Timothy Redmond, who succeeds Robert Moody as the new Winston-Salem Symphony music director, has quite a strong and varied commitment to the symphony, so much so that he calls himself a conductor and a presenter.
He’s just as comfortable conducting, say, Sibelius’ First Symphony in the Stevens Center (as he did this past April as part of his audition for the directorship) as he is leading a summer concert before thousands in Trafalgar Square.
“My bucket list is more about creating events, creating excitement,” says Redmond, who is a native of Great Britain. “That comes from knowing an orchestra or an opera company, whatever it might be, and certainly from knowing an audience.”
A modern-day polymath
Education is an important aspect of the Winston-Salem Symphony’s mission, and Redmond’s commitment to it is unwavering.
He currently teaches conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and he used part of this interview to offer “a history lesson” on many great composers.
And, in keeping with his penchant for events, he and his brother Tom have teamed up in Royal Albert Hall to present “My Great Orchestral Adventure,” a humorous and spectacular presentation they created to introduce children to classical music. (A YouTube video publicizing the show’s 2018 iteration promises the audience will watch spellbound or clap, stomp, or sing along.)
Redmond, then, will bring a polymathic sensibility to his new job in Winston-Salem, which bodes well to the role’s responsibilities.
The directorship of the Winston-Salem Symphony, a part-time orchestra with an openness to new ideas and a Redmond-prized nimbleness to realize them, entails far more than leading 80-plus musicians through multiple rehearsals and performances of masterpieces that, in many cases, were written long ago by long-deceased, deified composers.
Redmond, like Moody before him, will help solicit donations and secure sponsorships. He’ll also aim to advocate for the orchestra effectively at everything from gatherings of fraternal organizations to pre-concert luncheons hosted by the symphony.
Who knows? Redmond’s advocacy of the Winston-Salem Symphony may take the form of persuading, say, a young professional to stop binge-watching Netflix, and head to the Stevens Center for a concert.
“You can watch those episodes time and time again, and they will be exactly the same,” he says. “They’ll be just as enjoyable and then slightly less enjoyable, and then you might be a little bit bored.”
A concert, by contrast, is a live performance that “will never, ever, ever be like that again,” says Redmond.
“That is the point of live performance, be it theater, dance, opera, music,” he says. “You are going to see a one-off event, which you are sharing with the people in the room with you. And that is the magic of the arts. And that’s the thing, actually, that I think that people are getting excited about.”
Ambassador on the road
Although his contract stipulates that he maintain a residence in Winston-Salem, he’ll serve as a kind of ambassador for the symphony when he’s not in town.
“Because this is not a full-time professional orchestra, we expect and encourage the new music director to pursue other conducting opportunities when not engaged in Winston-Salem, which will be his primary commitment,” says Merritt Vale, the symphony’s executive director. “These additional engagements allow the music director to continue growing artistically, to meet exciting new artists and composers, and to take the story of the Winston-Salem Symphony around the world.”
Vale also expressed confidence in Redmond’s “ability to help us innovate and inspire, so that the Winston-Salem Symphony is as exciting and relevant to new audiences as it is to those who have supported us generously for decades.”
In artistic terms, that ability will first be tested on October 27 and 29, when Redmond leads the orchestra in “The Rite of Spring,” a Classics Series program featuring music from Stravinsky’s famed ballet of the same name. After that, he’ll conduct all the other Classics presentations during the 2019-2020 season, with the exception of “Rachmaninoff’s First Piano Concerto,” which is slated for Nov. 17 and 19.
Corine Brouwer, a longtime violinist in the symphony who serves as its concertmaster, is just as confident in Redmond as Vale is. She believes that Redmond’s work this past April with the symphony resulted in “a chemistry that rarely exists between an orchestra and a conductor.
“Tim’s ability to welcome an entire orchestra into his world and vision is a rare gift, and his time with us both on and off the podium was nothing short of inspirational,” she says.
Such sentiments reflect the honeymoon phase of most any orchestra’s fledgling relationship with a new music director. So, it will be up to Redmond to transform the honeymoon into a happy, productive marriage that will last for an initial term of four years.
It will also fall on Redmond to build on the goodwill that he’s generated with the symphony’s core audience. This will depend, at least in part, on the kinds of programming decisions that he will make for the 2020-2021 season.
As for new music, just how that will fit into the mix of Redmond’s programming over the next few years remains an open question. The conductor says it’s “likely” that symphony patrons will hear something new during each year of his tenure, though not necessarily on every Classics program.
“There’s a lot to explore,” he says. “One wouldn’t want to diminish the opportunities, the programming there, the great works to just have new music in every concert.”
Instead, other vehicles for introducing new music might be considered during his tenure. This could be engaging a concerto soloist of a Classics program to perform music of their making at a venue outside the Stevens Center, or presenting a reading of new works, mainly for the benefit of their creators, who need to be able to hear things to determine what about them needs to be revised.
“If you have an idea in your head, write it down, make the orchestral parts and you give them to the orchestra, that might not be enough,” Redmond says. “You might have got it wrong. You might have misjudged it. But, how would you know that unless it’s being played at a really high level by great musicians?”