Concert tour travels Erie Canal to celebrate 200-year history

ROTTERDAM JUNCTION, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Local composers are celebrating the Erie Canal’s 200-year history.

Two hundred years ago, the Erie Canal became a crowning achievement for the United States and earned New York its reputation as the Empire State. Now, the state is starting a multi-part celebration of the history of the canal.

Part of that celebration is “Water Music NY.”

Seven composers have studied the stories, history and culture of seven canal communities and created compositions entirely from their experience and inspiration of each.

On Monday, crowds filled Mabee Farms in Rotterdam Junction for Part 2 of the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s seven-part concert series to celebrate the canal’s bicentennial.

Monday’s concert was composed by Annika Socolofsky. She said it connects 19th Century Erie Canal workers to modern day innovation.

“The larger picture of human innovation and accomplishment, how it’s kind of humbling in the grand scheme of the world,” she said.

It was a unique experience for both the concert goers and the musicians themselves.

“The music is really effective at engaging the audience with the material, so each world premiere is specific to the region in which it’s being performed,” musician Dana Huyge said.

Calling attention to New York’s waterway communities with a concert that’s free for everyone.

“Just look at the crowd that’s here,” John Smolinsky, of Rotterdam, said. “And it’s the local ties that I think are bringing a lot of people that maybe haven’t heard the symphony before.”

Some are first timers, others have been following the Albany Symphony for 26 years.

“That’s what the draw is,” Robert Nielsen said. “If you can expose someone to this and they can see it and witness it, then feel it. You don’t just hear the music, but you feel it.”

Humbling for locally renown, Grammy Award winning conductor David Alan Miller, this kind of concert is a first in his 25 years.

“I just love this community, and the idea of being able to celebrate not just the Capital Region but kind of all of New York State, and go all the way west, 350 miles to Buffalo,” Miller said. “Something our orchestra has never done before.”

Monday’s performance was called “Beyond the Pines.” There was narration at times, and the piece ended with Henry David Thoreau, who had once described in his journal the pines between Schenectady and Albany.

The other six communities being represented the series are Albany, Amsterdam, Little Falls, Baldwinsville, Brockport, and Lockport.

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