LIVE: Dogs of Desire @ Cohoes Music Hall, 06/03/2022

COHOES — In his 30 years as Albany Symphony Music Director, David Alan Miller said he could not recall ever playing at Cohoes Music Hall while addressing the audience on the second night of the company’s American Music Festival: TrailBlaze NY on Friday, June 3.

TrailBlaze NY is an ambitious tour that will take the award-winning symphony across New York through a series of performances over the next month. After three nights of shows volleyed between Cohoes and Troy, symphony players will jaunt down the state’s 750 miles of converted railroad lines that now serve as hiking and bicycle trails. It’s Miller’s goal to capture the history and charm that endears each community — from Amsterdam, Schenectady, Beacon and more — through a medium the multi-Grammy Award-winning symphony orchestra conductor knows so well.

The symphony’s absence from Cohoes Music Hall is no surprise; the stage is too small to accommodate an orchestra with 70 players. The 16 who form Dogs of Desire — sometimes described as the symphony’s chamber orchestra — even found it a challenge to manage the stage. Players did so by changing positions between nearly each of the five arrangements; moves not uncommon on even the more accommodating stage at the Albany Palace Theatre. It was a night of firsts throughout the evening as the audience was gifted with five arrangements, each a world premiere from familiar composers.

Albany Symphony’s David Alan Miller captured while addressing the Cohoes Music Hall crowd on June 3, 2022. Photo by Michael Hallisey

The evening began with Natalie Draper’s “Biking to Amsterdam, NY – Summer, 2022.” The assistant professor at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University told the audience how she tasked herself and her husband with a bicycle trek over several days between the Salt and Carpet cities. she paired a sonic journey that captured the passage of time and distance from the Erie Canal’s past to the modern machinery in Amsterdams with poetry and lyrics from Anita Sanchez sung by vocalists Lucy Fitz Gibbon and Ruston Ropac.

Andre Myers’ “The New Colossus” pays homage to the Emma Lazarus poem etched under the feet of the Statue of Liberty. His composition was inspired by immigrants who sought new lives in America. “This piece aspires to serve as a gentle reminder that the United States is in a constant state of becoming,” Myers said, “and that the work of perfecting our Union is ongoing and a cause for hope.”

Miller prefaced Loren Loiacono’s “Empire Lines for Percussion Quartet and Sinfonietta” by explaining to the audience that the show was going to get “very loud.” The Sandbox Percussion quartet surrounded his podium in front of the orchestra, equipped with various instruments while sharing one similarity — a kick drum. In the first of two movements, Loiacono evoked the fire and explosion at Bannerman Castle near Beacon. It ignited with a thrilling start with the percussionists crouched at attention like sprinters behind the starting line. The second movement, “Furgary Fishing Village” allowed each player to indulge in a timeless “Big Fish” story while attempting to better the one before.

Bobby Ge’s “In Search of Standard Time” was inspired by the technological innovations from General Electric and the American Locomotive Company that lent Schenectady the nickname “The City that Lights and Hauls the World.” The five-movement composition featured four players from the Empire Youth Orchestra at xylophones. “The initial rhythms are unstable and immature,” Ge said, “ricocheting through new time signatures and unmeasured passages as they slowly become more and more regular, evoking the rigidity of timetables.”

The evening was highlighted by a moving arrangement from Jack Frerer titled “Moments in Motion.” It featured music from Bear Grass and was sung by the Troy band’s vocalist and songwriter, Katie Hammon.

Hammon’s four-piece indie folk-rock band has distinguished itself in the local scene, having earned three Eddie Award nominations since 2019. Listeners often note Hammon’s voice, who sings intimately with a sultry, raspy voice. Backed by a chamber orchestra in its stead, she arrested the audience through a captivating 20-minute performance through the piece’s five movements. Four songs off of the band’s 2018 release “Left” were featured in the arrangement. “Turn Me Over,” a song Bear Grass had only played a few times before, was to be performed at Cohoes Music Hall, before the pandemic’s outbreak in March 2020.

Hammon is expected to sing in front of the orchestra again when the show travels to Basilica Hudson on Friday, June 24. For those who failed to make the Cohoes performance, it’s worth the road trip to attend. One can also hope Albany Symphony chooses to record the performance, too.

Comments are closed.