Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Theater Company Unite Through ‘Sorrowful Songs’

no thumb


Andrew Borba and Rossen Milanov are bringing sorrow to a new level at Chautauqua Institution.

The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will weave theater and voice into its concert at 8:15 p.m. Thursday in the Amphitheater.

Borba, the co-artistic director of the Chautauqua Theater Company, will direct the inter-arts collaboration of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, also called “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.”

Milanov, the principal conductor and music director of the CSO, said the piece reflects the Holocaust experience.

It includes movements describing scenes such as messages written on the walls of a Gestapo cell and a mother’s search for her son, who was killed in war.

Actors will be performing a series of texts, mostly made up of poems. The list includes “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Island” by Langston Hughes, “The Uses of Sorrow” by Mary Oliver, “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden, “in time of daffodils (who know the goal of living is to grow)” by E.E. Cummings and a piece by current CTC conservatory actor Adrianna Mitchell titled “purgatory.”

“Originally, I thought we would use more letters and diary entries as well, but poetry [seemed] to have sort of a spare resonance that the piece musically had,” Borba said.

Soprano Kathryn Henry will add a vocal element to the performance as well.

Borba said the theater is not the driving force of the “Sorrows,” which was not originally written by Górecki to include theatrical elements.

“Much of our job has been to find the places where the language will fit and be supported but not get in the way of this piece,” he said.


Milanov said adding a theatrical element provides a better context and atmosphere for the selection to exist in.

Previous Chautauqua inter-arts collaborations include The Romeo and Juliet Project in 2013, Go West! in 2014 and last year’s Carmina Burana and “Ellis Island.” “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” is part of a week of inter-arts programs at Chautauqua.

Vice President and Director of Programming Deborah Sunya Moore, who had a hand in choosing “Sorrows,” said that Chautauqua’s mission is to look into the best of human values.

“When we look at expressing what it is to be human in the arts, it doesn’t always make sense to look at that from our own isolated tower,” she said.

For next year, Chautauqua is hoping to work with other orchestras to commission a full-length orchestral piece, which would become an inter-arts collaboration.

As for this year, Moore thinks Górecki’s piece is beautiful and meaningful.

“When you put a program together, you’re always looking for what needs to be said throughout the season, and this is one of those symphonies that should resonate with Chautauqua,” she said.

The CSO concert will also feature Johann Sebastian Bach and Leopold Stokowski’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” BWV 208, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV 1047.

The Brandenburg concerto, Bach’s only one of six Brandenburg concerti that uses trumpet, will feature CSO trumpeter Charles Berginc. Three other soloists on flute, oboe and violin will join him.

A product of a school’s band program in Cleveland, Berginc began his musical career on the French horn. In fifth grade, he switched to the trumpet because the French horn was too big to carry, he said.

Now, 18 professional performances of the Brandenburg Concerto later, Berginc said performances with the CSO differ from his experiences playing with other orchestras.

“I usually don’t play in a concert hall that is as good as this one,” Berginc said. “Also this is the most educated and prepared group of musicians that I never get to play with so it’s just a treat in every way for me.”