PSO’s Dr. Allan Birney retires; Paul Hsun-Ling Choui – Times News Online
It will literally be a handover.
Dr. Allan Birney, Founder and Music Director of the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra, is retiring.
Paul Hsun-Ling Chou, renowned conductor and violinist, succeeds him as music director of the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra.
The occasion to pass the baton is the Sinfonia concert, “Dance and Romance,” at 7:30 p.m. on April 2, First Presbyterian Church, 3231 W. Tilghman St., Allentown.
La Sinfonia, with ?Michael Gurt, pianist, interpreter Rossini, Overture to “L’Italiana in Algeri”; Dvorak, “Czech Suite”, op. 39, and Schumann, “Piano Concerto in A minor”.
“We’ll share the podium,” Chou said. “I will conduct Dvorak’s Czech Suite. Alain [Birney] will conduct the two other works on the program, the Overture by Rossini and the Piano Concerto by Schumann.
At the concert, there will be dedications, eulogies and proclamations for Birney, who is also leaving the podium as musical director of Pennsylvania Camerata Singers, which he also founded.
Birney shares the podium with Vincent Trovato at the Camerata “Spring Concert: Et Lux Perpetua”, 7.30pm March 26, First Presbyterian Church, Allentown.
Trovato, a lecturer, accompanist at Muhlenberg College and conductor of the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theater, succeeds Birney at Camerata. Trovato is Camerata’s assistant director.
Trovato conducts ?Gabriel Fauré “Requiem”. Birney conducts Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Litaniae Lauretanae”.
“I love doing it, but I think it should be someone else’s turn right now,” Birney says of her role at the Sinfonia and Camerata.
“And I think the two people [Chou and Trovato] I helped choose, I’m going to move the organization forward better than I could,” Birney said in a phone interview.
Birney and Trovato shared the directing and backing roles for the Camerata 2021-22 season.
“He [Trovato] and worked together for the past season, including the March 26 concert. He was our guide. He is a good pianist and very good for a choir, says Birney.
“He is [Trovato] a singer. I am not a singer. He can give them all the things they need to know from a singer’s perspective. Everyone loves him, including me.
Chou says Birney’s contributions to the Lehigh Valley classical music scene cannot be underestimated.
Birney founded the Valley Camerata and Camerata Orchestra in 1972. The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra, celebrating its 40th anniversary, was founded in 1982.
“I felt it was important to recognize Allan and his unwavering dedication and in his founding of the organization and music in the Lehigh Valley and the musicians, many of whom have been there since the beginning,” Chou said. in a telephone interview. .
“Allan’s legacy is that through thick and thin, he kept the orchestra going. He employed the musicians. The Lehigh Valley was lucky that he was such a staple,” Chou says.
Corliss Bachman continues as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra, now in its 11th year.
“Allan has dedicated himself over the past four decades to promoting the quality and reputation of the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra,” says Bachman.
Chou has given concerts throughout North America and abroad, having performed as a conductor, chamber musician and soloist in North and South America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Her virtuosity has been described as “breathtaking, combining electric energy and tenderness”.
Sinfonia board chairman Darrell Crook also praised Birney.
“Since the day I met him [Birney], until today, he is an authentic person. What you see is what you get. He is honest. He is trustworthy. He made the orchestra what it is today,” Crook said in a phone interview.
“I believe Allan has left the orchestra in a very good position for our transition into the next era.”
Crook is happy with Chou’s appointment.
“Paul [Chou] is the right person for us at this stage in the life of our orchestra.
“I’m very happy with the direction the orchestra is taking,” says Crook.
Sinfonia’s board contacted Chou in December 2021.
After being offered the date, Chou says, “I thought about it. I have a busy day job and a busy schedule of my own performances.
Chou is a senior partner and co-CEO of Korn Ferry, a human capital management, consulting and executive search firm for a variety of industries.
“It’s pretty special,” Chou says of his Sinfonia nomination. “I’ve been playing with the PSO since probably the 1980s. It’s a great group of talented people.
Since 2018, Chou has been a guest artist at the Festival Internacional de Música de Câmara PPGM-UFPB, Paraíba, Brazil, where he conducts the Festival Orchestra and performs as a soloist and chamber musician.
“The last two years haven’t been very dynamic,” Chou says. “I was traveling five, six days a week before the pandemic.”
Chou teaches, lectures, and presents workshops across the United States.
During the pandemic, Chou did master classes via Zoom. “It’s quite difficult,” Chou said. “The moment you say ‘Stop’, there is already a delay. What can you do?”
Birney conducts the Sinfonia “Valley Vivaldi” concert series summer 2022.
The 2022-23 Sinfonia season is the first that Chou will schedule. The 40th season is expected to be announced soon. The Sinfonia gives nine concerts per season.
“We have a very exciting season ahead. From time to time, I will play. I will be playing a solo with the orchestra in the fall. I will do it [conducting] with the violin under the chin.
Chou founded the orchestra program at Lehigh University. Chou has led the Lehigh University Philharmonic in performances on five continents, including concerts in the United States, Austria, China, South Africa and Brazil.
“I appreciate the opportunity to lead the organization,” Chou says of the Sinfonia. Regarding his plans, he says, “There are a few big themes.
“In any organization, you don’t want to ignore the legacy, the history and the foundation. At the same time, we have to think about the future and the relevance of what we are doing. It is a major theme.
“A die [Sinfonia] the musicians asked me: ‘What do you think?’ through a Zoom call. Chou says he responded, “We have to be relevant.
“When you talk about relevance, you’re talking about what we do and why it matters to a diverse audience. It could be age diversity, ethnic diversity, gender diversity. You have to make partnerships with other organizations.
“I think educational programs are part of that awareness. I think defending local artists is part of that framework.
Chou serves on the board of Astral Artists, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the careers of young musicians.
“The Orchestra [Sinfonia] is dedicated to works for chamber orchestra. For the Baroque, there may be five or six musicians. For the classic, there can be 20 players. Adding the winds, there can be up to 35-40 people.
“We are going to offer concerts that present different types of works, just to vary the pleasures. We are going to do works that the orchestra has never played. And in the following seasons, we will do adventurous programming.
“There are a lot of opportunities for this orchestra and I’m looking forward to learning what new opportunities there are to showcase musicians and contribute to the local area.”
Pre-concert lectures can be added as an educational component.
“Music is a common language. We can attract new audiences. I wish I could do something like that,” Chou says.
Chou attended the Tanglewood Festival as a Leonard Bernstein Scholar. He is an alumnus of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and completed graduate school at Stony Brook University. He resides on the Main Line in Philadelphia with his wife, Dr. Karen Huang, and their son, Michael.
“Paul Chou has been all over the world,” says Birney. “He understands all the things that I don’t know how to do.
“Personally, I did not want to leave them [Sinfonia and Camerata] to try to understand everything. My goal has been to have people who are really good, then I’ll feel better,” Birney said in a phone interview.
“We went through times where we thought, ‘How are we going to pay for the next gig?’ and we got away with it. I would like it to continue and I think these people are going to do it in a way that I couldn’t,” Birney says.
“And I wish I had more time for myself,” adds Birney, who in 1991 received the Ovation award for the arts from the city of Allentown.
Birney, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, Yale School of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music, with additional studies in Kent, England, and Salzburg, Austria.
While on the Yale faculty, Birney organized the Morse Chamber Music Series and founded the Craftsbury Chamber Players, Craftsbury, Vt.
In 1970 Birney was appointed professor of music at Cedar Crest College, where he served on the faculty for 42 years.
Birney is a frequent soloist on piano, organ and harpsichord.
“I would like to do chamber music. If I’m up to it, we’ll see. I hope to return to it more as a solo performer,” says Birney.
Birney’s appointment as organist took effect in July at Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church, Harleysville.
“I did this for a long time,” Birney says. “I’m 83 now. I’m starting to be a bit frail. I don’t walk very well. I don’t speak very well, especially in public.
“My feet are very bad. I can’t stand for long. I have to wear shoes that are not appropriate,” Birney says.
Bachman, in an email, observes:
“By nature, he [Birney] has a humble and unassuming demeanor, but he persists with determination and ferocity in keeping Sinfonia high, to the delight of loyal listeners.
“Allan has a great ability to recognize the exceptional talent of young artists. Over the years, many of the soloists whom Sinfonia audiences had the pleasure of hearing in the early days have gone on to much-appreciated careers as soloists of national and international stature.
“I am convinced that there are many exciting things in store for the Sinfonia and the concert-going public as Paul Chou takes on the role of Music Director of the Sinfonia. In his first meetings with the board, we have already witnessed his insatiable energy and source of ideas,” says Bachman.
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Paul Hsun-Ling Chou
Dr Allan Birney