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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2008

Toledo Symphony to present a winning program

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER

To set up this weekend's 65th anniversary concert, the Toledo Symphony produced a musical version of March Madness, seeking to determine the region's most beloved classical music works.

The teams were categories of music - Great Symphonies, the Best of Broadway, Openings and Overtures, and so forth.

The rules were simple: vote early; vote often.

So while college basketball teams went head to head, night after night, until Kansas snagged the title, Toledoans submitted their votes for favorite music by composers from Bach to Wagner, Arlen to Williams, Beethoven to Vivaldi, and others.

Some 10,400 ballots - paper and electronic- were submitted, according to symphony officials. Orchestral Showpieces drew the most votes - some 2000.

The slate of musical candidates was reduced from 83, plus write-ins, to 13 lucky winners.

The overall winners are works by Shostakovich, Webber, Rimsky-Korsakov, Bernstein, McDevitt, Williams, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Pachelbel.

So cue the brasses for a fanfare: the People have spoken.

And this Saturday at 8 p.m. in Stranahan Theater, this People's Choice concert will begin under the baton of resident conductor Chelsea Tipton II.

And the winning program?

Think of it as an eclectic mix. Merwin Siu, symphony artistic administrator, and his team crafted it to include some of the overall winners as well as top-rated works in various categories.

Excerpts from works by Mozart, Holst, Bernstein, Shostakovich, Respighi, Barber, and local composer/symphony bassist William McDevitt are planned.

So is John Phillip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, which is to be led by a guest conductor to be announced from the stage.

Don't hold your breath for Pachelbel's ubiquitous Canon in D Major. Even though it was a top winner, as was Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, every people's concert needs a march - but hold the Canon, please.

Pianist Samantha Biniker will appear as soloist in the Ravel Piano Concerto, which wasn't even on the list of choices. Was it a write-in? Symphony officials say 40 per cent of votes were write-in in this category.

Nonetheless, it will be grand to see and hear how Biniker, a graduate of the Toledo Youth Orchestra, is developing. Now a University of Michigan music student and budding regional soloist, she can be seen in performance on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMkf1O0cqeU.

But this Saturday's performance is sure to be a more convincing revelation of how far Biniker has grown.

Also appearing as soloists will be the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps, to highlight Respighi's Pines of Rome finale.

Tickets for this fund-raising celebration are $25-100, with the top-price tickets including a post-party with the musicians on the Stranahan stage. To save a seat for this unique concert, call 419-246-8000 or go to www.toledosymphony.com. Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com



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