Hitting the right note for New Year’s Eve

Mac NYE

Chicago Tribune, December 21, 2015

by Annie Alleman

The New Philharmonic is putting an international twist on its traditional New Year’s Eve concert at the McAninch Arts Center.

Under the direction of Kirk Muspratt, three “New Year’s Eve With an International Twist” concerts are scheduled Dec. 31 at 2 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The program of classical and pop works will feature pieces by J. Strauss Jr., Gershwin, Puccini and others, plus a celebratory champagne toast and a few of the NP’s signature surprises.

Soprano Emily Birsan from the Lyric Opera Ryan Center for Young Artists will return for an encore in the year-end concerts, the first performer to do so, Muspratt said. Also, 98.7 FM-WFMT will provide a live broadcast of the 2 p.m. performance.

“We’re extremely pleased to have Emily with us. She was a big hit with audiences when she first joined us for New Year’s Eve 2013,” he said. “She’s got an astonishing voice.”

Birsan will join in for Gershwin’s “By Strauss” from “An American in Paris,” Charles Gounod’s “Je Veux Vivre” from “Romeo and Juliet” and Puccini’s “Quando m’en vo” from “La Boheme.”

Other works in the program include J. Strauss Jr.’s “Napoleon March, op. 156,” “Blue Danube” and “Rettungs-Jubel Marsch op. 126;” Edward Strauss’ “Mit Vergnugen, Polka Schnell op. 228;” Zequinha Abreu’s “Tico Tico;” and scores from films, including “The Monuments Men,” “Schindler’s List” and “ET.” Of course, there will be “Auld Lang Syne.”

“There’s the diversity of music. The music is apropos of the evening; it’s tied together in some way to think about this moment that is passing in time,” Muspratt said. “You will be happy when you leave the concert. You will definitely want to book your tickets for next year.”

He came up with the program by considering audience suggestions and reactions.

“What do people ask me for? When I hear at the end of a concert, ‘Could you do this next year?’ or ‘We love this piece the best.’ And you can hear it, if they just go crazy after a piece,” he said. “So what people want is very important. But I also craft it around the singer to a point — what can they really sing well, what can they sing three times in one day, how hard is it … and if I had to give you one word for the whole thing, it’s ’emotional.’ What will touch people, what will excite people, what will elicit an amazing response?

“We’ve got a French aria from the 1850s, we’ve got a movie piece from 1990s,” Muspratt said. “There’s lots of different music. John Williams is very different than a French composer or a guy writing waltzes in 1862. People tell me they really like the diversity of music on the program.”

He also wants to honor the end of World War II, which was 70 years ago.

“There will be a few moments in the concert where I talk about 1945 and what people gave up and how amazing it was, that great generation of people. Lest we not forget, a little bit. New Year’s is about the future, but for me, New Year’s Eve is about the past too,” he said. “We shouldn’t be so spoiled to forget these wonderful men and women who are now in their 90s. So I’ll spend a few minutes doing that.”

But he’ll still keep the tone light and fun, Muspratt said.

“In a way, it should be a little like a variety show, in the old-fashioned sense. A little bit of that, a little bit of this,” he said.

The audience is usually composed of people who really enjoy orchestra music and those who want to go somewhere a little different on New Year’s Eve.

“They want to go somewhere classy and close and easy with a great environment,” he said. “They just want to come and have a nice time, and they might not ever come back to one of our concerts.”

If you go

What: New Philharmonic presents “New Year’s Eve With an International Twist”

Where: McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn

Tickets: $65

Information: 630-942-4000; AtTheMac.org

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