony No. 7), Nov. 22 (Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" and John Adams' "On the Transmigration of Souls") and Dec. 1 (Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, the "Eroica.")

Tickets: Season tickets go on sale Feb. 18; see for details
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Title Annotation:City/Region; Officials announce plans for a fall festival, themed on war and peace, that includes a visit by Tom Brokaw
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 26, 2011
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