Category: BPO in the News

Wroclaw: performance time

Wroclaw was the place where the rubber met the road for this tour: our first performance as a full orchestra. On Saturday, the musicians had a full day to explore the city and reunite with their instruments to get in some practice time. The concert took place Sunday night. Our venue was the astonishing National Forum of Music. The performance was received enthusiastically, and today, the orchestra was off for Warsaw, preparing for tomorrow night’s history-making performance at the Beethoven Easter Festival.

But first, let’s take a look at Wroclaw, the “lively idyll,” the “city of dwarves!”

It looks like a fairy tale.

One of our favorite dwarf sculptures!

Taken by associate principal bass Brett Shurtliffe, of course!

Reunited and it feels so good: Kela Walton, left, and “Chuck.”

The lights of the National Forum of Music shine for us.

A view from the xylophone. Tons of percussion on the Poland tour program.

Setting the stage, getting ready for the big night.

The hottest ticket in town. We love the concert title: Born in the USA!

The lobby is just as stunning as the main hall.

A dream about to come true. JoAnn in Poland, ready conduct the best-known work by one of her key mentors.

But first, dinner: Personnel manager Jenn Comisso, Operations Director Alison Bolton and Associate Librarian Travis Hendra enjoy a meal togehter.

Taking a bow! It’s not the best photo, but it’s a joyful one.

Colleagues after the big night!

Conrad Tao and JoAnn Falletta deep in conversation in Wroclaw.

Rzeszow, Buffalo’s Sister City

On Saturday, while most of the orchestra enjoyed a free day in Wroclaw, the octet was performing in Buffalo’s sister city, Rzeszow. Ever since the concept of the tour came up, we started seeking a way to visit Rzeszow (pronounced something like chesh-ow). The BPO has long considered itself Buffalo’s cultural ambassador, reaching the entire world through our 45 CDs and our Performance Today broadcasts. This was a chance to do some in-person ambassadorship, and to deepen the relationship between our two communities that has been in place since 1975.

Elzbieta Piecuch, Rzeszów Sister City Manager, has been our constant contact. She worked very hard to get us to Rzeszów and put together a fantastic experience for us!

The octet performs at the University of Rzeszow — a truly beautiful venue.

A delicious dinner in Rzeszow!

Rzeszow City Hall

Entrance to a small church off the main square of Rzeszow.

The schedule allowed for a little exploring. It was a treat to see inside this gorgeous church.

Tadeusz Kosciuszko is a hero to Americans and to Poles. He was instrumental in the American Revolution and bravely led a rebellion against the Russians in his home country.

A street scene in Rzeszow.

Glenn Einschlag, Henry Ward, Anna Mattix, Daniel Kerdelewicz and Max Pipinich on the steps of the hotel.

Thank you, Rzeszow. It was lovely to spend some time with you. Next stop: Wroclaw!


A successful residency at the Penderecki Center

While everyone else was on the road, eight members of the BPO spent the past two days in Lusalwice at the stunning Krzysztof Penderecki Center for Music. There, they taught the next generation of students and gave a recital featuring music by Brahms and Mozart.

It’s an especially meaningful stop given the way this tour came about. Elzbieta Penderecka, music director of the Beethoven Easter Festival, is the wife of Krzysztof Penderecki. Because of their support and friendship, we were able to do this tour. Maestro Penderecki conducted in Buffalo in December 2016, a weekend that will forever represent a highlight of the orchestra’s history. Just as modern audiences are in awe of the fact that the BPO has been led in the past by Aaron Copland, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Igor Stravinsky, so too will future audiences be astonished by Penderecki’s appearance on our roster of esteemed guest conductors. During that week, we got to know the Pendereckis as not only towering figures in the modern classical music world, but as kind, genuine people.

If all of that weren’t enough, the octet also got to teach some phenomenal wind students. The students also had a chance to get to know our musicians, and we hope the experience will help them in all of their future endeavors. Tomorrow, the octet plays in Buffalo’s sister city, Rzeszow.

An exterior view of the Penderecki Center in Luslawice. Most of the concert halls we’ll visit on this tour were built within the past 15 years.

Solo: Daniel Kerdelewicz practicing on the stage of the cutting-edge Penderecki Center.

Oboe present and future: Oboe students show off their diplomas received from Anna Mattix (L) and Henry Ward.

Daniel (L) and Jacek Muzyk with their French Horn students.

Two students (opposite ends) pose with bassonist Max Pipinich, JoAnn Falletta and Glenn Einschlag on the Penderecki Center stage.

Dinner together: members of the octet share a backstage meal with their students at the Penderecki Center.

The students received genuine diplomas for their participation in the masterclass.

The octet performed music by Mozart and Brahms in their recital. The program repeats in Rzeszow.

Programs for the evening.

Sculptures in the Center.

Colorful benches at the Penderecki Center.

It’s slightly jarring to see the bust of someone you consider a friend, who is very much alive. The man for whom the Center was named.


Red eyes, big smiles!

The musicians and staff are now in their fourth country in less than 24 hours. The two groups of musicians left Toronto’s Pearson Airport around 7 PM last night, one bound for London’s Heathrow Airport and the other for Brussels, Belgium. Each group had time to enjoy breakfast before boarding another plane to Prague. Both groups are now en route to Wroclaw via bus.

One orchestra, checking in! At Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

The journey begins: Director of Concert Production Lisa Gallo (L), Operations Director Alison Bolton, and Principal Librarian Pat Kimball at Pearson.

Seatmates! Personnel manager Jenn Comisso (L) and bassoonist Martha Malkiewicz. Funny, we never noticed they had rabbit ears before!

High spirits! Aboard the plane to Brussels, taken by Martha Malkiewicz.

Good morning Ireland, with love from Martha Malkiewicz!

Good morning London, with love from violinist Diana Sachs!

Power breakfast: Jennie Baccante, Diana Sachs and Alan Ross dine together at Heathrow Airport in London before leaving for Prague.

If you think this coffee looks good, imagine how it would look at 6:30 AM after an all-night flight!

Departure Day!

A little over an hour ago, two buses pulled out of the Kleinhans parking lot bound for Toronto’s Pearson Airport – the first leg in the lengthy journey from Buffalo to Wroclaw. Most of the musicians and staff were onboard, although some musicians opted to make their own way to Wroclaw.

Custom luggage tags for the tour.

Dedication: Principal Trumpet Alex Jokipii gets in some last-minute practice before boarding the bus.

We are so thankful to Grand Tours/Ridge Road Express for taking us up to Toronto!

Thank you to bus drivers Joseph Kern and Ronald Herkey; also Cindy Jex for handling our reservations.

Robert Webster was eating dinner with his girlfriend when he got the call from the BPO asking him to serve as a substitute double bass. The gig? Our Poland tour!

Principal Tuba Don Harry was on the 1988 European Tour with the BPO. Today, he boarded the bus for the Poland Tour!

Associate Principal Bass Brett Shurtliffe hugged his wife goodbye before leaving for the ten-day Poland tour.

Violinist Diana Sachs and cellist Nancy Anderson posed for this photo before boarding opposite buses. As Diana walked away, Nancy shouted to her, “See you in Prague!’

As I was putting this post together, I got word that the buses have crossed the Canadian border with no trouble. Their flights leave around 7 PM.

Meanwhile in Poland, everything’s coming together. Our stagehands Charlie Gill and Sean Avery have arrived in Wroclaw and will get a chance to rest and enjoy some Polish food and scenery before tomorrow’s load-in at the Wroclaw venue. Our new friend Giuliano of Agility Transport is also in Wroclaw, and is coordinating load-in details with the venue staff. Our instruments and other cargo are on schedule to arrive in Wroclaw for tomorrow’s load-in.

We hope to have an update soon on the wind octet performances and classes in Lusalwice. But Principal Oboe Henry Ward shared some photos last night. The octet all realized that they missed out on Paczki Day in Buffalo last month, but they found a place to make it up!


A day in Krakow

After a long journey, Executive Director Dan Hart, Music Director JoAnn Falletta and husband Robert Alemany, and Poland Tour Ambassador Cindy Abbott Letro arrived in Krakow. They met several members of the wind octet there on Tuesday, and shared dinner and happy hour. Today was a free day in Krakow. Unfortunately, it was also a rainy day in Krakow, but Dan and JoAnn still got out and experienced the city.

JoAnn Falletta peers out of “Eros Bound,” a statue gifted to the City of Krakow by Mitoraj. It’s become an icon!

Executive Director Dan Hart sports his new BPO fleece in Old Town, Krakow.

A refuge from the rain: inside a shopping arcade in Krakow.

Old Town, Krakow.

Meanwhile, our instruments, music and wardrobe trunks continue their journey. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Customs cleared everything for export. Our trunks landed in Liege, Belgium, the nearest cargo airport to our destination. Stagehands Charlie Gill and Sean Avery met them there, and will continue on with them to Wroclaw — a ten-hour road trip!

All of our trunks are unrecognizable in the cargo hold of the plane.

Loading our pallets onto the cargo plane bound for Liege from JFK Airport.

“I went to Belgium and all I got to see was this runway.” Stagehand Charlie Gill at the cargo airport in Liege.

Giuliano Miranda with Agility Logistics worked incredibly hard on our behalf these past two days. He’s going to accompany us on the tour, and do it all again at the end. Thank you, Giuliano! 

Everything has passed customs inspection and is good to go!

The most beautiful word in the English language: CLEARED.

Tonight, our musicians are putting the final touches on their bags, doing one last load of laundry, revising the instructions for the pet-sitter and saying a temporary farewell to all of their friends and family. Their own journey begins tomorrow afternoon. Keep checking in — we’re just getting started!

The tour is underway!

We had a great weekend, performing the tour program for our hometown audience. Mayor Byron Brown declared it Buffalo Philharmonic Day in the City of Buffalo Saturday night, and not to be outdone, County Executive Mark Poloncarz declared it Buffalo Philharmonic Day in Erie County.


Approximately 2600 people came to the concerts on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. After Sunday’s concert, it was time to start loading out!

A 53-foot truck carried all of our instruments and equipment to the cargo terminal at New York City’s JFK airport. BPO Director of Concert Production Lisa Gallo and stagehands Charlie Gill and Sean Avery caught a 5:45 AM flight from Buffalo yesterday to meet the truck there. Much of the day was spent palletizing everything and preparing it to get on a cargo plane to Liege.










Sean and Charlie will be in Liege to reunite with it all and see it conveyed safely to Wroclaw in time for the full orchestra’s first concert on Sunday, March 18.

Yesterday also saw the members of the BPO wind octet begin their journey to Poland. They will finish up their travel tomorrow and have a day to acclimate and practice before their masterclasses and performances begin on Thursday in Luslawice (pronounced Loose-lah-veet-suh). The rest of the orchestra departs Thursday evening, taking a bus from Buffalo to Toronto, then flying to Prague, and taking another bus from Prague to Wroclaw on Friday.


Warsaw: the center of Poland

Maybe it’s not at the geographic center of Poland, but Warsaw is the nation’s capital, its largest and best-known city, and its cultural capital.

Our stop here is also the centerpiece of our Poland tour. For the past 14 years, Warsaw has been home to the Beethoven Easter Festival, founded and directed by Elzbieta Penderecka. The Festival has a different theme each year, and attracts the world’s top classical musicians. Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yuri Bashmet, Christopher Eschenbach and the Tokoy String Quartet are among the distinguished musicians who have graced the festival in previous years. But until this year, a full American orchestra had never performed at the Festival, nor had an American woman ever conducted at the Festival. We’ll make history on March 20!

Philharmonia Hall is the only historic venue we will visit on our tour. Originally constructed in 1901, it was rebuilt in 1955 after the hall’s destruction during a World War II air raid. The interior was originally modeled after the Paris Opera, and was re-created, but the exterior of the building matches the modernist style that was popular at the time. The hall is home to the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, one of Poland’s oldest musical ensembles.

Warsaw itself is full of history: complex, painful, and joyous at the same time. Warsaw bore the brunt of Nazi offensives in World War II, with 85% of the city’s buildings reduced to rubble after the war in a brutal planned destruction and the massacre of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. This violent and tragic history is commemorated throughout the city, in museums, monuments and plaques. But its story is ultimately one of survival and perseverance. When the 14th-century Royal Castle was destroyed at the end of the war, the government rebuilt it, and today it stands as a museum to the glories of Poland’s past. St. John’s Cathedral, a 15th-century construction, was likewise rebuilt, as was the city’s historic Old Town Square. For these efforts, it earned the nickname ‘The Phoenix City.’

Today, it’s considered a city on the rise. Its high-tech Chopin Museum and Neon Museum are popular choices for visitors. It boasts an excellent restaurant scene, and tours telling the complex story of the city are widely available. It is the ninth-most populous city in the EU, with 1.76 million residents in the city and another 3.1 million living in its greater metropolitan area. Warsaw is the seat of Poland’s government, and home to the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Interestingly, one of its major industries is business process outsourcing — which shares an acronym with us!

The Warsaw performance is special to us in many, many ways, but perhaps best of all is the presence of several familiar faces in the audience. Thirty of our fans have signed up to take the VIP Patron Tour and cheer us on at this performance. After a post-concert party, we will part ways for a while: us to Katowice and them to Krakow. We know that we will go forward with a renewed sense of energy to propel us through the rest of the tour, and we hope that our patrons will travel the rest of this beautiful nation with pride, knowing that it is their orchestra who is representing their country here.

Wroclaw: A Lively Idyll

Visit the page for Wroclaw on The Lonely Planet, and you’ll see they call it “a lively idyll.” It’s easy to see why. Poland’s fourth-largest city is nestled on the banks of the River Oder, not far from the Sudeten Mountains. The city is nearly two millenia old, dating from 142-147 AD, and has rich architectural heritage, with Prussian, German, and Austrian influences.

But it’s also a vibrant city, humming with economic activity and alive with a massive student population of more than 130,000. It has a large manufacturing base, an emerging tech sector, and is home to several corporate headquarters. Its cultural sector is equally vibrant: it’s home to the Wroclaw Opera, the National Puppet Theater, and Centennial Hall in addition to the Witold  Lutosławski National Forum of Music, where the full BPO will give its first performance of the tour.

The National Forum of Music was completed in 2015, one of the many postmodern-style venues constructed in Poland in recent years. Named after one of Poland’s most revered composers and conductors, it is home to a variety of musical groups, including the Wrocław Philharmonic, Leopoldinum Orchestra, Polish Cello Quartet, NFM Boys’ Choir, and Lutosławski Quartet.

Poland is a nation that is reinventing itself and moving into a new era. BPO Principal French Horn Jacek Muzyk, a native of Poland, said that his hometown is different every time he visits. The ancient city of Wroclaw is no exception. One of its most popular tourist attractions is a relatively new one: its tiny bronze dwarf statues, approximately 350 of them, scattered throughout the city. The statues commemorate the Orange Alternative movement, an anti-Communist movement which used a dwarf as its symbol. “Hunting for dwarfs” is an excellent way to see a lot of Wroclaw — there’s even an app available to assist in this quest! The city is also known for its excellent restaurants, craft breweries and nightlife. It’s even host to the Festival of Good Beer, the biggest beer festival in Poland. Much to our chagrin, though, the festival doesn’t take place until June.

By Aw58 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wroclaw sounds like an exciting place to explore, and the BPO musicians will have a free day there to do just that.

Buffalo never fails!

During World War I, the phrase “Buffalo Never Fails” was coined. More than 100 years later, it still applies. Buffalo never fails to show its passion and its support. Buffalo never fails to answer a call for help. Whether it’s your neighbor, your charities, or your cultural organizations that need you, Buffalo always, ALWAYS sees it through!

The BPO started the month by asking for your support of our Poland trip. Board member and Poland Tour Ambassador Cindy Abbott Letro and Francis Letro threw down a challenge to the entire region: if you can give $30,000 in the next 30 days to support the BPO’s first international tour in 30 years, we’ll match it dollar for dollar. Quite a challenge!

You might wonder: were the musicians, staff, and board of the BPO nervous? Did we wonder if anyone would support this tour, with so many other worthy causes out there and so much else to distract people? The short answer is no. We know how passionate Western New York is about the BPO. We know how much pride exists for our region. We know that once people heard that we planned to represent the entire region in a country to which Western New York is deeply tied, they would want to be a part of our endeavor.

We were right. Once again, Buffalo saw it through. In only 14 days, the challenge was been met. With $30,000 raised from the community and matched by the generosity of the Letros, we are that much closer to our overall fundraising goal for this trip. We are so grateful to the community, and we thank everyone who has donated!

That doesn’t mean we’re done, though. We still have around $27,000 to raise in order to make the trip a financial as well as an artistic success. For $1000, you can sponsor an individual musician to go on the tour. About half of the orchestra is sponsored already. Some musicians are sponsored by individuals, some by companies, and some by groups of people. If you sponsor a musician, you’ll get an invitation for one to a VIP reception where you can meet your musician, an invitation for one to the sendoff party and March 10 concert, a thank-you note and souvenir from your musician, and communication from your musician during the tour. Perhaps best of all, when you hear about this tour on the news or on social media, you’ll have the knowledge that you helped to make it happen. To take part in this historic opportunity, contact Wendy Diina at or (716) 242-7826.