New England Philharmonic Initiates Conductor Search

Richard Pittman (file photo)

After the challenges of the past year and a half, being with an orchestra right now feels like taking part in a ritual from a past analog time but one that is vitally meaningful to my life today, perhaps more so than ever before. It is such a joy to be performing live orchestral music again.

In our divided and distanced world, it is a remarkable act for seventy people to come together in a single room to create something new together, understand each other without the need of words, and to achieve this through teamwork, precision, focus and by truly listening to, and hearing, one another. When I have stood in front of the New England Philharmonic as its conductor these past few weeks, the masks we are wearing and the distance that has been between us for so long seems to fade way for a few hours. A full body of orchestral sound embraces us, and the feeling of seventy pairs eyes and ears all attuned to something beyond themselves connects and transports, even in our humble Sunday evening rehearsal room.

I’m conducting the NEP’s season-opening concert in October, and it comes at an important moment for the orchestra as we return together after more than a year apart. I began my role as Composer-in-Residence in the fall of 2019, at the invitation of Richard Pittman, Music Director Emeritus. Since then, I’ve worked with Concertmaster Danielle Maddon and the orchestra’s board behind the scenes as we re-imagined our presence during the pandemic. We launched a new online interview series that features guest composers and performers, “Listening In: A Deep Dive Into The Music With the NEP.” We then programmed our current season as a look toward NEP’s future and the search for its new Music Director.

I’ve seen firsthand what a unique space the NEP inhabits in the Boston music scene as a volunteer, community-based ensemble, which has had a Composer-in-Residence position continually for over thirty-six years and has shown a committed focus in presenting music by living composers alongside historical works of the past. The NEP’s members are highly skilled musicians, many of whom are professionals in careers outside of music. The excitement of musical discovery is palpable in rehearsals as we crack open pieces of music, some not even a year old and others born a century before.

I asked two of NEP’s players for their thoughts on what returning to the stage means to them. Principal Clarinetist Tammy Avery Gibson, who has worked in ICU’s at a Boston transplant/trauma center during the Covid pandemic, shares that “returning to live music means a more normal existence, getting back together with my friends, and a release from the daily stress of constant change and uncertainty in healthcare. Even though the way we get together is in a different way and with more safety in place, I’m grateful for the opportunity to play with the orchestra again.”

John Kessen, NEP hornist, Chair of the Board, and an owner of three popular Boston-area restaurants, adds: “COVID put a stop to gathering together. At my restaurants, in the concert hall, and out in the community, it had to stop for the sake of our health, but we have all felt a loss. Now, I am thrilled to be back on stage with the NEP musicians, and to be able once again to share the music and the space with the audience.”

We hope our October program will help the NEP triumphantly open a door to the future as we return to live performance, while also giving us space to acknowledge as a community the experiences and challenges of the past year and half – to reflect on where we have been, where we are now, and where we go from here.

As a composer, it has been a privilege and an eye-opening experience to have been able to play such an active and varied role in the life of an orchestra this year. A composer residency can be so much more than the music the resident composer creates. I encourage orchestras to explore the many ways they can embed a composer or outside artist into their organization.

I can’t wait to hear all the music to come this season, many by voices new to the orchestra, and others that deserve to be better heard. Hope to see you at a concert this season.

Eric Nathen served as Composer-in-Residence in the fall of 2019, at the invitation of Richard Pittman, Music Director Emeritus.

New England Philharmonic 2021-22 Orchestral Season:

Opening a New Door

  • October 16, 2021 | 8:00 PM  9:30 PM
  • All Saints Parish (1773 Beacon St., Brookline)

Conducted by NEP Composer-in-Residence Eric Nathan

Bernard Hoffer Fanfare for Dick
Eric Nathan the space of a door
Hannah Kendall The Spark Catchers
Igor Stravinsky Firebird Suite (1919)

Sherlock, Jr.

  • November 4, 2021 | 6:30 PM  8:30 PM
  • Boston Athenaeum

The NEP Chamber Players and the Boston Athenaeum present Sherlock, Jr., a Buster Keaton silent film with a new score by NEP Composer Laureate Bernie Hoffer, commissioned by the Boston Athenaeum. This new score will accompany a live showing of the film, accompanied by a septet made up of musicians from the NEP Chamber Players.

Sherlock, Jr. was commissioned by the Boston Athenaeum.

Dreams of Love and War

  • December 5, 2021 | 3:00 PM  4:30 PM
  • BU Tsai Performance Center

Conducted by music director finalist Adam Kerry Boyles

Michael Gandolfi Fanfare in Honor of Richard Pittman
Bernard Rands DREAM
Boston Premiere
Amy Beach Jephthah’s Daughter
Sarah Pelletier, soprano
Young Artist Competition Concerto Winner, TBD
Maurice Ravel Daphnis et Chloé, Suite 2

Our Stories, Ourselves

  • February 26, 2022 | 8:00 PM  9:30 PM
  • BU Tsai Performance Center

Conducted by music director finalist Nicholas DeMaison

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Fanfare in Honor of Richard Pittman
Jonathan Bailey Holland Stories from Home
George Tsontakis Violin Concerto No. 3
Danielle Maddon, Violin
Boston Premiere
Jean Sibelius Symphony No. 5


Refold, Rebuild, REVUELTAS!

  • May 1, 2022 | 3:00 PM  4:30 PM
  • BU Tsai Performance Center

Conducted by music director finalist Tianhui Ng

Yehudi Wyner Fanfare in Honor of Richard Pittman
Sofía Rocha Replier
2020 Call for Scores Winner
World Premiere
Chen Yi Spring in Dresden
Danielle Maddon, Violin
Silvestre Revueltas La Noche de los mayas

Into the Spotlight

  • June 18, 2022 | 8:00 PM  9:30 PM
  • All Saints Parish (1773 Beacon St., Brookline)

Conducted by music director finalist Yoichi Udagawa

Kathryn Salfelder Fanfare in Honor of Richard Pittman
Igor Santos ploy, pivot
2021 Call for Scores Winner
Boston Premiere
TJ Cole Nightscape
Eric Nathan Double Concerto for Solo Violin, Solo Clarinet, and Strings
Stefan Jackiw, violin, and Yoonah Kim, clarinet
Co-commission with The New York Classical Players
Boston Premiere
Witold Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra