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Pioneer Valley Symphony brings Education Concert ‘magic’ to whole region in virtual Peer Gynt

September 23, 2020

Greenfield, MA

Like many local cultural and performing arts organizations, the Pioneer Valley Symphony (PVS) saw its 81st season abruptly end due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the cancelled events was the highly-anticipated 25th annual Education Concert, which was to bring a live orchestra performance to over nearly 1,000 third- and fourth- graders and their teachers from 15 schools in Franklin County. This concert, the culmination of a larger six-week music education curriculum developed by the PVS to help deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of music, is now being reimagined as a virtual event for audiences of all ages and will launch the PVS’s 82nd season. 


PVS Music Director Tianhui Ng has worked closely with Dr. Maria José Botelho of the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Education on an innovative collaboration that weaves storytelling together with music. The program centers around the incidental music that Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg composed for Henrik Ibsen’s 1876 staging of the Norwegian folktale of Peer Gynt, which includes some of the most recognized works in the classical repertoire.


Though the cancellation of the beloved Education Concert was disappointing to students and musicians alike, the PVS was able to transform this setback into an opportunity to broaden the reach of this exciting work. No longer limited by the size of Greenfield High School’s 1,000-seat auditorium, this live, virtual presentation is accessible to the broader community. Students, educators and music enthusiasts of all ages are encouraged to attend.


“At first it looked like COVID-19 was going to stop the show in its tracks,” said PVS President, Kristin Donohue. “But, instead of giving up, we doubled down. We decided to switch gears and make Peer Gynt our fall season opener to bring the magic of this story to the entire Pioneer Valley.”


In this unique event, Botelho will guide the audience through a dramatic tale highlighting one of Peer’s earliest adventures, accompanied by carefully chosen music to set the scene. “As far as we know, nothing like this has ever been done before with Peer Gynt,” said Ng. “We’ve pulled pieces from the entirety of Grieg’s original incidental music into a unique reconfiguration to help tell the story of just one of Peer’s many adventures.” 


Piecing together the music for the program took hours of labor from the PVS creative team, including Mount Holyoke College intern, sophomore Emese Nemeth. “Even if you have no idea who Grieg is, you know his work,” said Nemeth. “You’ve heard these pieces in cartoons, in movies, in commercials. They are inescapable. This is a great opportunity for children and families to hear that music set to part of the story for which it was originally intended.” 


Community members are invited to the family-friendly Peer Gynt on Saturday, September 26 at 7:00PM ET via Zoom. Tickets and more information are available on the PVS website:

This performance and the 2020 PVS Education Program are made possible in part by generous support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, and the Local Cultural Councils of Bernardston, Colrain, Gill, Greenfield, Leverett, and Shutesbury, supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


About: The Pioneer Valley Symphony, one of the oldest community orchestras in the nation, has been bringing exceptional live symphonic and choral music to the Pioneer Valley for over 80 years. ​Founded in Greenfield in 1939, the PVS ensembles perform high-quality symphonic and choral music primarily in Franklin and Hampshire Counties of Massachusetts, drawing its volunteer musicians and eager audiences from across the Pioneer Valley and the Northeast.

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