Classical music can seem daunting to some first-time concertgoers, but there’s no reason to stress. We at the Delaware Symphony want you to be able to relax and enjoy the music, and make your visit exiting and memorable. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about our concerts: 

 

Have any other questions? Give us a call or send an email using the form on this page, and we'll be happy to answer them for you!

What?

“Orchestras are like people.  They’re the sonic embodiment of their community.”

Simon Rattle, English conductor.

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The definition of an “orchestra” seems to have morphed from the ancient Greek’s designation of the place in the theater where the musicians played to the modern day characterization of any substantial assemblage of musician, such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Electric Light Orchestra, or the Philadelphia Orchestra.  Some ensembles stick with the title “orchestra” only—like the above mentioned groups.  Others, like those in Delaware or Chicago, go with “symphony” and “orchestra,” but in casual conversation are almost always referred to only as “symphony.”

“Symphony” (from Greek for basically “sounding good together”) has come to mean a group of musicians who spend their time playing concert music, rather than, say, dance music, or background music.  That’s why opera companies and ballet companies generally don’t call their musical back-up bands “symphonies,” but orchestras: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra….

Then there are the “philharmonic” – which is essentially another name for symphony and another means to differentiate orchestras.

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“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

W.C. Fields

“Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.”

Malcolm Arnold, English composer

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Ah.  Musical taxonomy. This is complicated, although it really shouldn’t be.  First off, we have to make clear that there is “Classical” music, and ‘classical’ music.  “Classical” with the capital ‘C’, like Kleenex, Xerox and Band-Aid, is a specific period of music (mid- 18th Century to beginning of the 19th C —the period of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Ludwig van Beethoven.) that has confusingly leant its name to the whole notion of art music.  Other periods, beside “Classical” that are ‘classical’ are Baroque (a period or style music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750 – Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, Henry Purcell), Romantic (1780 – 1910, Johann Strauss II, Johannes Brahms, Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky), and Impressionistic (1890 – 1925, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel)

Classical music comes in lots of forms—from solo works to small ensembles, to giant orchestral scores.  Music played in the pit as accompaniment to ballets or operas are also often ‘Classical.’  It is, at its core, a broad term we use to denote music written with an artistic intent, music with an awareness of art music tradition (though not necessarily following it), and meant to be used to communicate large-scale values about the human condition.  The result is that most ‘classical’ music is long-form unlike much popular music through the ages. That is what makes classical music so enduring, and the music we turn to at life events—from weddings to graduations to funerals.

One of the highest achievements of Western civilization is its serious, beautiful music, which requires developed skill on the part of each performer on stage.  Classical musicians and composers have often undergone years of extensive education and training.

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“Music has always been transnational; people pick up whatever interests them, and certainly a lot of classical music has absorbed influences from all over the world.”

Yo-Yo Ma, Chinese American cellist

The history of symphonic music is really just the same as the history of music.  From individuals singing and banging percussion instruments, to assemblages of singers and percussionist, to early wind and string instruments, to small, then large groups of strings and winds—music began as a way to express the inexpressible.  Our particular thread of music in the classical world began at the confluence of two functions of music: sacred and secular.  There was music to worship by, and music to play by.  Everything we play can, in some sense, be traced back to either, or both, of those threads.  Whether a minuet in a symphony, or a funeral march, symphonic music’s roots go back to rowdy dance halls, and hallowed spaces of worship.

Although the Greeks are thought to have been the first civilization to combine music and drama, the modern orchestra began to emerge in Europe in the early 17th century.  Today, a typical orchestra includes different kinds of instruments, from the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instrument families.  The symphony orchestra is able to not only perform classical music, including ballet and opera works, but also Broadway show music and scores for movies, television, and radio, along with arrangements of popular, folk, rock and roll, and other genres.  The Delaware Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is a symphony orchestra, the only fully-professional one in the State of Delaware.

Chamber music is the performance of musical works whose composer has called for only a few performers; often one to each part.  For example, a string quartet, developed in 18th century Europe, involves four string players, and usually two violins, one viola, and one violincello (or cello).

An orchestra may include other instruments for certain performances.  The DSO has featured the William Kerrigan Symphony Bells of Remembrance, a set of seven pitched bells that were originally part of the Bells of Remembrance collected by The Franciscans to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. The Franciscans donated the bells to various organizations, and the DSO received seven, which are most frequently needed for classical works (i.e., Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique, and Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky). William Kerrigan is the Principal Percussionist for the DSO and has worked closely with Brother David Schlatter to secure and maintain the seven bells; this is why he is recognized in the name.

Two Bells of Remembrance, used in Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique

The DSO is the only professional symphony orchestra in the State of Delaware.  Alfred I. du Pont formed the Tankopanicum Orchestra in the 1880s with employees, family members and others in the community, and was more of a band.  The group disbanded because of Mr. du Pont’s progressing deafness. It was replaced by the Wilmington Orchestra in 1906, an ensemble that performed symphonic repertoire. That group changed names on several occasions, becoming the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in 1971. The DSO considers its “founding” to have been in 1906.

David Amado, Music Director, with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra

An orchestra is not just composed of musicians and their instruments, but also includes a conductor.  The conductor of a symphony performs many of the duties that the director of a movie performs—communicating to the performers how their parts fit with one another, and how to best express the meaning and character at every moment. This is done through a combination of gesture and words in rehearsal, and, of course, only gesture in performance.  The end goal is to be at the right speed, in the right character, at the right volume, and with the right quality of sound at every single moment.  When those things work, the traffic-cop quality of conducting (keeping things happening simultaneously) falls into the background as the more important responsibility of shaping the music guides us all into place (audience included!).

Although the conductor plays no instrument, he or she is critical if the group is to perform with excellence.  The conductor unifies the performance, setting tempo or pace; the conductor listens critically to achieve the appropriate sound of the group, controls the interpretation of the music, and thus interprets the composer’s intent.

All you have to do is notify our staff and they will be able to direct you to the ticket counter, where your tickets can be reprinted. There may be a line as we will be handling walk-up sales, but don’t worry, we’ll make sure you are in your seats for when the concert starts.

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