You might have enjoyed Symphoria concerts when the orchestra took on movie soundtracks or Broadway hits. Saturday night the musicians turn their talents toward gospel music and they’ll be collaborating with local gospel singers in a special live virtual event, Gospel Meets Symphony.
This is a special Sparks Series concert, conducted by Principal Pops Conductor Sean O’Loughlin, who helped put the virtual event together.
“When we were originally conceiving of this concept, we had in mind a full gospel choir accompanying us and sharing the stage. So, we had to pivot as things were changing, almost on a daily basis. So my recommendation was let’s at least get four singers to create that, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, which is the original voicing for a full choir. So at least we’ll get the traditional gospel harmonies."
And to find those, Symphoria turned to WAER’s own Queen of Gospel Cora Thomas. That allowed the orchestra to connect on a deeper level with the community.
“It came out of the desire to have more community involvement and to broaden our reach in the area. There’s just such a healthy gospel community here in Central New York.”
The program of some traditional gospel favorites and some newer numbers will include local musicians, Zasha Moore, Alza Johnson, Corey Hudson, Fred Hintz, and special performance by Joan Hillsman’s Music Network.
O’Loughlin says the musicians in the orchestra are excited to take on the challenge, jut like other crossover, fusion musical events.
“Pairing with the symphony, Broadway s a popular vehicle, movie themes (also). Gospel really shows the chameleon-like quality of the symphony players. One of the things of a true professional is to play in many different styles.”
He gives praise the orchestra’s front office for keeping the musicians busy during the pandemic, when music has had to be virtual.
“I have to give credit to all the folks at Symphoria who have really taken the bull by the horns and not sat on the sidelines. They’ve really found ways to keep connected to our audience and be able to continue to provide live experiences. There’s many orchestras and many bands who are creating a lot of pre-recorded content.”
O’Loughlin says their fingers and toes are crossed to be able to play their fall season in front of audiences. Summer might also present opportunities for in-person concerts at outdoor venues, even before all gathering restrictions are lifted.