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Symphony on the Erie Calls for Unusual Preparations

Rochester, NY; May 31, 2006 – Unique and exciting preparations are underway for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s free Symphony on the Erie concert on Sunday, June 4 at 3 p.m. in Fairport, NY, directed by RPO Principal Pops Conductor, Jeff Tyzik. Internationally known artist Eric Waugh, who will paint the event live, is also gearing up for the historic event. The first-ever floating RPO concert will take place on the Erie Canal aboard a 100-by-25-foot New York State canal barge during the village’s popular Canal Days festival.

The barge will travel from Albion, NY to Fairport, NY, arriving at the concert site midday on Thursday, June 1. Production crews will immediately begin rigging an overhang structure to protect the orchestra from the elements while providing a place to secure lighting and sound reinforcement. The barge will be carpeted to minimize reverberations from its metal surface, and its shape dictates that the 75 musicians will be set up much like a pit orchestra.

“They won’t be wearing life jackets, but we will be roping off the edges to make sure we don’t have an ‘incident’ with any of the instruments,” says the RPO’s Director of Artistic Operations, Andrew Cassano. “Wood floats – yes – but it is very expensive wood!”

In Montreal, artist Eric Waugh is preparing for his challenge of completing an eight-by-five-foot painting of the orchestra during the 80-minute concert. Waugh frequently paints performers during live concerts, including Tony Bennett, the Doobie Brothers, and Nelly Furtado.

“Painting a whole orchestra is a first for me and I’m feeling the pressure,” admits Waugh. “I want to capture the sights, the sounds, and the ‘feel’ of this historic occasion by the time the last note rings out. That’s why I’m painting right on the barge – so that I can be immersed in the orchestra.”

Waugh, the Guinness record holder for the world’s largest painting, has designed a special eight-by ten-foot metal truss structure to act as an “easel” for the RPO canvas – and he’s been practicing.

“I’m also working out – doing a lot of pushups for upper body strength and treadmill for heart rate,” explains Waugh. “My painting style is quite vigorous and the last thing I want to do is run out of strength or steam halfway through the concert.”

Delivering both Waugh and Tyzik to the floating stage will be the job of the Sam Patch packet boat, which cruises the canal daily from its dock at Schoen Place in the nearby Port of Pittsford.

“We’re thrilled that our authentic replica of an Erie Canal packet boat will be participating in this historic event,” says Executive Director of Corn Hill Navigation Vicki Schmitt. “We hope to have a boat full of people to deliver the maestros to their venue.”

Because Fairport’s two-day Canal Days festival draws up to 200,000 people annually, thousands are expected to line both banks of the canal and the village’s historic lift bridge for Sunday’s concert.

“It could easily be the largest live audience we’ve ever had,” says RPO President & CEO Richard Nowlin. “This is an incredible opportunity for the orchestra to connect with our community in a very special way.”

Meanwhile, over at the RPO’s 2006 Symphony Showhouse – for which Symphony on the Erie is a kickoff – the designers are putting on the finishing touches in preparation for the Wednesday, May 31st preview party at 6 p.m., Stepping Out in Style with the Designers. This fourth biennial Showhouse, also located in Fairport at the historic 1876 Deland House (better known as the Green Lantern Inn) at One East Church Street, opens officially on Friday, June 2 at 11 a.m., preceded by a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Thirty-five of the area’s leading designers and artists have decorated the landmark house, which will be open for tours and many special events from Friday, June 2 through Sunday, June 25. More than 300 volunteers – including the Symphony Showhouse 2006 Committee – plan to attract more than 10,000 visitors and raise more than $109,000 for the RPO’s education and outreach programs during this three-week event. Eric Waugh will also donate his finished painting, which will be displayed in the Showhouse, and proceeds from its raffle and sales of its reproductions will benefit the same RPO programs.

Celebrating its 83rd season in 2005-2006, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s mission is to perform and present a broad range of quality music; attract, entertain and educate audiences with superior musical performances; maintain and build the Orchestra’s national reputation; and enhance the reputation of the Rochester community as a place in which to live, work, play, visit and learn.

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