Category Archives: Concerts

SingOut2016_PhotoByJeffSprang

Three Things You Learn in Choir

by Colleen Cook

Like many singers, choir has been an important part of my life since I could walk and talk. My earliest choral experiences were at church in a “Cherub Choir” made up of preschoolers for the holiday concert. (Kudos to those of you corralling preschoolers to stand in one area and do anything!) Throughout my education, I was involved in several choirs at church and school, and even ended up working with choirs as music educator at the beginning of my career. A few things are always true about choirs: they bond people together.

For the past six years, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus has partnered with several high school choirs to create a magical concert we’ve called “Sing Out! A Choral Celebration.” This event has a synergy that’s palpable, with so many voices coming together in harmony to fill our theatre with beautiful singing. Young and old, experienced and novice, side by side singing together. It’s nothing short of magical.

The singers in these choirs and the people that lead them know that singing together truly evokes an experience unlike any other. It also teaches you some very important truths about yourself and others. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from singing in choirs:

Every Voice Matters

It is truly remarkable how necessary each voice can be to a choir. The timbre of the chorus is impacted when a new voice comes or someone leaves, but so is the culture of the group. Anyone who has been in an ensemble can attest to certain voices that made the time together in rehearsals and performance special in one way or another. Each person brings something to the table when you sing in chorus.

Listen to the People Around You

It’s easy to tell a novice choral singer from an experienced one: the novice will sing without listening, but the experienced singer has learned to listen to those around them to match tone, vowel shapes, and timbre to create a seamless blend of voices. A beautiful choral sound comes from compromise: adjusting your own individual voice to match those around you, which can only happen if you listen.

Power Comes from Unity

There’s a piece being performed on our upcoming Sing Out! concert called “The Awakening,” by Joseph Martin. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and if you’ve heard it you’ll probably agree. There’s this really incredible moment when the chorus goes from singing multiple lines and parts to a powerful unison, singing “Awake, awake my soul and sing!” When performed well, you can’t help but have goosebumps from the intensity and the heart behind it. Voices in unison speaking the same message has power unlike much else.

Learn more about the Sing Out concert here.

Symphony Chug with Mark Sebastian Jordan

What is “Symphony Chug?”

by Mark Sebastian Jordan

Hello, friends! I’m here today to tell you about an exciting new series of free events that are being added to the Mansfield Symphony’s upcoming season. Many of you will already know me from my Symphony Chat! series of talks before Mansfield Symphony concerts, where I plunge into the music on that evening’s program and try to offer a little insight to what you are about to hear. 

The chats are great, and we will be continuing them, but the thought hit me a few months back that there are a lot of people out there who would like to get into classical music a bit more, but are put off by the formality of it, the jargon involved, the specialized history, and—not least of all—the snooty ‘tudes of some classical fans.

Well, the chats are already just that: chats, not lectures. But I said to myself, “Why not make this even more fun and informal, by taking our musical adventures off-site and ranging over greater ground than just what is on the next program? Steve Taylor of the Mansfield Symphony upped the ante by suggesting holding it at a place where folks could get a drink and unwind while hearing about and discussing the music. Then Colleen Cook worked her magic and found us a home, at The Vault, a restaurant/wine bar in Shelby, where we will meet on the first Tuesday of most of the coming months until the symphony season is over.

Click Here to RSVP for Symphony Chug on Facebook
Symphony Chug is Graciously Presented by OhioHealth

If this takes off, we can continue it into the future. For the first season, I decided that the maximum way to have fun would be to range all over the place. Maybe next year we could start a grand sweep across the history of classical music to fill in the holes everyone has in what they know (trust me, no one knows everything). But for this season, let’s just romp.

September 5 we’ll kick it off by looking at humor in music. These symphonies seem like awfully serious stuff, but there are actually some great jokes buried in classical music: Beethoven pulling the rug out from under you in his Third Symphony, Bartok mocking Shostakovich in his Concerto for Orchestra, or even Carl Nielsen ending his final symphony with a bassoon fart. False solemnity is useless. Truth is, composers are human, like anyone else, and a lot of them like a good laugh. 

October 3 we’ll get into the dark spirit of the Halloween season by looking at some of classical music’s greatest scandals. Classical music is no more squeaky clean than any other gathering of crazy humans, so we might as well take a gossipy walk on the wild side. Which composer committed murder, but was never put on trial? Which male composer got dolled up in a woman’s dress to travel incognito to commit a crime, but chickened out on the way? Who threatened to hang a soprano upside down out a window to get her to sing an aria the way he wrote it? Whose dead body was found surrounded by satanic literature, and did he really commit suicide, or was he murdered?

November 7 we will tackle that dreaded issue of classical jargon by poking fun at it. “What the fugue?” will explain what is meant by terms like sonata, andante, fortissimo, fugue, sinfonia, and so on. Don’t worry, I’ll also have examples of composers mangling the terms, too. It’s more common than you’d think. I’m looking at you, Tchaikovsky!

December 5 will be a combination holiday party (with cake!) and a raising of the wrist to the theme of booze in classical music. We’ll talk about the great imbibers and a few other addicts along the way, proving once and for all that the most flawed folks in the world can still reach the heights of inspiration.

After taking January off (unless we decide to add another session to stave off the chill), we’ll resume on February 6, just a week before Valentine’s Day, when we salute romance and talk about just who was sleeping with whom in classical music. We’ll talk about the composer who got chased out of San Francisco because of his date with a girl in seminary school, a composer who sued his potential father-in-law because the father wouldn’t let him marry his daughter, a female composer who wrote a march for women and preferred them anyway, the composer who got his start playing piano in a whorehouse—at age 12!—and a couple composers never known to have gotten close to anyone, though the rumors always flew.

March 6 we’ll pose the classic question: “What’s Opera, Doc?” Symphonic music is closely tied to the music of the opera house, so we’ll jump into high dramatic mode as we look at how they go hand in hand. We’ll look at everything from the first dramatic cantatas of the early 1600’s to modern masterpieces, everything from Jephtha torching his daughter to Richard Nixon’s trip to China.

April 3 will see us going off the rails with tales of classical music’s greatest mavericks: the composer who invented his own player piano because his music was too tough for humans to play, the conductor who always hired a stagehand to kick him in the butt before he went on stage (hopefully not hitting the pistol he also packed), the pianist who was so fussy about the height of his piano stool he sawed an inch off the legs, and the composer who planned on a light show to be projected with his music 50 years before the hippies invented the same thing in the 1960’s. 

We’ll close the season of Symphony Chug! events with a gem on May 1: How can you read a novel in an hour? Listen to a symphony. I’ll give you a basic road map of your average symphony, and clues about how to navigate your way in anything from a petite Haydn piece to a towering Shostakovich beast. From simple entertainment to moving epics, symphonies are the core of orchestral music, and they open doors to other worlds.

All these events are free, and we’ll even throw in door prizes. We will, of course, invite you to partake of the drinks and more at The Vault, but mainly we just want you to come join the fun, learn a little about music in a lively, non-threatening way, and open your horizon to some of humankind’s most inspired moments. Yes, we’ll laugh at times, and other times we’ll get chills. But most of all, we’ll get closer to some of the greatest music ever created.

And don’t worry: this isn’t about cultural elitism. I encourage you to listen to everything you can, it will all enrich your life more and more. Outside of the classics, I’m a big fan of indie rock (Ezra Furman rules), alt-country (the Old 97’s rock, y’all), and Bluegrass (Bill Monroe forever!). And music from other cultures are important, too. Hear everything you can.

But it’s important not to shut off the classics, even as we expand our worlds, because, let’s face it, friends: Life is tough. We need every bit of insight and inspiration we can gather, and the classics are loaded with it. You might find a moment in Mozart that will give you light on your darkest day. You might find that Tchaikovsky takes your breath away or that Schubert can make you cry. You might find that Handel’s mood swings match your own or that Verdi makes your heart pound.

Whatever you find, I bet you’ll find that it matters a lot in your life. And that’s why we’re doing this. The music the Mansfield Symphony plays isn’t just entertainment. It’s stuff that can change your life.

SeasonPreview_Slides(90thAnniversary)

Announcing our 2017-2018 Season!

by Colleen Cook

We have SUCH an incredible 2017-2018 Season Lineup! We’ve been literally bursting to tell you about it, and last night, we had the opportunity to spill the beans on the season!

It’s a big year for the Renaissance Theatre, in fact, it’s our 90th Anniversary year. This January will mark 90 years since the historic Ohio Theatre opened in a blizzard to a sold out house on January 18, 1928. We are remarkably grateful to be here 90 years later, fully-restored and fully-operational, and still selling out on the regular to Mansfield’s incredible audiences.

We have FORTY shows in our 17-18 season, truly something for everyone. So, here’s the rundown:

Renaissance 17-18 season

For way more details, ticket information, and more check out our Events page here!

Renaissance Theatre Season Preview Party 2016 photo by Jeff Sprang

5 Really Good Reasons to Attend the #RenSeason Preview Party

by Colleen Cook

If you’ve never been to our Season Preview Party before, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. After all, we’ll be publishing the season online right after the party, but there are some PRETTY good reasons to make plans to be there.

  1. Prizes and Giveaways

    Every guest at our Season Preview receives a goody bag chock-full of goodness, and this year’s are better than ever. Plus, we giveaway some pretty big deal items, and your odds of winning are higher than ever this year… but only if you’re there!

  2. Exclusive Performances and BIG Announcements

    The Season Preview is your first glimpse of our entire season. You’ll get to hear music from our upcoming musicals, see and hear things you’ve never seen or heard before, and we’ll be making some pretty exciting announcements you won’t want to miss.

  3. It’s FREE!

    The Season Preview is our chance to say THANKS to our audience and we are probably crazy for doing this, but it’s totally free!  That said, you do need to get a ticket for this event (which you can do so right here: https://seasonpreviewparty.eventbrite.com/)

  4. Delicious Desserts

    After the big season announcement, we have an awesome dessert reception in our lobby! Who doesn’t love awesome desserts?

  5. First access to tickets

    Tired of someone else getting the best seats before you? Subscriptions for our members go on sale that very night! If you’re not yet a member, you can take care of that at the party too.

Haven’t claimed your ticket to the Season Preview yet? You can do that right here.

Larry Griffin, Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Why I Sing: An Interview with Larry Griffin

by Colleen Cook

Forty years ago, locally-renown choral conductor Richard Wink had an idea: the Mansfield Symphony should have a chorus. So many great symphonic works require a chorus, and Mansfield is chock-full of great singers. And so, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus was born.

Members of the chorus have had the opportunity to benefit from the leadership of many great choral conductors through the years, and our current conductor Larry Griffin is no exception. Larry’s exuberance and expertise are truly one-of-a-kind, and his leadership this season has injected a new life into our chorus.

Under his leadership, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus will perform a spring choral concert on April 30th fully loaded with incredible choral repertoire (such as Haydn’s mass in B flat and some absolutely gorgeous short choral works including my all-time favorite, Joseph Martin’s “The Awakening.”) So, we wanted to take a little time to get to know Larry Griffin a little better:

Colleen Cook: When did you start singing? 

Larry Griffin: I don’t remember when wasn’t singing.  In church and school I use to get into trouble because of being high strung.  But once my teachers found out that I could sing it got me out of many situations.

CC: What was your journey to becoming director of the Mansfield Symphony Chorus?

LG: My journey to Mansfield started with Robert Franz inviting my Columbus group, Capriccio, to sing the Beethoven’s 9th in 2007 with the Symphony Chorus. They performed again with the Theresienmesse, and another time with Candide. This was my introduction to this fine orchestra and chorus.  I knew then that it was my desire to have the opportunity to direct the chorus.

CC: What do you love about choral singing?

LG: I love directing choirs more than anything!  Having the ability to mold individual voices and making beautiful music together is such a joy!

CC: What is your favorite choral piece, and why?

LG:  One of my favorite choral works is the Puccini Mass. It’s my favorite because it introduced me to my first major choral work, it gave me my first solo, and introduced me to my late wife, Jane.

CC: What can our audience look forward to on the Sing into Spring concert?

LG: The audience can expect a diverse program featuring the music from Haydn, Mozart, Negro Spirituals and other memorable choral pieces.  The choir will be accompanied by a small orchestral ensemble from members of the MSO and they will get to hear four wonderful soloist: soprano, alto, tenor and bass from the Columbus area. I’m very excited to have Director Emeritus Richard Wink directing and singing as a member of the chorus, as well.  

3 Things You Support By Giving to the Annual Fund Campaign

By Jessica Dulle & Colleen Cook

1. Education

Teddy Bear Concert - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Teddy Bear Concert – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

The Renaissance proudly boasts that our Education Department serves 15,000 students each year! We have 13 distinct programs, numerous collaborations with area schools and agencies, and serve individuals of all ages and abilities!

2. Live Performances

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Whether it’s our locally-produced professional Broadway-style productions, touring bands,  artists, or comedians, or offering a venue to local emerging artists and acts, the Renaissance exists to make outstanding live performances available and accessible for everyone in our region! (Did you know that no one is turned away for an inability to pay for a ticket, thanks to our Angel Ticket Program?)

3.The Mansfield Symphony

The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

A cultural establishment in Mansfield for over 85 years, the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra is one of the premiere mid-size symphonies in the country. This season, the MSO is able to offer 6 concerts to the public, plus four educational concerts and numerous community outreach performances. As Ben Folds recently said, “Symphonies symbolize the epitome of civilization, i.e., people working together. If you go to a town without an orchestra or a bad orchestra, it’s a crappy town.”

You can give to the Renaissance Annual Fund Campaign $100,000 Matching Grant Challenge and have your gift matched 2:1 by the Landers Foundation and the Hire Foundation anytime between now and December 31, 2016! To give, click here.

Mansfield Symphony Cellist photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

What to Expect When You Come to the Symphony

by Colleen Cook and Chelsie Thompson

Something we hear from our patrons a lot is that one of the reasons they hesitate to come to a symphony concert is because, well, they just don’t know what to expect. Doing new things can be intimidating, especially if your perception of the experience is outside of your comfort zone.

So, here are some answers to some of the frequently asked questions about attending a symphony concert:

What should I expect?

Expect that you’re in for a treat! If this is your very first symphony concert, you might be a little nervous because this is all new to you, but that’s okay – you’ll soon realize that your role as an audience member is one of the best: to sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience. After all, the orchestra is playing this concert for you.

What should I be paying attention to?

Notice the beat of the music, and the way the tunes make you feel.Let your thoughts go, and instead, allow yourself to simply focus on what you hear. For just a couple of hours, you can pretend that there is nothing else in the world except the musical moment that you are experiencing at the time.
Here are a few things to look for:

    • The bows that the string sections use to play will always be moving in the same direction within their section.
    • Woodwinds will be adjusting their instruments and reeds, perhaps changing out their instrument to a smaller or larger model to play higher or lower notes.
    • The percussionists will be moving from instrument to instrument and changing the mallets that they use to play each one, with the timpanist occasionally tapping the drums lightly while holding his ear to them to make sure they are in tune.
    • The brass will be emptying their spit valves – yes, this happens, although any brass player will confirm to you that the “spit” is actually condensation that builds up in the instrument as they blow air through it. The French horns will be the most noticeable in this, as they are notorious for annoying their fellow brass players by purposely emptying up to ten slides in a row.
    • After solos, you might see the string players tap their bows lightly on their stand or the wind players tap their foot on the ground, or hand on their knee, to show their appreciation to the soloist during the music.

What do I wear?

Well, what do you like to wear? There’s no dress code for the symphony, so you’ll see everything from jeans and tees to cocktail dresses and suits. Going to the symphony is all about experiencing the magic of a live orchestra, so you might even notice that the orchestra dresses in all black so as not to draw your attention away from the music. Wear something that’s comfortable to you, and feel free to dress up as you see fit.

Where do I park?

You’re in luck – the Renaissance Theatre, which is the Mansfield Symphony’s home, has its own large parking lot, which connects directly to the back main entrance of the theatre (you can’t miss it – you’ll see four glass doors marked “Theatre Entrance” on your right as you walk towards the building). On busy nights, you may end up in one of our secondary lots: the two adjacent lots just West of the Ren on Park Avenue, and the gravel lot behind the main parking lot, next to the Sons of Italy building. You might also find parking on the streets in front of and behind the theatre.

Will it be interesting to watch?

There’s quite a bit going on during a symphony concert, which can have anywhere from 60 to 100 musicians onstage, so there’s plenty to see – in fact, when we add the chorus, the number of musicians onstage at one time can reach 170! The conductor is in command of all of these musicians at once, so his arms, hands, and the rest of his body are perpetually in motion to make sure that everyone is always on the same page.The musicians themselves are enjoying the music, too, so you’ll see some who are smiling, some with looks of intense concentration, and some moving to the beat.

Will I know any of the songs?

You might! You’ll probably know some of the music, and some of it will likely be new to you. Even if you don’t think that you are familiar with orchestral or classical music, chances are good that you hear it on a daily basis – it’s in commercials, movies, and in the background of radio ads. Since music speaks for itself, it’s used quite frequently to convey a mood or elicit an emotion in these formats. In fact, even current pop and hip-hop music often uses familiar melodies from classical pieces. Don’t believe us? Check out this list of just 25 of them on ClassicFM. (In case it isn’t obvious, our personal favorite is Nas + Beethoven).

Who are the musicians?

The Mansfield Symphony is an exceptional group of professional musicians from right here in Mansfield, as well as Cleveland, Columbus, and everywhere in between. They are professional musicians, music teachers, graphic designers, college professors, managerial professionals, and even music students who are currently completing their Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. They are all different in many ways, but one thing they have in common is that they love to play music for you, the audience.

Will anyone be singing?

We have a fantastic chorus, and they do accompany the orchestra on a few different occasions each year – the Holiday Pops is a perennial favorite, and we often perform at least one additional large-scale work each year that features our talented vocalists. In addition, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus is active in the community, performing an annual “Sing Out! Choral Extravaganza” with several area schools each fall – and this year, the chorus will perform their inaugural “Sing into Spring” concert in April. Shameless plug: if you love to sing, then this is the group for you!

Can I bring my children? Will they like it?

Children are always welcome at the symphony, but you’ll find that some concerts are better than others. Many regular season symphony concerts are almost two hours long, which can be hard for the little ones to sit through without getting antsy and distracting your fellow audience members and musicians. Concerts with lots of extra action onstage (like the Holiday Pops concerts)are a great first symphony experience for the family, as the multimedia and interactive aspects offer more to catch kids’ eyes and keep them engaged.

You can also give us a call to ask whether a specific concert might be okay for kids – we can give you some insight on the music and length of the concert that may help you make your decision. And if you’re still not sure, why not try out our interactive Teddy Bear Concerts with members of the Mansfield Symphony? These concerts are slated for afternoons three times each season, and offer a small group or soloist from the MSO accompanying an original story or children’s activity.

When should I clap?

Okay, this is a very common question, with good reason! After all, no one wants to be “that guy” that clapped at the wrong time. There are a few easy spots to remember:

  • At the beginning of the concert, the Concertmaster (a.k.a. the first chair violin) will enter the stage to tune the orchestra. As he or she enters, clap to welcome him or her.
  • When the orchestra is done tuning and the Concertmaster sits down, the Conductor will enter the stage, so you’ll clap to welcome him or her as well.
  • If there is a soloist, they will enter the stage when the orchestra is ready to play their piece, and the audience claps at that time.

It is also appropriate to applaud at the end of each piece – and this can be a little tricky, since some of the songs you’ll hear have multiple parts, which are called “movements.” The movements are listed in the program, and the orchestra and conductor prefer that the audience does not clap between movements, as they need that time to concentrate on the next part of their music.

A good rule of thumb is to watch the conductor: the conductor will turn around when it’s time to applaud. If the conductor’s hands are still in the air, or is still facing the orchestra, then most likely they’re still concentrating and need quiet. When the conductor’s hands drop, and he or she turns to face the audience, the orchestra is ready to hear your appreciation and applause. If ever in doubt, just hang back a bit – regular symphony-goers will help you know what to do by starting the applause at the right time.

How do I buy tickets?

Easy-peasy: you can purchase tickets through the Renaissance Box Office by calling (419) 522-2726, or visiting in person. The Box Office is open 12-5 Tuesday through Friday, and 2 hours before every show, but you can purchase online anytime.

We hope this is a helpful guide for any symphony-goer. Did we miss your question? Comment below and we’ll happily answer you! If you’d like to see what performances are upcoming in our Mansfield Symphony’s season, you can find that out right here.