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They’re Making Beautiful Music Together; New Director For Brooklyn Philharmonic

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When Michael Christie calls the Brooklyn Philharmonic unique, he knows what he is talking about. The orchestra’s new 31-year-old musical director has been a conductor in Vancouver, Calgary, Berlin, Denmark, Los Angeles and Dallas in the 2004-05 season alone. As his inaugural performance with the Brooklyn Philharmonic approaches, Christie – although he does not live in Brooklyn – has nothing but kind words for the borough and the orchestra. “The distinguished history of the ensemble is really exciting to be affiliated with,” said the Boulder, CO resident who travels back and forth to Brooklyn and is planning to move to Phoenix, AZ with his fiancé to be closer to the Phoenix Symphony, which he also directs. “I like the fact that it has its own unique culture…It’s what a lot of organizations struggle to find in the din of the Big Apple.” The Brooklyn Philharmonic’s involvement in the community, with children in particular, impresses Christie the most. The orchestra, based at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene, makes regular visits to museums, schools and churches, and offers musical instruction to students. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an orchestra that’s done so much with the kids in its city, so that’s really exceptional. Its way beyond what most orchestras would ever dream of,” Christie said. The world-renowned conductor, who made his debut performance with the Philharmonic in April, will be saluted at the Saturday, February 25 show titled “Sacred and Profane,” which will open the Philharmonic’s 52nd season and be dedicated to David Teitelbaum, its first president and chairman of the board who passed away in August. Since Christie was chosen to replace the previous musical director, Robert Spano, he has met Borough President Marty Markowitz and other government representatives, and visited Brooklyn schools. “My impression of Brooklyn is that it’s enormous. I’m just amazed by how large it is. My jaw has been dropping at the diversity and the community in general, so that’s been very cool,” he said. At Christie’s April performance he was still essentially interviewing for the job. The upcoming performance will be different because, “Now I’m part of the family.” Christie will receive a brief salute from composer John Corigliano, a Brooklyn native, to start the show, followed by the performance of “Symphonies of Wind Instruments” by Igor Stravinsky, “Hymn to Aten” from Akhnaten by Philip Glass, and “Carmina Burana” with Dance by Carl Orff. “Carmina Burana,” based on Medieval Latin and German texts, will be reasserted as a theatrical piece with choreography by Nicholas Leichter and his company, nicholasleichterdance, and will be the centerpiece of the show. The Glass piece is based on ancient Egyptian history, and the Stravinsky piece is based on chants from the Russian Orthodox Church, and performed with winds and brass. “It’s all very interesting, accessible, exciting music, and one of the…things I wanted to show to the audience is that something relatively new to them doesn’t have to sound off-putting. More than anything I want to present music that I would want to go listen to,” Christie said. The title, “Sacred and Profane,” refers to the texts that “Carmina Burana” is based on, which chronicle, among other things, the double-lives led by 15th century monks “being pious on one side and going out drinking on the other,” Christie said. Brooklynites will surely be able to relate. Choosing the pieces is one of Christie’s many duties as musical director. About his job, he said, “It just has a lot of facets to it. You are a musical leader on one hand and you are an advocate on the other,” and an administrator as well. Each time Christie conducts an orchestra in a new city, his first goal is “to try to figure out what these people want to hear and then deliver it quickly.” Despite Brooklyn’s uniqueness, Christie said, “People’s tastes in music around the world are surprisingly similar…People…want to hear music that they relate to, music that involves them and welcomes them and is not too esoteric, and is entertaining on one side and informing on another.” At the end of a performance the audience should feel proud that they spent their time listening, Christie said, and he intends to create that effect at his February 25 show at 8 p.m. in the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, in the Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene. Christie will give a pre-concert introduction to the music at 7 p.m., and a post-concert discussion will follow. Tickets range from $10 to $60 and may be purchased by calling (718) 636-4100.

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