Sage City Symphony Fall Concert features Bennington College composer Allen Shawn
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC | Sage City Symphony will present a free concert sponsored by the Bank of Bennington at Greenwall Auditorium in the VAPA Building at Bennington College. A silent auction featuring a wide array of arts, crafts, jewelry, deluxe gift baskets, and many more items ideal for holiday giving will begin before the performance and conclude at the end of intermission.
The concert, directed by longtime conductor Michael Finckel, will present the Adagio movement from Symphony No. 10 by Gustav Mahler, the Nabucco Overture by Giuseppe Verdi, and Five Orchestral Scenes by Allen Shawn.
About Allen Shawn
Born in New York City, Allen Shawn began composing small pieces as a 10-year-old, at which point he started providing music for his older brother’s puppet shows. He asked his parents for piano lessons and was soon studying with a teacher who encouraged his composing and introduced him to the music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg, Bartok, Prokofiev, and other early twentieth century composers. He was particularly attracted to Bartok and was electrified by Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps.” He learned the Berg Sonata at the age of 15, and it was the piece he found easiest to memorize and most enjoyable to perform. In the summers he studied with piano teacher Emilie Harris, and attended Kinhaven Music Camp, in Weston, Vermont, where the camp directors, David and Dorothy Dushkin, gave him opportunities to hear his fledgling chamber and orchestral compositions. At 17, Shawn conducted the Vermont Philharmonic in one of his orchestra pieces. Attending the Putney School in Vermont, he had a momentous musical experience performing as soloist in Mozart’s C minor piano concerto, K. 491, with the school orchestra conducted by music teacher Norwood Hinkle.
Shawn’s father was a gifted amateur jazz pianist who took the family to nightclubs where they heard musical giants Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Mingus live, experiences that left and indelible imprint on the young musician. As a child and teenager, Shawn also benefited from being able to regularly attend chamber music concerts, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet, in the heyday of George Balanchine’s tenure there. After his years at Putney, Shawn continued his studies at Harvard University, studying composition with Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner; he also studied privately with composer Francis Judd Cooke. Following college, he spent two years studying with the legendary Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
Known today as a composer of a large catalogue of orchestral and chamber music, Allen Shawn has also composed three chamber operas, songs, piano music, and music for ballet, theatre, and film. He was the recipient of a 1995 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and an Academy Award in music in 2001. He is active as a pianist and is the author of four books: “Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002); “Wish I Could Be There” (Penguin, 2007); “Twin” (Viking, 2011); and “Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician” (Yale University Press, 2014), as well as articles for the New York Review of Books, the Atlantic Monthly, the Musical Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and the New York Times Magazine.
In 1985 Shawn moved to Bennington, Vermont, and joined the music faculty of Bennington College. He has lived in Vermont and taught at Bennington since that time.
About Sage City Symphony
Led by music director Michael Finckel for the past 25 years, Sage City Symphony was founded in 1972 as a community and college orchestra with close ties to Bennington College. In addition to performing traditional classical repertoire as well as contemporary music, the symphony commissions and premieres new pieces each year. The symphony attracts a high caliber of dedicated amateur and professional musicians who travel from throughout Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts for weekly rehearsals during the concert season. Auditions are not required, and academic credit is available for Bennington College students who participate. Information about joining the symphony is available on their website.
Upcoming performances for Sage City Symphony’s 2019-20 concert season: Winter Concert on February 2 (Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, by Johannes Brahms; Table of Toys and Numbers (2012) by Nick Brooke; Symphony No. 2 in D Major op. 21 by Ludwig van Beethoven); Youth Concert on March 8 (“South of the Border”: Kora Saba (2014) by Michael Wimberly; Danzón by Robert Zimmerman; Sensemayá by Silvestre Revueltas; Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez; new works by Bennington College student composers); Spring Concert and Annual Dinner on May 17 (Overture to Così fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; new works by Bennington College student composers; a commissioned work TBA by Geoffrey Gee; Symphony No. 3 by Sergei Rachmaninoff).
Photo credit: John Carson