A Masterclass with James Sommerville!

Last Saturday morning, RI Philharmonic Orchestra guest conductor and horn player, James Sommerville spent time working with our students in our Music School Horn Ensemble.James Sommerville Twitter


Meet Violinist Simone Porter


  • Her performances have been described as “bold” (Seattle Times) and “virtuosic” (London Times)
  • At 19 years of age, Ms. Porter has already appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • She was named a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant in March 2015
  • Ms. Porter made her Carnegie Hall debut on the Emmy Award-winning TV show From the Top: Live from Carnegie Hall
  • She plays on a 1745 J.B. Guadagnini violin on generous loan from The Mandell Collection of Southern California.

Opening Weekend!
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with violinist Simone Porter
Guest Conductor: James Sommerville

   TACO Classical Concert
   Saturday, September 16 • 8pm • The VETS
   Open Rehearsal
   Friday, September 15 • 5:30pm • The VETS
tickets.riphil.org | 401.248.7000

Meet Abby Magoon, RI Philharmonic Music School Faculty Member

Abby MagoonWhat is your favorite part of your job?

“My favorite part of my job is when a student has an ‘Aha!’ moment – a moment of inspiration, creativity, connection, joy. It’s always encouraging to see students making technical advancements, but my real delight and motivation comes from being able to share what I love with my students and, in turn, watching them grow in their own love for music and life, and embracing all the challenges that come along with it.”

James Sommerville makes his debut with the RI Philharmonic on September 16th

James SommervilleSommerville_HPO

  • “an inspiring and inspired conductor” – jamesstrecker.com
  • Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra from 2007 to 2014
  • Active guest conductor and soloist, and Principal Horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • Music Director of the Canadian National Brass Project
  • Faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University
  • Lifelong advocate of new music in general and of young composers

Opening Weekend!
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with violinist Simone Porter
Guest Conductor: James Sommerville

   TACO Classical Concert
   Saturday, September 16 • 8pm • The VETS
   Open Rehearsal
   Friday, September 15 • 5:30pm • The VETS
tickets.riphil.org | 401.248.7000

James Sommerville conducts Tchaikovsky and Sibelius as the RI Philharmonic kicks off its 73rd season on September 16

The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra kicks off its 73rd season with guest conductor James Sommerville at the podium. The Orchestra will play Sibelius’ Second Symphony and Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral. Violinist Simone Porter makes her debut with the Rhode Island Philharmonic, with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The concert is Saturday, September 16, at 8:00 p.m., with an Open Rehearsal Friday, September 15 at 5:30 p.m.


TACO Classical Concert
Saturday, September 16 at 8:00pm
Tickets start at $15, available at tickets.riphil.org

James Sommerville, conductor
Simone Porter, violinist

 HIGDON blue cathedral
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto
SIBELIUS Symphony No.2

Open Rehearsal
Friday, September 15 at 5:30pm
All tickets are $15, available at tickets.riphil.org

“This season brings the excitement of eight brilliant guest conductors,” said David Beauchesne, executive director of Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School. “James Sommerville is a gifted leader, educator and instrumentalist, and we’re honored to hand him the baton to launch our 73rd season. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!” 

About James Sommerville, guest conductor

James Sommerville
“An inspiring and inspired conductor” (jamesstrecker.com), conductor, hornist and educator, James Sommerville joins the Rhode Island Philharmonic for the first time. He is Music Director of the Canadian National Brass Project and was Music Director of the Hamilton (Ontario) Philharmonic Orchestra from 2007 to 2014. Principal Horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he has enjoyed an active solo, orchestral and chamber music career for over 25 years. A lifelong advocate of new music, Mr. Sommerville inspired the commission of Elliott Carter’s 2006 Horn Concerto, which he premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is a member of the faculty of New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University.

About Simone Porter, violinist

Simone Porter Violinist Simone Porter has been recognized as an emerging artist of impassioned energy, musical integrity and vibrant sound. At age 20, Ms. Porter has already appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic. After she performed recently with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the LA Times declared Ms. Porter “on the cusp of a major career.” She made her professional solo debut at age ten with the Seattle Symphony and has performed with the San Diego Symphony and Charles Dutoit, the Pittsburgh Symphony and Leonard Slatkin, and the New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall and with dozens of other major orchestras. Raised in Seattle, Ms. Porter plays a 1745 J.B. Guadagnini violin.

About the concert: stories behind the music

Jennifer Higdon (1962 –  )
blue cathedral

She’s the top:  Jennifer Higdon is one of the leading women in American music.
She graduated from Curtis Institute of Music, where she now chairs Compositional Studies. The first woman to be named a featured composer at the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival, Ms. Higdon’s honors include the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the National Endowment for the Arts. There are more than a hundred performances of her works every year.

About the piece: blue cathedral is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the United States. Ms. Higdon reflected: “Blue…like the sky. Where all possibilities soar…. Cathedrals…a place of thought, growth, spiritual expression…serving as a symbolic doorway into and out of this world. Cathedrals represent a place of beginnings, endings, solitude, fellowship, contemplation, knowledge and growth…. Coming to the writing of this piece at a unique juncture in my life, I found myself pondering the question of what makes a life. The recent loss of my younger brother, Andrew Blue, made me reflect on the amazing journeys that we all make…. This piece represents the expression of the individual and the whole of the group…our journeys and the places our souls carry us.”

Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)
Violin Concerto in D, op.35

Best of times, worst of times:  1878 was one of Tchaikovsky’s worst years, and one of his best. In Italy and Switzerland, recovering from a shattered marriage and a near breakdown, he finished the depressive Fourth Symphony and his operatic masterpiece, Eugene Onegin. In the Swiss resort town of Clarens, in a sudden burst of inspiration, he wrote the brilliant, cheerful Violin Concerto.

Hindsight is 20-20, even for critics: Reviews were scathing. Tchaikovsky was permanently wounded by Vienna’s most influential critic, Eduard Hanslick, who wrote, “Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto brings to us for the first time the horrid idea that there may be music that stinks in the ear.” Today, audiences and critics cherish the concerto. The first movement presents three ingratiating themes that drive toward the brilliant cadenza. The Canzonetta reveals what scholar David Brown terms “Tchaikovsky’s burning love of Russia.” The final movement is even more recognizably Russian, demanding both acrobatics and panache from the soloist with a Trepak, a stamping Cossack dance, and a gypsy melody played to the droning accompaniment of bagpipes or a hurdy-gurdy.

Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957)
Symphony No. 2 in D, op.43

The composer at work:  Sibelius wrote of his symphonic process, “It is as if the Almighty had thrown down pieces of a mosaic from Heaven’s floor and asked me to put them together.” In the pastoral opening movement, we can hear him examining the thematic pieces, organizing them into a pattern, and finally redisplaying them as a conclusion. The Andante movement is also fragmentary, and Sibelius sketches the melodic fragments of the Scherzo against a scurrying perpetual-motion background. The momentum of the first three movements targets the majestic opening of the finale. The first theme literally climbs out of the depths of the orchestra. The second theme is then adorned by rushing strings, and the symphony concludes in triumph.

RI Philharmonic 2017-2018 Season: Eight guest conductors take the baton, beginning September 16

The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra’s 73rd season offers a myriad of variety: conductors, soloists and repertoire. Beginning on September 16, eight Saturday TACO Classical concerts and four Friday AMICA Rush Hour concerts will take place at The VETS, 1 Avenue of the Arts in Providence.

Tickets are $15-$100 (including all fees) and can be purchased at tickets.riphil.org or from the RI Philharmonic Box Office at 401.248.7000 (M-F 9a-4:30p). Discounts are available for groups of 10+.

2017 2018 Season Collage

“As we search for a new music director,” said Executive Director David Beauchesne, “it’s inspiring to work with so many remarkable conductors this season – all of whom are also exceptional artistic leaders and educators – and to present them to our community. Our board, staff and musicians are looking forward to getting to know these artists – and we can’t wait to hear our audience’s impressions!”

Guest conductors Bramwell Tovey, Michael Christie and Victor Yampolsky return this season after leading the Philharmonic in concerts in 2016, 2014 and 1996, respectively.  Making their Philharmonic debuts are guest conductors James Sommerville, Eckart Preu, Ken-David Masur, Jacomo Bairos and Edwin Outwater.

The season offers symphonies by Bernstein, Beethoven, Mahler, Saint-Saens, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, and concerti by Brahms, Korngold, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Popular favorites such as Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet suites and Stravinsky’s Firebird suites are featured with less familiar repertoire such as Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral and Miguel Del Aguila’s Conga-Line in Hell. 

The season’s eight-concert Saturday TACO Classical Series features world-renowned guest artists:

  • pianists Alon Goldstein, Inon Barnatan, William Wolfram and Spencer Myer
  • violinists Simone Porter, Elena Urioste, and Alexi Kenney
  • tenor Anthony Dean Griffey
  • Kevin Owen, horn

Each Saturday Classical concert is preceded by a pre-concert talk with Resident Conductor Francisco Noya and followed by an open Q&A session with the guest conductor and soloist.

The four-concert Friday AMICA Rush Hour Series offers a 6:30 p.m. start time and shorter program with full performances of select repertoire from four TACO Saturday Classical concerts and followed by an open Q & A session. The other four concert weekends offer Open Rehearsals on Fridays at 5:30 p.m., as conductor, Orchestra and guest artists put the finishing touches on the program for Saturday’s concert. A microphone onstage lets the audience listen in on the comments and direction happening up front. Special concerts include the holiday favorite Handel’s Messiah with Providence Singers, conducted by Christine Noel, artistic director.

Francis Madeira passes away at 100


It is with great sadness that we report the death of Francis Madeira, the founder and first Music Director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. Francis passed peacefully Sunday night. He was 100 years old and still an active pianist.

Francis moved to Providence in 1943 to become interim director of orchestras at Brown University; however, his true ambition was to lead a professional symphony orchestra.  He discovered that Rhode Island lacked such an ensemble and quickly brought together a coalition of community leaders to found the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, which gave its first concert in 1945.  Francis was Music Director for 33 years, retiring in 1978.  Along with important board members, donors, and the Orchestra’s first professional manager, Muriel Stevens, Francis built an enduring institution that continues to impact our community to this day.

Francis and the Orchestra toured across our small state countless times, giving performances in Westerly, Kingston, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Newport, and of course, Providence.  He brought some of the leading musicians of the time to Rhode Island, including Gary Graffman, Claudio Arrau, Isaac Stern, Leon Fleisher, Jaime Laredo, and his wife, Metropolitan Opera star Jean Madeira.  Francis also began the education programs that have become such an important part of the Philharmonic, founding our Youth Orchestra and Education Concerts in the 1950s.

The work was not easy.  Finding the funds to bring the beauty of orchestra music to audiences across Rhode Island, and music learning opportunities to youth was a tremendous challenge.  Building a credible professional orchestra in the smallest state in the union was an uphill battle.  But, it is a battle that Francis relished.

The RI Philharmonic is grateful to Francis for his passion for music, his belief in music education, and his remarkable ability to draw people to his vision for the Orchestra and our community. We will miss his phone calls and letters, his sage advice, his indomitable spirit, and his friendship.

A funeral service will be held at St. Luke’s Cathedral, State Street, Portland, ME at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. His full obituary can be found here.