The program that Alsop selected for her final concert included Kabbalah, op. 96 (2004), by Marlos Nobre; Oceana (1996), by Osvaldo Golijov; and Symphony No. 1 (1988), by John Corigliano. In introducing the Corigliano piece, Alsop noted that this was the only piece, during her term as the Artistic Director for the Festival, that would be performed twice. It was one of the very first pieces Alsop brought to the Festival, in 1993, and for this emotional and valedictory evening, which was called out in the program as a night of "Memory & Meaning," Corigliano's symphony seemed perfect.
But... there was an addition to the concert program on Saturday night, not shown in the printed program materials. Without having given away the secret at all, so that it was a complete surprise not only to the audience, but to Alsop herself, the Festival Orchestra had commissioned Kevin Puts to compose a short work as a gift to Alsop and as a tribute to her. The work was entitled, Last August, and the Orchestra performed it for her, without a conductor, with an "empty podium" in front of them.
The "empty podium," of course, symbolized Alsop's incipient absence, after twenty-five years of inspired leadership, but as I listened to the incredibly moving performance of Last August, as the Festival Orchestra performed its tribute to its beloved Maestra, making the music move in just the way she would have, had she been conducting, I couldn't help but think of the "empty podium" as a metaphor.
We, too, all of us, in all of our endeavors, can do great things together, even when our most inspired leaders have left us to our own resources. Looking ahead, I think this is a lesson we will need to remember.