Alterity Chamber Orchestra returns to an Orlando stage this weekend with 'Divergent Pulsations'

Alterity rehearse ahead of Saturday's show - Photo by Andreas Volmer, courtesy Alterity
Photo by Andreas Volmer, courtesy Alterity
Alterity rehearse ahead of Saturday's show

While Orlando’s got the standard classical pops fare that any city might, one thing we also have that not everywhere does is a classical music scene with an active, game-changing fringe doggedly working to keep it a living modern language. One of the chief forces in that vanguard is the Alterity Chamber Orchestra. With their mission to champion the work of living composers, the 15-member ensemble takes classical music from its Old World origins and re-roots it in the here and now. Instead of just dusting off the traditional canon, they’re forging an entirely new one beyond the legacy of long-dead European men.

In their first appearance since the pandemic, Alterity will display this contemporary ambition with a mighty splash this Saturday. The orchestra will mark their fifth anniversary with a history-making program titled Divergent Pulsations that’s filled entirely with Florida premieres. Of Divergent Pulsations, Alterity co-founder and clarinetist Natalie Grata says, “Unlike conventional programs, it represents what is happening in our time.”

Of special note is the long-delayed world premiere of “Double Concerto for Flute and Guitar” by noted Puerto Rican composer Alberto Rodríguez Ortiz, who’ll be in attendance for the occasion. The concerto’s starring soloists will be UCF classical guitar professor Eladio Scharrón and longtime collaborator Carrie Wiesinger on flute.

The other featured pieces spotlight an international roster of modern composers. Alterity co-founder and oboist Beatriz Ramirez says, “Our goal is to present music that is different from what you usually get to hear in classical music programs. Augusta Read Thomas, for example, is one of the most celebrated voices in contemporary music, but she’s not performed much in Central Florida. And Harrison Birtwistle, who just died in April, redefined what the instruments, and what music, can sound like.”

Accomplished Mexican-American maestro Juan Trigos — whom Alterity artistic advisor Christopher Belt calls a “brilliant interpreter of contemporary music and a fantastic composer” — will be the featured conductor to lead this groundbreaking performance, which also includes the U.S. premiere of one of his own compositions.

With all these pieces finally aligned, Divergent Pulsations has shaped up to be a bold return for the Alterity Chamber Orchestra, one wholly fitting for a pioneering group that’s injecting youth and relevance into a grand old form.

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