Arts & Culture

Guest conductor will lead the Boise Philharmonic this weekend

American conductor Andrew Grams will make his Boise Philharmonic debut with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 “Polish.”
American conductor Andrew Grams will make his Boise Philharmonic debut with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 “Polish.”

Conductor Andrew Grams takes the stage with the Boise Philharmonic on Nov. 14-15. At 38, Grams is an up-and-coming American conductor making a name for himself, both with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Illinois, where he is the music director, and as a guest artist at orchestras such as the Boise Philharmonic.

He steps in while Boise Phil Music Director Robert Franz is performing Nov. 14-15 with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, where he is also the music director. Franz is also performing Nov. 17-18 with the Houston Symphony in Texas, where he is an associate conductor.

Grams has conducted at orchestras in Detroit — where he spoke to me from last week — and in Cleveland, Chicago and Philadelphia, Orchestre National de Lyon, BBC Symphony Orchestra London, the Montreal Symphony and others locations. He’s been with Elgin since 2013, and this year Grams was named Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.

In Boise, he will conduct Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Schumann’s Konzertstück and Tchaikovsky’s Third Symphony “Polish.”

Why did you become a conductor?

Orchestral music has always been my first love and playing in an orchestra was what I enjoyed the most. I am a Juilliard-trained violinist, and playing in orchestras as an active freelancer was a great way to make a living. And I was young and punky enough to think I could do a better job than some of the conductors I was working for, so I went back to school for conducting at Curtis Institute of Music in New York. Of course, I kept my job as a violinist with the New York City Ballet orchestra. What was nice was being able to maintain both perspectives, the player and the conductor.

How does that (player) perspective help you?

I found that to be extremely helpful. When I’m working with the strings I can communicate with them on a deeper level than I can with, say, the brass.

But you’re going to be communicating with the brass this weekend?

Yes, and I’m getting good at that, too. We’re doing Schumann’s challenging Konzertstuck, (a French horn tour-de-force played by the Boise Phil’s horn section: Brian Vance, Philip Kassel, Lori Roy and Mark Givens). It’s an extremely virtuosic piece.

Do you still play violin?

Yes, in fact I’m going to play with my orchestra this season in January. We’re doing Brandenburg No. 3 and some other stuff. I’ll conduct and play. Not really sure what I’ll do, but it will be fun.

Tell me about the Tchaikovsky Third.

Tchaikovsky’s first three symphonies don’t enjoy the popularity of the 4, 5 and 6. It’s not my mission to highlight these lesser known works but you can only do the 4, 5 and 6 so many times. I first got familiarized with the Third with New York City Ballet. (Balanchine used it for the “Diamonds” section of his “Jewels” ballet.) It’s spectacular music, and it’s fun to offer something to an audience that they might not be familiar with. And you still get all the bang for your Tchaikovsky buck.

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New music

Boise’s 208 Ensemble — a small classical group headed by Boise State’s David Biedenbender and Boise Cello Collective founder Jake Saunders — will explore “Lies You Can Believe In” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Ming Studios, 420 S. 6th St., Boise. The group focuses on contemporary and original chamber music. This concert features works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, composer Missy Mazzoli and others.

BCT’s ‘Treasure Island’

Boise Contemporary Theater Children’s Reading Series continues with “Treasure Island,” Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story. It’s done in British Panto-style, with sword fights, talking parrots, pirates, audience participation and free milk and cookies. It’s at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, at BCT, 854 Fulton St. Tickets are $12 general, $8 for children. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Call for art materials

Boise artist Stephanie Inman needs broken toys for an art installation she is creating for the Valley Regional Transit’s Main Street Station in City Center Plaza. Toys of any material and condition can be dropped off between now and Nov. 30 at Boise City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd., Capital City Development Corporation, 121 N. 9th St., and Highlands Elementary, 3434 Bogus Basin Road in Boise and Valley Regional Transit, 700 E. 2nd St., Suite 100 in Meridian.

Boise Philharmonic with Andrew Grams:

8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15, Brandt Center, Northwest Nazarene University, 707 Fern St., Nampa. Pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. on Nov. 14; 2 p.m. on Nov. 15. Tickets are $23.75-$71.50 in Boise, $22-$43.50 in Nampa. (Note the change in the performance date and time in Nampa.)