Grand Rapids Symphony’s exciting 2016-2017 season sets the stage for its next music director

Media Contact:
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Feb. 11, 2016 – The Grand Rapids Symphony will have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation as its 2016-17 season paves the way for the arrival of its next music director.   

Today, your Grand Rapids Symphony unveils its 87th annual season, offering classical blockbusters as well as recently composed music; classic pop and rock plus family friendly entertainment; and cinematic special events plus seasonal celebrations that’ll bring a galaxy of eminent artists and guest conductors to Grand Rapids.   

The GRS will play your all-time orchestral favorites including Gershwin’s wildly popular Rhapsody in Blue, Beethoven’s history-making Eroica Symphony No. 3, and Mussorgsky’s evocative and entertaining Pictures at an Exhibition.   

The Grand Rapids Pops season promises cinematic thrills you can’t experience anywhere else with Dreamworks Animation in Concert, a visual and musical, 20th anniversary salute to the studio that created Shrek, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon in October. A full-length screening of the heartwarming film, E.T the Extra-Terrestrial follows in November with its memorable score by John Williams, the five-time Oscar-winning film composer whose music will be featured by the Grand Rapids Pops yet this season on May 6-8.   

Ann Hampton Callaway, who wrote and sang the theme from TV’s The Nanny, returns to DeVos Hall in January 2017 with a salute to Barbra Streisand, including songs such as At the Same Time that Callaway wrote especially for Babs.   

Beatlemania is back with the Fox Motors Pops Series with the tribute group Classical Mystery Tour joining the Grand Rapids Pops in April 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

Cinematic highlights on the Classical Series include Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring the enchanting 18th variation that served as the love theme for the movie Somewhere in Time, filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. The dazzling Joyce Yang joins the Grand Rapids Symphony in October as piano soloist for the Paganini Variations.    

Along with Yang, world-class artists coming to town for the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series include Michigan’s own Ralph Votapek, the first gold medal winner of the inaugural Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to open the series in September; and Fabio Bidini, a finalist in the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition, all under supervision of Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, who conducts two concerts in all during the 2016-17 season.   

Familiar faces coming to town include pianist Jim Witter from The Piano Men, a past performer with the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops. He returns with The Music of Billy Joel and Elton John in September to open the six-concert Fox Motors Pops Series together with Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt on the podium.   

The GRS’ 2016-17 season promises the return of music director laureate David Lockington in November to lead soloists and the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, featuring prayers, biblical stories, and texts by poet Walt Whitman.   

More familiar faces include guest conductors Marcello Lehninger and Rune Bergmann. Brazilian-born Lehninger, who was in Grand Rapids last season and is scheduled to return this April, will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in Mahler’s mighty Symphony No. 5 in February 2017. Norwegian-born Bergmann, who made his DeVos Hall debut this past November, will be back in March 2017 with the engaging Pictures at an Exhibition.   

Grand Rapids Symphony made history in 1986 when it appointed Catherine Comet as the first woman to serve as music director of a regional, professional orchestra in the United States. Since then, many more have followed in her footsteps. Grammy Award-winning conductor JoAnne Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, comes to town in March 2017 to lead a program of elegance and grace with Ravel’s La Valse and Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5 along with the local premiere of Scherzo Crypto by Grand Rapids Symphony’s assistant principal oboist Alexander Miller.   

The Grand Rapids Symphony’s three-concert Crowe Horwath Great Eras Series, held in the beautiful surroundings of St. Cecilia Music Center’s Royce Auditorium, opens its three-concert series with a Mostly Mozart program featuring Principal Hornist Richard Britsch and Assistant Principal Hornist Erich Peterson as soloists in Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2.   

The Grand Rapids Bach Festival, the 11th biennial celebration of the Baroque in West Michigan, returns for a week of events in March 2017 under the leadership of its own music director, David Lockington.   

The Christmas season wouldn’t be complete without the Grand Rapids Symphony supplying holiday cheer for the whole family. The Grand Rapids Pops’ traditional Holiday Pops will be held in early December, followed by the return of Cirque de la Symphonie’s colorful Cirque de Noël later in the month on the Nestlé Gerber SymphonicBOOM Series.   

Season tickets are on sale now with select concerts also on sale to subscribers. New for the 2016-17 season are subscriptions available at a discount of up to 50% off of single-ticket prices for select series and seats for new package orders. Single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 1.   


Tickets are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. Tickets are available by phone in the evening and on Saturday by calling 616.885.1241. 

About the Grand Rapids Symphony 

The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of musical styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. The GRS also operates the Grand Rapids Bach Festival and collaborates as the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Ballet. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony please visit 

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.