January 24-25



Friday | 1.24.20 | 8:00 PM
Saturday | 1.25.20 | 8:00 PM

The DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 West 37th Street

Join The Chelsea Symphony for its first concert of 2020, “The Noble Spirit” on January 24-25 at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Part of the fourteenth season RISE UP, this concert features the Fifth Symphony by Sergei Prokofiev, written during one month in the summer of 1944. 

Intended as “a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit,” Prokofiev added, “I cannot say that I deliberately chose this theme. It was born in me and clamoured for expression. The music matured within me. It filled my soul."

Also on this concert series: TCS’ first drumset concerto presentation, Just Say Yes, by Alexandra Gardner featuring Michael Blancaflor and Milhaud’s first cello concert with Kurt Behnke, both on Friday night’s performance. Saturday’s concert welcomes TCS board member Sara Dudley’s soloist debut on the William Walton viola concerto. 

Both concerts open with Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral, commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music to commemorate their 75th anniversary. The composer described it as "the most cathartic thing [she] could have done” in memory of her younger brother, Andrew Blue Higdon, who died of skin cancer in 1998.

From the score:

I began writing this piece at a unique juncture in my life and found myself pondering the question of what makes a life. The recent loss of my younger brother, Andrew Blue, made me reflect on the amazing journeys that we all make in our lives, crossing paths with so many individuals singularly and collectively, learning and growing each step of the way. This piece represents the expression of the individual and the group... our inner travels and the places our souls carry us, the lessons we learn, and the growth we experience. In tribute to my brother, I feature solos for the clarinet (the instrument he played) and the flute (the instrument I play). Because I am the older sibling, it is the flute that appears first in this dialog. At the end of the work, the two instruments continue their dialogue, but it is the flute that drops out and the clarinet that continues on in the upward progressing journey.

Concert run time: 100 minutes including a 15-minute intermission

Conductors:  Matthew Aubin, Nell Flanders


Jennifer Higdonblue cathedral
William WaltonViola Concerto
Sara Dudley Viola
Darius MilhaudConcerto No. 1 for Violoncello and Orchestra, op. 136
Kurt Behnke Cello
Alexandra GardnerJust Say Yes
Michael Blancaflor Percussion
Sergei ProkofievSymphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, op. 100

Featured Artists

Sara Dudley

Saturday, 1.25

William Walton: Viola Concerto

Sara Dudley is a violist and violinist from Nashville, Tennessee now residing in New York City. She began lessons at age five, which fostered her love for music and music education. After completing her bachelor’s degree in violin performance in 2018, Sara picked up the viola and immediately felt at home. She enjoys exploring the depth and color the viola has to offer. Sara holds a BM in Violin Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College. Her …

Michael Blancaflor

Friday, 1.24

Alexandra Gardner: Just Say Yes

Percussionist Michael Blancaflor is an active performer, educator, and clinician in southern New England and the tristate areas. Originally from Berlin, CT, he received a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Connecticut at Storrs. His percussion teachers include Rich Baccaro, Peter Tanner, Thom Hannum, Bill Reynolds, Peter Coutsouridis, Mike Clark, Rosemary Small, and Alexander Lepak.

An active performer, Michael has played with the Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps, the …

Kurt Behnke

Friday, 1.24

Darius Milhaud: Concerto No. 1 for Violoncello and Orchestra, op. 136

Kurt received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cello performance from Indiana University, where he studied with Fritz Magg while attending the master classes of Janos Starker. Overseas study included a semester in Vienna at the Hochschule für Musik and Darstellende Kunst. He has participated in the Aspen Music Festival, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in Italy, and the orchestra of the Graz Vocal Institute Festival in Graz, Austria. Kurt is a member of the Bear Valley Music Festival …


A passionate advocate for American and contemporary music, Matthew Aubin has conducted and performed internationally from Carnegie Hall to the Musikverein and many stops in between. Currently in his third season as Music Director of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, Aubin also serves as Artistic Director for The Chelsea Symphony in New York City. He regularly serves as a conductor and consultant for film and television including collaborations with the Golden Globe award-winning television series Mozart in the Jungle and Younger …

Nell Flanders’ conducting credits include performances with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Chelsea Symphony, Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, and the Riverside Orchestra. She served as a cover conductor for JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic during the 2014-15 season and was the assistant conductor at Peabody Opera Theater during 2016-17. An enthusiastic proponent of contemporary music, Ms. Flanders has conducted many orchestral premieres with groups such as Mannes American Composers Ensemble, The Secret Opera …