Prescott composer Henry Flurry, left, Toni Tennille, center, and Allison Dixon, orchestra administrator, meet at Raven Cafe in Prescott Jan. 5 to discuss the new Arizona Philharmonic Orchestra, an organization of professional musicians. Auditions are taking place now until March 1. (Courtesy photo)
Originally published Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 06:02a.m.
Auditions have opened for a new collaborative orchestra based in Prescott but drawing upon professional musicians from all over the state.
The Arizona Philharmonic, operating under the nonprofit Chaparral Arts, Inc., is looking for musicians to fill its full orchestra as well as those for smaller ensembles. Concerts are “opt-in,” which means musicians need not be part of all concerts.
“The full orchestra will typically employ more than 50 musicians. The chamber orchestra will be smaller, but still able to play much of the standard repertoire,” said founder and Prescott composer Henry Flurry.
The chamber ensemble will be a fairly small subset of the orchestra, probably only used for accompanying some choral concerts and tailored to the music being programmed, Flurry added.
The Arizona Philharmonic will offer at least one full orchestra concert every year. The season also provides a mix of concerts with various groups that include Yavapai College Master Chorale and Prescott Chorale.
“I am excited to see an auditioned orchestra come to the Prescott area. This will raise the standard for musicians and provide a pool of qualified substitutes for our performing groups,” said Joseph Place, Prescott Pops music director.
WHAT’S THE NEED?
Why another orchestra in Prescott when the city already has the Prescott Pops, Prescott Chamber Orchestra, a number of chorales and choirs, and regular visits by the Phoenix Symphony?
When Yavapai College Dean for Arts and Humanities Craig Ralston wanted to organize a concert with a full orchestra, he found it impossible to hire an orchestra from Phoenix or Flagstaff. He would have to assemble one from scratch – a daunting task.
Flurry contacted local conductors about forming a new professional level orchestra. In addition to Place, they are Craig Ralston, Yavapai College; Dennis Houser, Prescott Chorale; Dan Boyce, Camerata Singers; and Phil Kuhns, Prescott Chamber Orchestra. They all are on board with the idea.
Secondly, when putting together a group of musicians for local concerts, the process oftentimes meant hiring people recommended by others or those who were totally unknown.
For more than a decade, Flurry said, conductors and presenters in the area have discussed the need to have an easier way to hire vetted instrumental musicians for local concerts. Arizona Philharmonic members will make up a roster of known musicians available for hire as substitutes or to supplement other local groups.
“When we need to hire top-quality instrumentalists to accompany us at our concerts, we’ll know where to turn,” Boyce said.
Prescott resident Toni Tennille sings with the Yavapai College Master Chorale, and plans to join the Prescott Pops Chorus this summer. She said one of the main reasons she made her permanent home here was because of the “vibrant and exciting arts community.” Tennille was part of the superstar Captain & Tennille recording duo that had its own television show in the 1970s.
“After discussing the possibility with my friends in music and theater here, I truly think Prescott should have its own professional orchestra of auditioned musicians. Prescott deserves nothing less,” Tennille said.
Because Prescott has other orchestras, Flurry wanted to avoid audience competition with existing organizations.
Arizona Philharmonic’s season steers clear of conflict with other orchestra concerts by offering its full orchestra concert in August, considered the “shoulder season.” Other concerts are part of existing organizations’ seasons, so Arizona Philharmonic introduces no new audience competition.
Depending on the program of each performance, the Arizona Philharmonic will use different sized ensembles. Musicians are paid for rehearsals and concerts, and need not be available for every concert. They are paid $100/service for principals, $70/service for section members. In some concerts using smaller ensembles, every musician will be paid at principal rates. This is a musician-run orchestra with minimal administrative budget, Flurry said.
Arizona Philharmonic’s inaugural full orchestra concert in late August features a retrospective of works by Flurry, which was Ralston’s original concert idea. Conducted by Peter Bay, it includes two soloists, pianist James d’Leon and marimbist Maria Flurry.
In October, the Bach “Magnificat in D” and “Brandenburg Concerto No. 1” are on the program performed by the chamber orchestra. A possible combined choral and instrumental concert also is slated for later in the month.
Dec. 1 brings Handel’s “Messiah” performed by the chamber ensemble and Yavapai College. In March 2019, the chamber ensemble, using piano and percussion, performs “Carmina Burana,” a ballet. In April is a possible chamber orchestra concert featuring the Yavapai College choral and orchestra groups.
“One of our goals is to make Arizona Philharmonic a rewarding experience for musicians by creating an environment of high professionalism and strong satisfaction,” Flurry said.
Auditions are open through March 1. For more information, visit www.AZPhil.org.