The Strength of Us

Program Notes

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March 26, 7:30pm

March 27, 2:00pm

Lourdes High School Auditorium

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Notes by Jere Lantz

We had originally scheduled a longer program ending with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as our final concert curing our centennial season, 2019-2020. The pandemic, of course, cut that season short. So we are presenting the essence of that program now, still focusing on Rochester Symphony’s relationship within and participation in our community.

When the brothers Mayo created the Symphony a century ago, they were seeking to bring a significant cultural element to Rochester. They were adding what they felt was an essential building block for a highly educated citizenry dedicated to the care of people from all over the globe. We are proud that we continue to fulfill their goals, pledging to “bring great music to life” for our region, focusing on bringing music of the highest order that resonates with the people who live here.

That is why we are closing our season with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The Ninth has long reigned as the world’s favorite concert work. Often popularity does not accord with expert opinion. But in this case, it does: polls of top conductors invariably end up with a Beethoven symphony in the premiere spot, though the Third (Eroica) sometimes surpasses the Ninth.

We chose the Ninth to culminate our celebration because of its message: joy can bring the world together into one family. That message, of course, can be scorned as naïve and simplistic. But Schiller’s poem was an inspiration to the early romantics, of whom Beethoven led the charge in music. Even if the romantics were sophisticated enough not to swallow Schiller’s sentiment completely, they were hopeful that their efforts could at least move the world in the right direction. We share their hope today.

Then we asked ourselves: what do we program with Beethoven’s Ninth and its focus on uniting a community?

Though never a hit in opera houses, Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land has always been appealing to musicians and audiences fortunate enough to experience it. It combines Copland’s fascination with America’s Old West and his unique gift for creating music expressing what it means to build community in his beloved native land.

Presenting together the messages of America’s greatest composer and the greatest symphonist who ever lived reminds us of how important community is and how we can work together to achieve it.

 

The Promise of Living from The Tender Land

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

We know Aaron Copland as the beacon of American art music in the 20th century. He brought to his art a sound and an accessible approach that have been imitated by generations of homegrown composers. His masterworks (ballets Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring plus Fanfare for the Common Man and his Third Symphony) will stand forever as the best in American music from the modern era. His one completed opera, The Tender Land, has never won a place in the standard repertoire because, originally conceived as a television opera, it has not been able to command the larger venue of an opera house. Yet it contains moments of genius, especially the finale of the first act, when the five principal characters sing of their hopes for their community and their lives.

The poet who conceived the magnificent ideas in The Promise of Living was born Horace Eugene Johnston in 1927, changing his name to Erik Johns when he became a professional dancer. He took on a pseudonym, Horace Everett, when he collaborated with Copland to create The Tender Land.

There is no piece of music that posits the soul of America and Americans more deeply than The Promise of Living. Everett’s simple words about how Americans build community are an inspiration:

The promise of ending in right understanding
Is peace in our own hearts and peace with our neighbor…
The promise of living, the promise of growing,
The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

Those rich words are matched by Copland’s wonderful music, conveying perfectly a message that can never be heard often enough.

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

If there were a Top 40 for classical music, the Ninth Symphony would be the perennial number one, far outdistancing the competition. It has always enjoyed such immense popularity, from its premiere in 1824, through the 19th century (when it was held as a model for all symphonic composers), to today’s long list of recordings.

The Ninth terrorized subsequent symphonists. Brahms held off completing a symphony till he was 43, remarking, “You have no idea how it feels to hear behind you the tramp of a giant like Beethoven.” Other composers, who had considered the Eroica Symphony Beethoven’s Declaration of Independence from classical tradition, took the Ninth as their Constitution. Wagner asserted that, with its use of Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” it proclaimed the end of absolute music. No longer could music be just music; it would have to deliver a message.

Beethoven opens the symphony with unmatched power: power not through assertion but through denial. A quiet, almost ominous string tremolo is the quintessence of potential energy—peaceful in itself but promising untold dynamism to come. (This is Beethoven’s most imitated texture: Bruckner would use it to open five of his nine symphonies.)


Other strings join the texture, lightly tracing the outlines of the principal theme. Finally, Beethoven unleashes a huge crescendo that presents the theme itself—a unison outburst on a descending D minor triad. Its dynamic, jolting rhythm and the driving ineluctability of its closing phrase fulfill the ominous promise of its opening. In the words of commentator Donald Ferguson, “Music more grim and tight-lipped than this has never been imagined.”

It is not the length of this movement that impresses. (Both the Eroica Symphony and the Emperor Concerto have longer opening movements.) It is the size of the concept. The gigantic opening theme descends two octaves. The quiet second theme, introduced by the winds with strings busy beneath, rises an octave and a half. Beethoven knows that an orchestra sounds strongest playing in unison, so he uses more unisons than ever before, saving the most powerful for a mighty close.


Tradition dictates a slow movement next, followed by a fast scherzo. In a shift that would be imitated repeatedly, Beethoven reverses them. He is not being revolutionary so much as practical. He simply seeks to maximize the effect of each movement. After his slowest symphonic opening movement, the even slower Adagio would have been unendurable. He decided he needed the energy of a scherzo early for contrast. What’s more, after the scherzo’s sardonic romp, the Adagio becomes all the more sublime by contrast.

Though Beethoven stretched all the classical forms, he did most to the scherzo. The Ninth holds his longest effort, with no pretense at being the light, balanced dance of Haydn and Mozart. It opens powerfully, once more in unison, featuring the timpani as a solo melodic instrument, newly tuned in octaves instead of fifths. A brief five-part string fugue showcases Beethoven’s gift for counterpoint while functioning exactly like the quiet opening of the first movement—to build gradually to a fortissimo statement of the principal theme. The long working out that follows includes a second theme (unusual in what is supposed to be a short movement) and a surprising new device: instructions to conductor and players to feel the rhythmic impulse in groups of now three, now four measures. Such directness of instruction was unheard in Beethoven’s day but shows once again what an innovator he was. And his instruction to performers has proven very helpful to all of us who wield the baton.

The scherzo’s trio—its contrasting middle section—is no less precipitous but much more delicate. Beethoven’s innovation (again, much imitated by later symphonists) is to abandon the quick triple meter of scherzo tradition and replace it with a lively two. The contrast is total, and the effect is refreshing, with winds gaily predominating in D major. But relief seems too short. The massive scherzo returns in its entirety, culminating in a coda that alludes briefly to the trio theme before plunging to a unison close. (Some ears hear that close as a variant of the final gesture of the first movement.)

The sublime beauty of the Adagio defies explanation. Beethoven’s plan is simple: two haunting melodies, the first very slow and the second only slightly less so, alternate their variations. Beethoven clearly prefers the first: it receives ever more complex variation while the second (my favorite) disappears after its second airing.

It is the finale, of course, that is responsible for the Ninth’s unique influence and popularity. Although Beethoven had considered setting Schiller’s An die Freude as early as 1792, it was not until 1823, when the other movements had already taken some shape, that he decided to use it, with its requisite soloists and chorus, to close his longest symphony.

An extended introduction reveals the struggle Beethoven had in making the transition from absolute music to music with a message. The strident opening chord, one of his strongest dissonances, shatters the sublime mood of the Adagio, apparently in repudiation. Then follows the most bewildering moment of the symphony: cellos and basses offer a series of recitative passages—wandering lines that have no rhythmic pattern, no sense of meter or tempo. Between these passages we hear brief recollections of the principal themes of the first three movements. What is Beethoven trying to do? The music seems to have no direction at all.

A hint in winds of the great theme to come leads to a final instrumental recitative. At last, the cellos and basses, ever the leaders, intone the melody that is to be the spine of the movement and message. Using but six different notes, it is beauty born of simplicity. Heard at first in simple unison, absolutely unadorned, it grows organically as Beethoven’s fertile imagination shapes one of his great climaxes.

Suddenly, the shattering chord we heard at the opening interrupts once again—this time made even more dissonant. To the wandering recitative the cellos and basses had intoned earlier, the baritone proclaims repudiation: “O Friends, not these tones,” in Beethoven’s own words. Beethoven is telling us that we need to find something more than the opening movements had to offer. What is that new thing? Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” takes over as the baritone sings the now familiar theme, answered by the chorus. The message is less of joy than of brotherhood. Beethoven has selected from Schiller’s ode the verses closest to his heart. The first three stanzas of text are heard, climaxing with “Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

The final “Gott” changes key for the first variation. Triangle, cymbals, bassoons, piccolo and tenor soloist march, in Turkish style, to a hero’s victory. In a long fugal extension, the orchestra takes up the jubilation, fading only to rise again as chorus and orchestra resound in the grandest statement yet of the ode’s opening message.

A sudden silence precedes the choir’s powerful chorale, “Be embraced (you) millions!” As the chorus softens, the millions kneel, realizing in Beethoven’s ethereal orchestration that a Creator indeed lives “above the stars.”

As if awakening to what they have said, the chorus breaks out in a joyous new double fugue: simultaneously sopranos give the principal theme while the altos offer the powerful chorale, “Be embraced.” Beethoven’s counterpoint of music and ideas makes his message clear: the joy the chorus has been singing about can be realized only when all people embrace in brotherhood. This is musical form revealing philosophy, again one of Beethoven’s great innovations. At fugue’s end, all kneel once again, repeating in quiet awe the mystery of the Creator.

Violins and violas scamper in the fastest music thus far, as the quartet of vocalists leads to the close. The principal message, “All men become brothers,” is interrupted three times for slower affirmations before a furious Prestissimo blazes a fiery final fanfare. The symphony that began in grim and tightlipped despair ends in transcendent joy.

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CHORAL TEXTS

 

Copland: The Promise of Living, from The Tender Land

Text by Horace Everett

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.
The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.
The promise of living, the promise of growing
Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year we’ve known these fields
And known all the work that makes them yield,
Are you ready to lend a hand?
We’re ready to work we’re ready to lend a hand.
By working together we’ll bring in the harvest,
We’ll bring in the harvest, the blessings of harvest.
We plant each row with seeds of grain,
And Providence sends us the sun and the rain,
By lending a hand, by lending an arm,
Bring out from the farm the blessings of harvest.

(Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain,
Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.)
O let us be joyful, O let us be grateful,
Come join us in thanking the Lord for His blessing.
The promise of ending in right understanding
Is peace in our own hearts and peace with our neighbor.
(O let us sing our song, and let our song be heard.
Let’s sing our song with our hearts, and find a promise in that song.)

The promise of living, the promise of growing,
The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Chorale text translation

[Beethoven’s own text]
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.

[Selected verses from Schiller’s An die Freude (Ode to Joy)]
Joy! Glad joy!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We approach fire-drunk,
Heavenly One, your shrine.
Your magic reunites
What custom sternly divides;
All people become brothers
Where your gentle wing alights.

Whoever succeeds in the great attempt
To be a friend of a friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Let him add his jubilation!
Yes, whoever calls even one soul
His own on the earth’s globe!
And who never has, let him steal,
Weeping, away from this group.

All creatures drink joy
At the breast of nature;
All the good, all the evil
Follow her roses’ trail.
Kisses gave she us, and wine,
A friend, proven unto death;
Pleasure was to the worm granted,
And the cherub stands before God.

 

Glad, as his suns fly
Through the Heavens’ glorious plan,
Run, brothers, your race,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.

Do you bow down, you millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the star-canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Guest Soloists

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ELIZABETH HILLEBRAND,

soprano

Critically acclaimed as “a lively and feisty romantic lead, with a voice that soars”, Elizabeth Hillebrand’s bright, clean vocal lines and empathic characterizations have graced operatic and concert stages worldwide.

A native of Wisconsin, Elizabeth moved to New York City and began her professional career with the role of Adele in Die Fledermaus with Opera New York. She went on to perform with many wonderful NY opera companies including: New York City Opera, Bronx Opera and the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players in roles including: Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Despina (Cosi fan tutte), Micaela (Carmen), Josephine (HMS Pinafore), Yum Yum (Mikado), and Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi).

On the concert stage Elizabeth was a frequent soloist with The Collegiate Chorale under the critically acclaimed direction of conductor, Robert Bass. Most notable were her appearances at Carnegie Hall with Bryn Terfel in Mendelssohn’s Elijah and under the baton of Zubin Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Israel. Other oratorio and solo concert engagements have showcased Elizabeth at some of the world’s most prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Verbier Festival in Switzerland, Cortona Italy, and Buxton Opera House in England.

Ms. Hillebrand holds double degrees in Voice Performance and Biology from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. She continued her vocal training in New York City under the tutelage of acclaimed mezzo-soprano Elaine Bonazzi while concurrently earning a master’s of science degree from Stony Brook University in marine environmental science. In 2016 she earned her MD at Mayo Medical School and is in her final year of her Family Medicine Residency with the Mayo Graduate school.

Since moving to Rochester for her medical training, Elizabeth is truly honored to have sung as a soloist with the Rochester Symphony, Rochester Chamber Music Society Chamber Jazz, The Mayo Clinic Chamber Symphony, and in the Mayo Gonda Atrium for countless patients and staff. She is delighted to make Rochester her home with her wonderful and supportive husband, Tom, and her effervescent 4 year old son, Charlie.

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DEBORAH STINSON,

mezzo soprano

Debbie Stinson, mezzo soprano, has sung in the St. Louis area for over 20 years.  She sings with current the Missouri Women’s Chorus and also sings with the chancel choir at Union Avenue Christian Church.  Debbie is an elementary music teacher and high school choir director in the Brentwood School District, where she has taught for 10 years.  Before entering the teaching field Debbie sang numerous roles with Union Avenue Opera, The Muddy River Opera and Light Opera Oklahoma.  She had her own company, Opera is Elementary, which performed opera for elementary aged children all through St. Louis and surrounding areas.

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JAMES PIKE,

tenor

Noted for his “lovely and pure tone and a great stage countenance,” tenor James Pike is emerging as a singer of diverse repertoire. This season, James returns to the Opera Reading Project to portray Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Tamino in Mozart's perennial favorite Die Zauberflöte. He will also make his debut with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra (MN) in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony this spring. Past seasons include debuts with the Minnesota Opera, St. John’s Oratorio Chorus, East Metro Symphony Orchestra, Minnetonka Symphony Orchestra, Saint Catherine's Choral Society, the Minnesota Saints Chorale and Orchestra, the Saint Peter Choral Society, the Sonomento Choir, the Minnesota Center Chorale, and the Exultate Chamber Choir.


An in-demand Oratorio singer, James has recently sung Uriel in Haydn’s Creation, both John the Apostle and Pontius Pilate in Rob Gardner's Lamb of God, Tenor Soloist in Handel’s Messiah and Chandos Anthem No. 4, Haydn’s Nicolaimesse, Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Serenade to Music and Hodie by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Bach’s Magnificat, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.


James’ has had the opportunity to learn from esteemed and legendary singers Sherrill Milnes and the late Nico Castel as well as current stars of the opera stage Gregory Kunde and David Portillo. In addition, he trained at the Savannah VOICE Festival in Savannah, GA as a Sherrill Milnes VOICE Studio Artist.


James is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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ALAN DUNBAR,

baritone

Baritone Alan Dunbar is a versatile performer, lauded for his beautiful tone and his nuanced musical and textual interpretation. Spanning repertoire from the 17th century to the 21st century, his past performances include the premiere of Pharaoh Songs by Libby Larsen, baritone soloist in the world premiere of Justin Merritt’s oratorio The Path, bass soloist in Bach’s St. John Passion with Voices of Ascension, Frænkel in Argento’s The Andrée Expedition at the Ordway, numerous productions with Madison Opera (including Papageno in The Magic Flute, Joseph McCarthy/Interrogator in Fellow Travelers, Schaunard in La Bohème, Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Owen Hart in Dead Man Walking), the title role of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde at Santa Fe Opera, regular appearances with the Bach Roots Festival and the Bach Society of Minnesota, Handel’s Messiah with the Santa Fe Symphony and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and recitals at the Ravinia Festival Steans Institute.

 

Alan made his European solo recital debut at the Oslo Grieg Festival after winning the grand prize at the 2009 Grieg Festival Competition in Winter Park, FL. During two seasons at the Tanglewood Music Festival he performed as bass soloist in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella under Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, sang the role of Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin with Renée Fleming and Peter Mattei, and collaborated with choreographer/director Mark Morris in performances with the Mark Morris Dance Group, as well as in the Stravinsky chamber opera Renard.

Alan holds a BA in music theory and composition from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and an MM and DM in vocal performance from Indiana University. Alan was a founding member of the Minnesota-based internationally acclaimed male chamber vocal ensemble Cantus, and sang throughout North America and Europe with the ensemble from 1998-2004. During his tenure with Cantus, he recorded ten albums and appeared as a soloist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, at the Oregon Bach Festival, the World Choral Symposium, and the Polyphonia Festival in Normandy, France. He currently serves as Associate Professor of Voice at Winona State University.

 

ROCHESTER SYMPHONY MUSICIANS

 

THANK YOU

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Rochester Symphony gratefully recognizes these corporations, foundations, individuals, and in-kind contributors who make this season possible through their generous support. Gifts recorded between July 1, 2020 and February 28, 2022 are included.

 

# New Founders Circle recognizes donors who committed at least $7,500 in the pattern of the Mayo Brothers’ founding support of Rochester Symphony.

 

+ Daisy Plummer Society recognizes donors who have indicated that Rochester Symphony has been included in their will or estate plans.

CORPORATIONS & FOUNDATIONS

 

$10,000 and above

Carl & Verna Schmidt Foundation

IBM Corporation

Mayo Clinic

Minnesota State Arts Board

Olmsted County

Schwab Charitable Fund

 

$1,000-$9,999

Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund

Norman L. Gillette Jr. Charitable Trust

Home Federal Savings Bank

Rickee Henoch Fund

Rochester Area Foundation

Rochester Music Guild

Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council

Southern MN Initiative Foundation

Vanguard Charitable

 

$1-$999

AFalu Strings Studio

Beckley’s, Inc.

Chrissy’s Studio

Hy-Vee

IBM Employee Charitable Contribution

Campaign

Kwik Trip, Inc.

Mayo Division of Hospital Internal Medicine

Rochester Post Bulletin

Tourist Club

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David & Carole Shulman

Beverly Simpson

Marjorie Smith

Michal & Elizabeth Sobieski

Ralph & Naomi Spiekerman

Marius & Daniella Stan

Charles & Val Steidinger

Terrence & Donna Stewart

Peter & Kerstin Suby

Dave & Joan Swanson

Steve & Carla Sward

Sylvia Swede

Joe & Cecelia Szurszewski

Dan & Kathleen Tarara

Carol & Rod Thompson

Karen Tracy

Patty & John Trnka

Paul Uecker

Marian & Rich Van Dellen

Ella & Glenn VanLaningham

Norma Vig

James & Darlene Vowels

Carolyn Wall

Roger & Sarabeth Watson

Phil & Sue Wheeler

Drs. Carilyn & Mark Wieland

Paul & Jean Wittmer

Libby Witzeman

Walter & Phyllis Wright

Diane & Joe Wrobleski

Paul & Susan Zahasky

Friend ($1-$49)

Gary & Lois Adams

Kevin Adler

Anonymous

Gloria Bahr

Nathan & Megan Bartz

Carol Berteotti

Mark Brown

Carolyn Chaapel

Donna Cunningham

Larry & Betty Danielson

Nathan & Denise Davidson

Kathryn Ann Dudley

William & Donna Dunn

Carol Eichenlaub

Charles Emig

Margaret Farrell

Jane Foote

Robert & Theresa Friedhoff

Cory Funk

Carol Geerdes

Rares Giurgiu & Sarah Rusin

Judy Hagler

John & Eileen Hamre

Ken & Chadra Hess

Janice & Ron Horsman

Pat Horst

Nancy Kahabka

Gail & Steven Keidl

Terry King

Lynne Kirklin

Nancy Laqua

Ed & Patricia Lavelle

Alexandre Maia

Nicklas & Edna Mezacapa

Shamar McFarlane

David & Julie Miller

Paul & Elinor Niemisto

Esther Pfeifer

Katherine Porter

Amna Quereshi

Nichole Romo

John Rueter

David Shaffer-Gottschalk

Jeffrey Spencer

Ellen Stelling

Mona Stevermer

David & Barbara Swart

David & Jane Townsend

Sandra Tschida

Jeffrey Van

Dan Weise

Chuck Whitcomb

Christine Williams

Leanna Williams

Thomas & Betty Wirt

Daniel Zomok

Gifts Have Been Received in Memory of:

Richard Brubaker

Doris Folger

Elizabeth A. Gallanis

E. Laurence Gay

Walter & Frances Gray

Joseph A. Parks

Noel Taylor

Pauline Walle

 

Gifts Have Been Received in Honor of:

Pat Anderson

Jay & Carolyn Beck

Eric Grant

Karen Hansen

Pastor Les Horntvedt

Jere & Kristina Lantz

Michael & Rachael Leonard

Don & Carol Swanson

Linda Thompson

Dr. Kevin Whitford

Patron ($250-$499)

Pam Allan

Anonymous

Rita Bertsch

Ardell Brede

Paul & Margaret Carpenter

Barb Dallavalle & Paul Gunsch

Barbara & David Daugherty

Peter & Wendy Gay

Rondell & Deneene Graham

Ann Groover

Jennifer Hand & Mike Stoeckig

Curt & Deb Harlow

Richard Harrell

David Hough & Katie Glazebrook

Nancy Kampmeier

David & Michelle Kallmes

Eric & Juli Kilen

Kramlinger Family

Joyce Chenoweth Lewis

Robert & Ruth Ann Miles

Curt & Jean Mortenson

Genella Mussell & Kathy Roberts

Mark & Gwenn Neville

Merritt & Janet Olsen

Kurt & Janet Pittner

Susan Radloff

Matt & Abbey Roisum

Bonnie Seaver

Wayne Servais

Aaron & Sarah Shannon

Raymond Shields & Opal Richards

Sam & Kristi Simmons

Frederick & Mary Suhler

Richard & Janet Swanson

Josh & Rose Wright

 
2022/23 Ticket Subscription Giveaway

Submit this form to win a pair of ticket subscriptions to the Rochester Symphony 2022/23 concert season (a $360 value). Drawing will take place in June at the time new concerts for next season are announced. Winner will be notified by email.

We'll never sell your personal information, won't add you to our email lists unless you opt in, and will only call if we need to notify you of ticket info and cannot reach you by email.

Thanks for registering to win a pair of ticket subscriptions to Rochester Symphony!