Monday, June 25, 2007

Richmonder heads opera board

Mark T. Cox IV is the first Richmond resident to be elected president of the Virginia Opera's board of directors. The company, based in Norfolk, also stages its productions in Richmond and Fairfax; its board members are drawn from those and other localities.

Symphony in the black

The Richmond Symphony expects to close its 2007 fiscal year, ending June 30, with an $85,000 deficit on an operating budget of $4.5 million. That shortfall will be offset by $100,000 in debt-retirement funds from the Richmond Symphony Foundation.

This will be the first time since 2000 that the symphony has ended a season in the black. Its finances have been especially strained since the closure of the Carpenter Center and the orchestra’s move to temporary venues 3½ years ago.

Reduction of the deficit was aided by special transition funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Community Foundation, the Carpenter Foundation, Philip Morris USA, Bank of America and other foundations. The orchestra used those funds for a $250,000 matching challenge fund to attract new supporters, according to David Fisk, the symphony’s executive director.

The Richmond Symphony Foundation’s restricted endowment assets stood at nearly $9.3 million as of March 31, Fisk reports.

Following a gift of $500,000 to the symphony endowment from the Windsor Foundation, the orchestra’s principal piano and celeste position, held by Russell Wilson, will be named in honor of Quincy and Anne Owen Cole.

At a recent meeting of the symphony’s board of directors, Marcia Thalhimer was elected as president of the board, succeeding Joseph C. Carter III. Gail L. Letts, Linda V. Schreiner and the Rev. Raymond Spence were elected as new board members.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Smith takes posts in Twin Cities

Mark Russell Smith, music director of the Richmond Symphony, has been named artistic director of orchestral studies at the University of Minnesota and director of new-music projects of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The shared position is a new collaboration between the two organizations.

Smith takes up the Minnesota posts in September. He continues in Richmond through the 2008-09 season.

At the University of Minnesota, he will conduct the University Symphony Orchestra, work with conducting students and teach undergraduate and graduate courses in orchestral studies.

He will conduct six weeks of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra season, focusing on contemporary music, and will plan, program and conduct the orchestra’s "engine408" new-music series.

Smith is the second Richmond Symphony alumnus to move on to conducting the SPCO. Peter Bay was the chamber orchestra’s resident conductor in the 1990s, after serving as associate conductor in Richmond; Bay is now music director of the Austin Symphony. George Manahan doubled as music director in Richmond and chief conductor at the Minnesota Opera in the 1990s; he is now music director of the New York City Opera.

Since joining the Richmond Symphony in 1999, Smith has divided his time between Richmond and the Twin Cities. His wife, Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, is a horn player in the Minnesota Orchestra. The couple and their two sons live in Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Harpists here and there

* In Britain, Prince Charles has appointed 22-year-old Claire Jones as his Official Harpist. She is the third musician to hold the post since 2000. "It seems that he just liked the sound of the instrument," The Guardian reports, "and that was what encouraged him to revive a tradition that had been dormant since the reign of Queen Victoria."

The roots of official harpistry, the newspaper explains, "go back to medieval times, when every self-respecting Welsh nobleman had a bard in his household, who would accompany his songs on a forerunner of the harp, the telya."

Jones’ official duties were not reported. (Tea-time musicales? Playing in a corner during social events?) Nor was there any mention of income or benefits. Hint: A suitably royal honorarium would be a brand new, top-of-the-line minivan and a handtruck for transporting the instrument.

The Guardian article:

* Here, meanwhile, the Richmond-based American Youth Harp Ensemble, directed by Lynnelle Ediger-Kordzaia, will perform at 8 p.m. June 22 at Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall in New York.

Returning to Weill Hall after a 2001 appearance, the ensemble will play selections by Bach, Debussy, Granados, Gershwin, Handel, Rameau and others.

Tickets: $35. Information: (212) 247-7800;