Wild Succulents.
October 7, 2019
History Lives Here.
October 7, 2019

Ukiah Symphony New Director

Joseph Nemeth, composer and Ukiah Symphony board member has been culling through the non-profit organization’s storage unit. He finds programs from 1979, when the Symphony was founded by conductor and pianist Carolyn Hawley, a gifted musician and choir director largely responsible for establishing and supporting many of the music programs in the Ukiah area.
The Symphony has provided a means for gifted local and regional musicians to share their talent and express their love for classical music, through the presentation four annual concerts.

Last year, Dr. Phillip Semyon Lenberg became the Symphony’s music director, stepping into the very large shoes left by director Les Pfützenreuter, who announced his well-deserved retirement after 29 years, alongside his retirement from Mendocino College after 32 years as music professor..

“We’re really enjoying our inaugural season with Phillip,” says Joseph. Dr. Lenberg has guest-conducted throughout the United States, and has been a rehearsal and cover conductor for Itzhak Perlman, Hilary Hahn, Sarah Chang and others. He has performed in venues as lofty as Notre Dame Cathedral and as lovely as the Mendocino College Theater, where Ukiah Symphony performances are held. “The theater is a 400-seat auditorium, which is used for teaching, theatrical performances, dance recitals and other events. It has wonderful sound and lighting. It’s a full-blown concert auditorium where every seat is good—a very nice venue,” Joseph notes.

Like his predecessor, Dr. Lenberg is currently serving as professor and conductor of instrumental ensembles at Mendocino College. “Phillip is bright, energetic and is continuing to inspire the orchestra to higher levels of performance,” says Joseph.

Joseph notes that the Symphony is looking toward a bright future. “The California Symphony has been making headlines—growing as a symphony orchestra, which is unusual these days. They began paying attention to their audience. They changed their look and feel, and we borrowed some of their concepts.” To that end, the Ukiah Symphony has modernized its website and now accepts credit cards for ticket sales. In another effort to respond to changing audience demographics, Dr. Lenberg will be presenting half-hour talks about each concert prior to the performance.

“Philip’s talks will be great for those interested in learning more about the music. Because there isn’t much music appreciation taught in schools anymore, there is a disconnect between classical music and the people who might listen to it. Leonard Bernstein used to talk about the music he conducted, and Philip is going to do something similar. People are hungry for information. They love knowing about the lives, loves, trials and tribulations of the composers,” Joseph smiles.

Another thing the Symphony is doing is providing the audience with a bit of mental lubrication. “We’ve got a liquor license,” Joseph laughs. “We’ll be serving wine and beer before the performance and during intermission. The college is allowing us to serve covered beverages in the auditorium, which we hope will engender a relaxed, fun atmosphere.”

Another enjoyable part of the concert experience is the college gallery, located next to the theater. “Starting last year, the gallery is open during the concerts for audiences to visit before the performance or during intermission.”

On December 7 and 8, the Symphony presents “Finished and Unfinished: Sibelius and Schubert,” featuring solo violinist Polina Sedukh, who has been a member of the violin section of the San Francisco Symphony since 2009. She will be performing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47—the “Finnish” portion of the concert. The “Unfinished” section features Symphony No 8 in B minor, D. 759, known as the “Unfinished Symphony,” composed by Franz Schubert—his personal, powerful statement of individuality.

“Baroque Revisited” takes place February 8 and 9. The focus of the concert will be the performance of music written 125-225 years following the Baroque period, with the most recent piece composed less than 50 years ago. Cellist Natalie Raney will be the featured soloist. She is a sought-after chamber musician and instructor, and a faculty member coaching chamber music ensembles at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College.

The season closes with “Bohemian Borders” on May 16 and 17. The Symphony will perform pieces by four composers from four different countries that comprised Bohemia less than 100 years ago—Gustav Mahler, Fredric Chopin, Beethoven and Antonin Dvorak. Mezzo soprano soloist Melina Martinez Becker is an Artist-in-Residence at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, Vocal Director of musical theatre vocal productions at International High School.

Saturday’s performances begin at 8:00pm, with a 30-minute pre-concert talk by Philip at 7:00. Sunday’s concerts begins at 2:00pm, with Philip’s pre-concert talk beginning at 1:00.

Visit the Symphony on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at their website: www.ukiahsymphony.org. For more information email info@ukiahsymphony.org or phone (707) 510-1793.