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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 13, 200112:00 PM EST

Symphony season showcases organ music

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by: Michele Newbern Gillis

Listen closely and you can almost hear the notes of the Opus 550 organ resonating in Jacoby Hall.

In its first full season with the instrument in place, the JSO is headlining this year’s events with recitals, concerts, solos and even a festival, all focused on organ music.

“It [the new programs] are highly anticipated with the installation and rebuilding of the organ, so here is a series for organ lovers,” said Paul Witkowski, director of media relations for the JSO. “It’s a chance to incorporate the rebuilt instrument with music. It’s time to pull out all the stops and hear the music.”

Easter weekend will usher in the Bach Festival. Bach’s works, considered by some to be the quintessential compositions of sacred music, are not typically performed by the JSO.

“It’s not often that you get to hear Bach because it’s usually done with a smaller orchestra so it doesn’t generally fit into our repertoire. It’s usually heard in a chamber music performance,” said Witkowski.

The season would not be complete, of course, without the four staples of the symphony: the Masterworks, Family, Pops and Discovery series.

Continuing the Words on Music tradition began by former conductor Roger Neuremberg over 10 years ago, each Masterworks series presentation will block off time an hour prior to each show to orient the audience on the language of music and what to listen for.

Fairly new to the JSO, though is the post-concert talk back after the season’s first concert, which features violinist Hillary Hahn, and following the November performance of Haydn’s Creation.

“The symphony has a mission of education,” said Witkowski. “We want our adult listeners to be tuned in.”

The informal question and answer sessions will be lead by the conductor or the guest musician. An average of 75 people usually stay after the show for the program.

Taking center stage for the Family Series of shows, JSO assistant conductor Michael Butterman is relying less on guest artists this season. October’s Symphonic Spooktacular, the circus-themed Three-Ring Symphony and Music of Heroes give original slants to familiar sounds.

“He really gets a good response from, and has a great rapport with, the kids,” said Witkowski of Butterman.

The ever-popular Pops Series returns again to showcase both well-known vocalists such as Art Garfunkel to more obscure entertainers such as the group Club Swing.

Traditional classical music is the mainstay of the Discovery Series and shares many of its performances in the Coffee Series. The difference is that the Discovery Series will have an evening of modern classical music and the Coffee Series will present an early holiday show.

Other highlights include performances of “The Nutcracker” Dec. 14-16 and Starry Night at Metropolitan Park May 4 and 18 and June 1.

One major change for the symphony is the move of its New Year’s Eve Gala from the T-U Center to the Adam’s Mark Hotel.

“They have more capacity than the T-U Center with one facility to handle everything such as dining, ballroom and hotel accommodations,” he said.

The new season opens Sept. 20 and runs through June 1.

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