Bay Atlantic Symphony Presents "Oceans and Mountains"
“Oceans and Mountains” is an aptly evocative title for the Bay Atlantic Symphony concerts being presented on Saturday, August 13 at the Avalon Elementary School as part of the Avalon Free Public Library-sponsored series, and on Sunday, August 14 in the Music Box at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City.
Both concerts will feature 18-year-old piano phenomenon Janice Carissa as soloist. Carissa is a native of Indonesia and is currently studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. She replaces the originally scheduled soloist, Gavin George.
And while the two venues may be as different as, well, oceans and mountains, the orchestra will perform the same selections - Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in D Major, K.175 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 – in both locations.
“When we do the summer concerts at the shore, we play nothing but great music,” said Jed Gaylin, the Symphony’s Music Director. “And,” he added, “you can’t go wrong with Mozart and Beethoven.”
Gaylin was quick to point out, however, the distinctive quality of each of these works.
The Mozart piece is what he calls the composer’s “first breakaway concerto,” saying that Mozart had been following a path set by others for his first four concerti, but, for the 5th concerto, he was writing more expressive movements. “With that work,” Gaylin said, “Mozart set a mold for what a piano concerto could be.” The program will open with the overture to Mozart’s dramatic opera “Idomeneo,” and will also feature Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, which Gaylin calls “one of the most electric symphonies ever written.”
“It is lengthier than the 5th Symphony,” he continued, “and, although it sustains power and intensity throughout, you don’t feel as though you’ve been beaten up.”
This work also holds a particular place in Gaylin’s heart. “The 7th Symphony is one of the first pieces I ever heard on a phonograph.”
The summer concert series, now in its 10th year in Avalon and its 4th year at the Borgata, is also special to Gaylin.
“We love to play both of these venues,” Gaylin said.
Gaylin also noted that admission is free to the Avalon concert, as though its “like a gift from the city to its residents and visitors.”
“The room is always packed and the vibe is tremendous,” he added. “It’s a great way to make music.”
And the Borgata? The Symphony began with an annual pops celebration there in the fall. These concerts proved to be so popular that they pitched another idea to the Borgata.
“’Let’s do classical,’ we said to them,” Gaylin told me. “That’s what an orchestra is meant to do and what we think we do best.”
And the Borgata agreed.
“So, we did it – and the response has been incredible,” Gaylin said. “I don’t know of any other orchestra that has a classical music series in a casino.”
One of the obvious benefits to hosting concerts in diverse venues is to increase the range of the audience. In Avalon, people are more likely familiar with the orchestra’s summer series and to return year after year, while those at the Borgata may be in at the casino or in Atlantic City for an entirely unrelated reason and spontaneously decide to attend the event.
“We have noticed over and over, especially at the Borgata, that we get a lot of feedback from the audience,” Gaylin said. “People often say how much they enjoy the concert or tell us about how long it’s been since they’ve seen classical music performed live.”
And it is precisely this interactivity that drives the orchestra forward.
“We strive to move beyond our comfort zone,” Gaylin said, “and to always be open to the art.” In the last year, for example, the Symphony has performed three world premieres.
“We play differently for each audience,” he said. “The circle of connection starts on the stage and broadens out from there. It’s never passive experience. In every case, the audience is part of the creation.”
At this point in our conversation, Gaylin paused to make an important point about the strong alliances that the Symphony has formed – with venues like the Borgata and Avalon Library, and a more recent partner, the Landis Theatre in Vineland, and also with Stockton University, where Gaylin is Artist-in-Residence, and Jacobs Music, who provides pianos for the orchestra’s concerts – and the way in which these relationships enrich the orchestra.
“They are all tremendous partners,” Gaylin said. “They treat us with kindness and openness, and they value what we do.”
It is because of the support of partners and audiences that the Bay Atlantic Symphony has made such strides toward fulfilling their mission and vision (which I paraphrase slightly from the statements on the web site), which is to “share and develop love and appreciation of concert music in the southern New Jersey community through performance and education” and to “make transcendent live music accessible and available in southern New Jersey and thereby improve life within that community.”
“We play every concert, every piece, with all the passion and conviction we have,” Gaylin added. “That’s just what we’re about.”
The Bay Atlantic Symphony presents "Oceans and Mountains" on Saturday, August 13 at the Avalon Elementary School and on Sunday, August 14 in the Music Box at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City. For more information, visit http://bayatlanticsymphony.org.