D’Astolfo: Symphony Finds Perfect Fit in Ford Hall

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Symphony Orchestra moved its classical concerts into the 600-seat Ford Family Recital Hall this season, and out of the 2,300-seat Powers Auditorium, where typically there were more empty seats than full ones.

The decision was intended as an attempt to right-size the venue. But a game-changing side benefit has surfaced in the process.

The symphony was just looking for a smaller place. But it might have stumbled upon the very thing to renew interest in the classics, which has been waning for years.

After just two concerts, it is obvious that Ford hall is the perfect place to hear the YSO bring to life the genius of the likes of Bach or Beethoven.

Because the intimate Ford puts the audience so close to the musicians, you can see them interact with the conductor and each other.

And the theater’s acoustics are so sharp, you can hear every section – violins, violas, cello, reeds – when it enters the piece. In some cases, you can pick out every instrument.

It makes it that much easier to appreciate the musical arrangements of the composers and the precision of the orchestra.

The $4.8 million Ford hall has been underutilized ever since it opened in 2006. But the YSO has found the perfect classical venue in it, and the ironic thing is, it was there all this time just waiting to be noticed.

“It was built for the kind of thing we are doing,” says YSO President Patricia Syak. “It’s finally getting used for the thing it was built for. It’s nice to showcase this little gem, because it is not widely known in the community.”

The Oct. 19 concert, which featured Bach’s six Brandenburg concerti, really demonstrated what a perfect pair the Ford and the YSO make.

Randall Craig Fleischer, conductor and music director of the YSO, led the musicians, which ranged from 20 to 25, depending on the piece.

In keeping with how it was done in Bach’s day – the early 1700s – the musicians stood, surrounding a harpsichord, played by James Wilding. The soloists stood side by side in the forefront, with the ladies in flowing evening gowns instead of the usual basic black.

Fleischer shared salient facts and background about the six Brandenburg compositions, which are each about 20 minutes long. 

For the third concerto, he stepped off stage and let the musicians play alone in keeping with the practices of the era.

The audience could see on the faces of Fleischer and the musicians that they were enjoying the lively but difficult piece.

Fleischer’s stance on the new venue mirrors that of Syak.

“I feel great about the move to Ford,” he says. “The acoustics are magnificent and the feeling is intimate, classy and immediate. You feel like the orchestra is playing in your living room.”

As for the attendance, it was nearly a full house – and it might be a case of if you go one time, you’ll be back for more.

“Our first two concerts were well attended and we got positive comments from patrons,” says Syak. “Our walk-up [ticket sales] were good. People are enjoying how close they feel to the orchestra.”

Two classical concerts are left in the 2019-20 season: In the Winners Circle, which features works by Mozart, Schubert and Holst, on Nov. 23; and Welcoming Spring, which features Respighi, Haydn and Mendelssohn, on March 21.

Film Shot in Columbiana on DVD

“Them That Follow,” the intense drama that was shot in rural areas near Lisbon and Salem, will come out on DVD Oct. 29.

The film has a stunningly good cast led by Oscar winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Walton Goggins, Kaitlyn Dever, Jim Gaffigan, Alice Englert, Thomas Mann and Lewis Pullman.

A few locals can be spotted in it in uncredited background roles, including Ashley Marie Lewis, Roger Petan and the late Jay Nagy.

“Them That Follow” was directed by Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage. It centers around an insular religious sect that practices snakehand-ling as a way of proving its faith.

The film makes rural Columbiana County a character. No landmarks are visible, but the rolling hills, gray November skies, dark woods, winding lanes and weathered structures go a long way in setting the mood.

The film was the first and only to use a $2 million loan from the city of Youngstown as funding. It was shot in late 2017 and had its theatrical premiere in August.

Tony Hinchcliffe in Pittsburgh Show

Rising comedian Tony Hinchcliffe, who is a Youngstown native, will bring his tour to Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater on Dec. 14, and Cleveland’s House of Blues on Dec. 15

The tour is a continuation of Hinchcliffe’s “Kill Tony” podcast. For tickets, go to TonyHinchcliffe.com.

Pictured: Randall Craig Fleischer will conduct the YSO Nov. 23 in a classical concert featuring works by Mozart, Schubert and Holst. 

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.