Hudson Valley Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates music inspired by nature’s waterways

Photos courtesy Oceans 8 Films

Appreciation for the earth’s beauty has inspired countless artistic expressions, created by as many writers and poets, painters, photographers and filmmakers, and composers over the centuries. The Hudson Valley Philharmonic Orchestra now celebrates music inspired by nature’s waterways with three symphonic works to be performed at the Bardavon Opera House on November 18. Director Randall Craig Fleischer will conduct a concert that includes Smetana’s “Vltava (The Moldau),” Debussy’s “La Mer,” and Vaughan Williams’ dramatic “Sinfonia Antarctica,” the latter to be accompanied by the Vassar College Women’s Chorus and Jon Bowermaster’s stunning projected images of Antarctica’s vanishing ice cap.

Bowermaster (who has been noted as an “oceans expert, award-winning journalist, author, filmmaker, adventurer, and six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council Award”) will narrate his imagery during the performance of Sinfonia Antarctica. As founder of Oceans 8 Films and the non-profit One Ocean Media Foundation, he has written numerous books and produced a slew of documentaries that focus on threats to our planet’s interconnected environment, particularly its one ocean.

(Photo by Graham Charles)

“This is a brand new opportunity, one that has been in the works,” he says. “We were looking for someone to write a score that could accompany some of the Antarctic images I have. When Chris Silva at the Bardavon asked if we had any video we wanted to match to Vaughn Williams’ Sinfonia Antarctica, it was pure coincidence. We’ve never edited for and performed with a live orchestra, but it seemed like a good opportunity to share the work with a different audience. Pairing live orchestra with video is a booming part of the market — screening a movie or adding pictures to the event.”


Bowermaster’s mission to raise environmental awareness and expose immediate threats to our planet’s future — our future — comes from nearly 30 years of traveling around the world to report on how the changing climate is affecting conditions. His love of the southernmost continent began on his first assignment for National Geographic Magazine in 1989, when he documented a 3,741-mile, 221-day dog-sled expedition there. From the sea-level vantage point of a kayak, he has paddled regions from the Aleutian Islands to French Polynesia, Gabon to Tasmania, and around the 600-mile Peninsula of Antarctica.

Unimaginably cold and remote, Antarctica can also be a fragile place, Bowermaster maintains. Home to a variety of wildlife along its edges — seabirds, penguins, seals, and whales — its viability through the changes happening due to the warming climate has an as-yet unknown impact on the rest of the planet. Selecting only 41 minutes of imagery from the many hours of film he’s amassed to match Williams’ symphony was a challenge.

“When we think of Antarctica, we think of it as foreboding — at the heart, the South Pole is covered with three miles of ice — but on its edges where the glaciers meet the warming sea, things are definitely changing. The most visited part is the long peninsula that reaches out to South America. That’s where I’ve been most; it’s the most accessible. Every year you see changes — less ice, new islands emerging that you never knew were there, and in a few places you see grass and weeds growing.

“It’s because the sea is warming, and those glaciers are being impacted by warming conditions. The biggest concern is rain. With air temperatures in the 30s and 40s, rather than snowing, it rains. Living in the Northeast, we know what rain does to snow. The warmer air and sea temperatures melt the snow and change the climate very fast. It is happening, and not 10, 20, or 50 years from now. It’s happening right now.”

Fleischer’s selection of works for this concert reflects each composer’s strong connection to nature as it occurred for them long before human-created pollution threatened the environment. Smetana wrote Vltava in the 1870s in honor of the river that flows through the Bohemian regions of the Czech Republic. La Mer was composed as “three symphonic sketches” at the beginning of the 1900s. Debussy’s “moody atmosphere” depicts the wind and waves and general ambiance of the sea, minus all human sounds.  Williams’ Symphony no.7 (Sinfonia Antarctica) was originally composed for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. Inspired by the heroic age of exploration, the score is filled with great highs and lows. The audience is invited to join Fleischer for a talk one hour prior to the performance. Bardavon members should also note that discounted tickets are not available through Ticketmaster.

Hudson Valley Philharmonic: Antarc-tica, Saturday, November 18, 8 p.m., tickets $20-$57 by phone or at, Bardavon Opera House, 35 Market Street, Poughkeepsie; 845 473-2072