Conductor Michael Morgan will lead the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

Classical Coffee: Alabama Symphony’s Morning Blend

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra is one of Birmingham’s cultural staples, adding to the depth of the Magic City experience for visitors and lifelong Birminghamians.

“The ASO…is like Birmingham itself: an entity with the need and proven capacity for constant innovation,” wrote Edward Ashton. “It is this sort of risk-taking that has won it the ASCAP Awards. Many who follow classical music consider it necessary in order to keep the form alive and engaging, particularly if it is to expand its reach to young audiences.”

Following the theme of innovation, the ASO added Friday morning performances, Coffee Concerts, to the schedule for its monthly installment of the Masterworks Concert Series. The final Coffee Concert will take place May 29, hours before the opening night performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early and spend the morning at the Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center sipping freshly brewed coffee and noshing on pastries.

The concert is a study of twentieth century, post-Revolution Russian composers. The production opens with Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and closes with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s brooding Symphony No. 2, conducted by Michael Morgan.

Conrad Tao is the featured performer on piano for Prokofiev’s concerto. The composer’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was completed in 1921 after years of drafts and sketches beginning in 1913. In 1922, after a triumphant performance in Paris, the piece was confirmed in the twentieth century canon. A decade younger than Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev had more immediate success than his predecessor, composing for orchestra-backed piano pieces and ballet.

Symphony No. 2 was Rachmaninoff’s deus ex machina, his last-ditch effort, his hail Mary. After the humiliating performance and subsequent devastating review of his Symphony No. 1, the composer faced a severe depression. After hypnotherapy treatments, years of struggle and a liberating move from St. Petersburg Rachmaninoff emerged with the second symphony in 1908.

“Few symphonies are as lush, stormy and defiantly emotional as Rachmaninoff’s Second, with its hypnotic, long-limbed themes and minor key harmonies,” the ASO website reads.

The work is an example of the dramatic Russian Romanticism, a passionate journey from tribulation to victory culminating in a celebratory fanfare finale. It was a hit, and Rachmaninoff stepped into the annals of music history as one of the most dynamic composers of the 1900s.

The final performances of Masterworks Concert Series 2014-2015 will be held at the Alys Robinson Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. S. on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30 at 8 p.m. The Coffee Concert will take place Friday, May 29 at 11 a.m. Tickets start at $19. For more information, visit alabamasymphony.org.


Vulcan’s Underpants Improv Comedy — Moonlight on the Mountain. 585 Shades Crest Rd. The Extemporaneous Theatre Company show, Vulcan’s Underpants, will take the stage with this audience-suggestion-style improvisational theater performance and ETC’s Moonlight on the Mountain debut. This evening of comedy is bring-your-own-beverage; snacks and alcohol are permitted. 7:30–9:15 p.m. $12 at the door. For more information, visit moonlightonthemtn.com.

Cheers! — Good People Brewing Company. 114 14th St. S. Food, beer and prizes can be found during this benefit for both the Homewood Public Library and the Homewood Rotary foundations. The J.D. Baker Band will provide live musical entertainment. Nabeel’s will be serving their Mediterranean cuisine and beer from Birmingham’s exceptional Good People Brewery will also be available. 5–9 p.m. $30. For more information, visit homewoodpubliclibrary.org.

The Power of Choice —West End Public Library. 1348 Tuscaloosa Ave. SW. The Birmingham Public Library invites parents and children to learn more about making informed choices about diet. This 2-month seminar aims to improve the overall wellbeing of Birmingham by helping adults reestablish positive relationships with food, and by teaching children how to eat for a lifetime of health. Through May 28. 3:30 p.m. Free. For more information, call (205) 226-4089.


PAX Exchange Student Showcase — Continental Bakery Downtown. 1820 Fourth Ave. N. Continental Bakery Downtown and PAX Academic Exchange present an evening of dinner and international entertainment. Exchange students from Asia and Africa will perform music, dance and martial arts traditional to their home nations. 7–9:30 p.m. Free. For more information, call (205) 323-4110.


Let’s Raise Some Dough — Slice Pizza. 725 29th St. S. Slice Pizza and Brew present their weekly “Dough Raiser.” This week, the pizzeria will raise funds for Space One Eleven’s arts programming for underserved youth and families. Ticketholders will see 10 percent of their Slice lunch, dinner and take-out purchases, excluding alcohol, donated to Space One Eleven. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. For more information, visit slicebirmingham.com. To download a free ticket, visit Space One Eleven on Facebook.


Lunch and Learn: Luscious Lawns — Birmingham Botanical Gardens. 2612 Lane Park Rd. City of Birmingham director of horticulture James Horton will lead this week’s Lunch and Learn at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Horton will share tips for lawn care maintenance. Attendees are encouraged to bring brown bag lunches. Dessert and drinks will be provided. 11:30–12:30. Free. For more information, visit bbgardens.org.


AMA Coffee Talk — Red Cat Coffee House. 2901 Second Ave. S. The Birmingham chapter of the American Marketing Association offers an open invitation to meet and mingle with Birmingham’s marketing professionals at Red Cat Coffee House. Red Cat serves gourmet coffee roasted in-house and French press brewed, as well as custom coffee creations and a variety of breakfast items. 7–9 a.m. Free. For more information, visit the event on Facebook.

Summit Farmer’s Market — Summit Shopping Center. 214 Summit Boulevard. This farmer’s market organized by Urban Cookhouse, showcases local vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruit and dairy and egg products. Activities for market goers of all ages will be part of the weekly offerings through August. Thursdays, 3–7 p.m. Free. For more information, visit urbancookhouse.com.

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