Grand Rapids Symphony anticipates the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with concerts

Media Contact:
Nick VanderLaan
Marketing Intern
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., April 5, 2017 – Leonard Bernstein once said of Beethoven, “Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish, ‘Something is right in the world.’”

Bernstein, the legendary American conductor and composer who referred to Beethoven as the greatest composer of all time, so greatly admired Beethoven that he said he’s no different “from the others who worship that name.”

Bernstein conducted music by Beethoven hundreds of times with the preeminent orchestras throughout the world, including his famous recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on Christmas Day 1989 with the Berlin Philharmonic, just six weeks after the Berlin Wall came down.

Because of Bernstein’s particular love for the music of Beethoven, no other composer is a better fit to accompany the music of Bernstein in a concert that anticipates the 100th anniversary of the American composer’s birth on Aug. 25, 2018.

Conductor Michael Christie, music director of the Minnesota Opera and a frequent Bernstein interpreter, makes his debut with the Grand Rapids Symphony for the ninth concerts of the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 21-22, in DeVos Performance Hall. The orchestra welcomes pianist Orli Shaham and countertenor Patrick Dailey for the concerts that feature the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus. The concert sponsor is Bank of America.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Mr. Christie quickly rose to prominence as a conductor while still a trumpet student at Oberlin Conservatory when, at age 21, he won a special prize of $10,000 for Outstanding Potential at the first International Sibelius Conductor’s Competition in 1995. Following the competition, he became an apprentice conductor under Daniel Barenboim at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has since held conducting posts at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and with the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

Patrick Dailey will perform the countertenor solo for Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus. Using texts from the Hebrew Bible, Bernstein composed the work for solo boy soprano or countertenor, explicitly stating that the part never was to be sung by a woman. Despite its high range, Bernstein wanted performances to suggest that it was being sung by the biblical David himself.  

One of the leading countertenors in the world, Dailey has performed with Aretha Franklin on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration at the Let Freedom Ring Celebration, a concert honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He won first place in Opera Ebony's 2014 Benjamin Matthews Vocal Competition and has made appearances with such prestigious opera companies and orchestras as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Pacific Opera Project, the Queen’s Baroque Opera, and a recent debut with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Pianist Orli Shaham will join the GRS for Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. This unusual piece unites solo piano, voices and orchestra. Choral Fantasy is frequently viewed as an early version of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, given similarities between the two pieces’ structures, themes, harmonic sequences and texts.

An internationally acclaimed pianist who has been hailed by critics on four continents, Shaham has performed with nearly all of the major orchestras in the world, notably with the American symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and internationally with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Guest artist sponsor is the Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

In addition to the pieces above, Beethoven’s famed Leonore Overture and Bernstein’s Suite from On the Waterfront will round out the program. Beethoven composed four Leonore Overtures for his opera Fidelio, but the one that is most frequently performed is Leonore No. 3, which is the version that the GRS will perform. It is a dramatic, full-scale symphonic work that often overpowers the initial scenes of the opera.

On the Waterfront was a 1954 crime drama film starring Marlon Brando. Bernstein composed the score for the film and used it only as a starting point for his Suite from On the Waterfront. As Bernstein stated about the piece, “the main materials of the suite undergo numerous metamorphoses, following as much as possible the chronological flow of the film itself.”         

  • Upbeat, a free, pre-concert, multi-media presentation, will be held before each performance at 7 p.m. in the DeVos Place Recital Hall. Upbeat is sponsored by BDO USA.

  • The Grand Rapids Symphony this season has introduced a special cocktail for its audiences in DeVos Performance Hall. At every concert in the 2016-17 Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series, try a “Spirit of the Symphony,” also called a French 75.

  • The complete Beethoven & Bernstein program will be rebroadcast on May 28, 2017, at 1 p.m. on Blue Lake Public Radio 88.9 FM or 90.3 FM.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the GRS ticket office, weekdays 9 am-5 pm, at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.)

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place box office, weekdays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the GRS Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet and sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in March 2019.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or

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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.