Given the recent heat, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about some of our other favorite seasons here in Rochester. You know, fall…spring…and even (shocker) winter. And throughout that time, I saw a few really great performances down at Eastman. I’ve come to realize that the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Eastman School do a really great job cultivating interesting and diverse programs and getting out into the community to perform for folks who might not otherwise come hear their phenomenal music in the theatre.
Last fall, we went to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain as part of the “Eastman Presents” concert series put on by the Eastman School. It was absolutely fantastic. It was almost a comedy show as much as a live music performance. Those brilliant Brits played all kinds of hits, including everything from Nirvana to Amy Winehouse, The Who to Lady Gaga. You really need to watch their “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover. Their selection was eclectic, their humor was quirky, and their talent was clear. I was thrilled we went.
The next show we saw was on Valentine’s Day weekend. There was snow. It was cold (I almost remember what that feels like…glorious!). A former American Idol contestant, Michael Lynche, sang in front of the RPO for a concert called “Heart and Soul.” So many great R&B classics, including Ray Charles, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and more! Lynche was incredibly talented- and it was his first time performing in front of a full philharmonic orchestra! How cool!
I find that going downtown to see a show in Kodak Hall always feels very special- the lights at night, the huge, beautiful chandelier, the painted walls and the plush seats- it all makes for an experience that feels extra-meaningful. It’s almost like visiting another era. Going to see the orchestra sounds archaic in 2016 (but it’s not, I swear!). You step slightly outside the norm of your day to day and get to immerse yourself in music. I love it!
As a college student at U of R, I used to take the bus over to Eastman for lessons. Going to Java’s quickly became tradition, as I’m sure it is for music nerds and Rochesterians alike. Best hot chocolate in the city- I doubt anyone would even fight me on that! It’s pretty much a fact. I also enjoy spending time around Eastman during Fringe Festival, since so many eccentric performers can be found all over the area seemingly anytime during the festival. Gibbs Street is a pretty great place to be.
The cool thing about the RPO, though, is that they don’t just stay put. They’re pretty active in the community, and even put on a summer concert series where they play in public parks! How lucky are we that we get to experience that?! For free?!
They’re called “RPO Around the Town” concerts, and they’re quite excellent. Locations range far and wide, everything from Susan B. Anthony Square to Mt. Hope Cemetery, ending the series at the Maplewood Rose Garden. We attended the wind quintet concert at Mt. Hope Cemetery on a lovely summer evening and really enjoyed the selections! It was a diverse array of things- Sousa and Grieg and Bach (if I remember correctly), and more, of course. I played in a wind quintet in high school, so I especially enjoyed it! Sadly this concert series is over for the summer (probably for the best for the performers at this point, so they don’t melt), but make a mental note to check it out next year.
As a young adult living in this awesome city, I appreciate all the RPO and the Eastman School do to cater to our diverse population and to serve the community in a variety of ways. The RPO even has a blog where you can follow along with what the musicians are up to! A blogging orchestra? That’s pretty cool!
If I’ve piqued your interest, you can check out the RPO concert calendar here! They’re playing the Zelda music this fall (so cool!) and Yo-Yo Ma is coming in December (sadly, it’s already sold out). For more information about the Eastman Presents series for 2016, head over here. Go listen to some world-class music, right here in our hometown! You won’t regret it.