EDMOND — Assembling a concert season is a bit like spinning a roulette wheel. There's a finite number of choices and there's no way to predict the outcome. The challenge comes in choosing the best artists and then lining up their availability for specific dates.
Armstrong Auditorium recently put the finishing touches on its 16th season of concerts which runs October through May. This will be the fourth season in Armstrong's $20 million concert hall on the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus.
“Every year, we get to know our customers better and discover the types of concerts they enjoy and what they will support,” said Shane Granger, Armstrong Auditorium's marketing director. “We like to bring in some international groups to give people a good sense of what's happening (artistically) outside of the U.S.
“And part of our branding is featuring some splashier classical names, which lends the concert experience an evening of high art. Guests who have more popular appeal help round out the cultural experience.”
The 2013-14 season gets underway Oct. 7 with an appearance by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble. Created to preserve the authentic folk music of Hungary, the group is regarded as one of the best folkloric dance ensembles in the world.
The Canadian Brass will make a return visit to Edmond Nov. 7. Formed in 1970, this celebrated brass quintet has earned an international reputation for masterful performances of music, spanning five centuries. Their unique brand of humor has also contributed to their appeal.
The Moscow Festival Ballet returns Jan. 27 and 28 for a pair of full-length ballets: Tchaikovsky's “Sleeping Beauty” and Leon Minkus' “Don Quixote.” Both featuring choreography by Marius Petipa, these celebrated ballets are sure to satisfy even the most discerning ballet devotee.
Kicking off the new year Feb. 16 is a performance by the Jenkins-Malone Piano Duo. Featuring Armstrong College faculty members Mark Jenkins and Ryan Malone, the duo will perform works by Mozart and Rachmaninoff, in addition to solo pieces by Chopin, Liszt, Ravel and Zez Confrey.
“Mark and I grew up together in St. Louis and we've been friends and colleagues ever since,” Malone said. “This exciting program will also give us a chance to show off our two Hamburg Steinways.”
The Haifa Symphony Orchestra of Israel, under the direction of principal guest conductor Boguslaw Dawidow, will perform Feb. 27. The best-known orchestra in northern Israel, the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, will perform Mozart's “Symphony in G minor, K. 550” and Dvorak's “Symphony No. 9 in E minor” (the “New World”). Violist Uri Bracha will be the soloist in Uri Bracha's “Melodies for Mount Carmel.”
Pianist Menahem Pressler, a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, will perform March 18. At age 89, the German-born American pianist remains one of the busiest soloists on the circuit today.
His Armstrong program will feature Mozart's “Rondo in A minor, K. 511” and the “Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595.” Accompanying Pressler will be the New York Chamber Soloists Orchestra. The ensemble will also be featured in a pair of romances by Beethoven and Copland's “Appalachian Spring.”
“Pressler's touring like crazy and teaching a lot, which doesn't sound like he's slowed down a lot,” Malone said. “He's a real icon in the piano world.”
Tony Award-winning performer Brian Stokes Mitchell (the 2000 best actor recipient for his dual role in the Broadway revival of “Kiss Me, Kate”) returns for an encore engagement March 27. Mitchell's program, titled “Simply Broadway,” will sample hits from “Company,” “Camelot,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Les Miserables” and “Sunday in the Park With George.”
Having recently completed her 30th anniversary tour, celebrated violinist Midori will perform a recital April 24. Accompanied by Ozgur Aydin, this internationally acclaimed soloist will perform works by Schubert, Lutoslawski, Bach and Beethoven.
“Midori likes to get a lot of performances in and she had a break she wanted to fill,” Granger said. “Our calendar opened up and we're happy to present her as the headliner of the season.”
The season draws to a close May 1, with a performance of Handel's “Messiah,” featuring the Herbert W. Armstrong College Choral Union. Under the direction of Mark Jenkins, the 50-member choir and professional soloists will present an unabridged performance of this baroque masterpiece.
“People seem to be very excited about the artists we have on our season,” Malone said. “We're filling a need for our audiences who are appreciative of having that high standard of performers here in central Oklahoma.”