High-profile soloists, new concert series among highlights of BSO's upcoming centennial season

BSO President and CEO Paul Meecham looks on as staff unveil the orchestra's new logo.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's upcoming centennial season will include high-profile soloists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Joshua Bell, specially commissioned new music, a multimedia collaboration with NPR's Kitchen Sisters, a concert series formed in collaboration with WTMD, and more. Music director Marin Alsop announced the highlights of the celebratory season to a crowd of about 100 people in the lobby of the Meyerhoff this evening.

The BSO's board members, governing members, and staff mingled around tables of hors d'eouvres as Alsop ran through a list of the special guests and special events that the BSO has planned in honor of its 100-year anniversary. Among the many events announced was a new concert series called Pulse, in collaboration with WMTD-FM, in which a "nationally renowned independent touring artist or band" will perform, as well as a BSO ensemble that will perform classical music. Alsop said there will be drink specials and food trucks at these events, which she said are specifically geared toward millennials. "It's trying to appeal to a younger audience that really wants to do something different and get that kind of experience of crossing over the boundaries between genres," she said. She did not say who any of the acts in the series might be.


Alsop also announced that the BSO will play 22 works by living contemporary composers, a significant jump above its usual number of contemporary works performed (this season, the orchestra played only five pieces by living composers). Nine women are included in those 22 composers, though Alsop acknowledged that that number was still not high enough.

Some other highlights:

  • The season will kick off Sept. 10 and 11 with Christopher Seaman conducting a full concert program that will showcase highlights from the entire season.
  • On the anniversary of the orchestra's founding, Feb. 11, 2016, Joshua Bell will play a special adaptation of Bernstein's "West Side Story Suite" with the BSO at the Meyerhoff.
  • The Morgan State University Choir and Center Stage's artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah will partner with the BSO to perform George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess: In Concert."
  • The BSO will travel to Carnegie Hall to perform "The City" (Symphony No. 5), a new multimedia work by Kevin Puts, on April 16, 2016.
  • John Waters will narrate the BSO's production of "Hairspray: In Concert," which will feature a full Broadway cast and run June 2-5, 2016.
  • Yo-Yo Ma will perform Dvorak's Cello Concerto with the orchestra on June 15, 2016.

"It's gonna be fun, we're gonna look back and look at the history of the orchestra and look forward to the next hundred years of innovation--what can we do to be a relevant part of this community," Alsop said as she concluded her announcement. "You know, it's not just about living in the past, although it's fun to celebrate the past--it's about how to be relevant to our community in the future and how we're gonna sustain this incredible art form. But we have to make it accessible to everyone and we have to include everyone. Access, inclusion, celebration, fun. That's what this is all about."

The orchestra's leadership also unveiled a new logo and a new slogan: "Come hear extraordinary."

The centennial season's announcement came just days after the players' committee of the orchestra's union aired its grievance about the orchestra, as reported by Tim Smith at The Sun. Conspicuously absent at the event were the majority of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's musicians. A table with name tags for all of the musicians had been placed at the Meyerhoff's entrance, but hardly any of the name tags were touched, as only a handful of musicians showed up for the announcement.

The calendar for the season is already available on the BSO's website.