The Alabama Symphony Orchestra began with a group of volunteer musicians in 1921. Over the last 100 years, a small volunteer ensemble transformed into the state’s only full-time professional orchestra. In addition to the 54 talented musicians—saxophonists, flutists, harpists, trombonists, and more—who bring the Alabama Symphony Orchestra to life, the ensemble is often accompanied by the ASO Chorus.
The orchestra plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary with special “Century in Symphony” events throughout the year. So, if you’ve never seen the orchestra perform live, now is the ideal time to check them off your Birmingham or Alabama bucket list. For those who may feel like they’re not the “symphony type,” we’re here to dispel four common misconceptions about going to see the symphony.
It’s only for people who listen to classical music.
While classical music enthusiasts will certainly love the symphony, they’re not the only ones who can enjoy the show. Even if you don’t listen to classical music regularly, you might find that you recognize more songs than you may think, as classical pieces are often featured in commercials, movies, and television. However, the ASO also performs music that goes far beyond the classical genre. The SuperPOPS! Series, for example, has included performances based around the music of The Beatles, Broadway, Christmas, and more.
My kids won’t enjoy it.
The symphony can be a fun outing for the entire family—kids included! A symphony performance provides a unique cultural experience that can help instill an appreciation for live music at a young age, leading to a lifelong love of the arts. If you’re worried that just listening won’t capture you child’s attention, the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Concert on April 9 and 10 this year is a great segue into a full-blown symphony performance. The special event features a showing of the beloved movie on the big screen with the ASO accompanying with the legendary score. Past kid-friendly performances have also featured songs from Disney movie classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and more.
I don’t have anything to wear!
No tuxedos or gowns are required to attend the symphony. The ASO has no dress code, meaning you should wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable, whether that’s a cocktail dress and heels or jeans and a T-shirt.
The concert will be way too long.
If you don’t feel ready to dive in with a Masterworks concert, which typically feature longer works by classical musicians like Beethoven, Bach, and Handel, there are several other performance types that are shorter and perfect for first-timers. A holiday or movie soundtrack SuperPOPS! Performance is a great way to start. And remember, most shows feature a 20-minute intermission, so you’ll have plenty of time to stretch your legs, grab a snack or drink, then head back to enjoy the rest of the show.
Ready to see what the Alabama Symphony Orchestra is all about? Here are some upcoming events and performances to get you started on your journey to becoming a “symphony person.”
What: Screening of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban accompanied by the ASO performing the score live.
When: Saturday, April 9 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 10 at 2:30 p.m.
Where: BJCC Concert Hall
What: Unveiling of a brand-new Trim Tab beer commemorating ASO’s 100th anniversary, plus pop-up performances by ASO musicians, the Alabama Ballet, Opera Birmingham, Red Mountain Theatre, and more.
When: Thursday, April 14 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Trim Tab Brewing
What: Masterworks performance featuring iconic melodies from Mozart’s 40th Symphony, plus Steven Spooner performing Brahms’ Piano Concerto alongside the full orchestra.
When: Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 7 at 7 p.m.
Where: UAB’s Alys Stephens Center – Jemison Concert Hall
Tickets: On sale soon!
What: Free performances over Memorial Day Weekend with three themes: Fireworks Spectacular, A Midsummer Night’s Dream & More, and Family Fun Day
When: Friday, May 27 at 8 p.m;, Saturday, May 28 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, May 29 at 6 p.m.
Where: Railroad Park