By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — A change of venue, the return of choirs, and a concert version of a popular musical highlight the Traverse Symphony Orchestra's 2012-13 season.
The season opens in September with two piano concerti by Ralph Votapek, the first winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and ends in May with an all-Beethoven program that features Grammy-nominated violinist Caroline Goulding. Altogether it includes eight concerts — one more than in recent years.
Other instrumental soloists are pianist Alexander Ghindin, the youngest winner of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, and pianist and TSO music director Kevin Rhodes.
After a season-long absence, the NMC Chorale and Chamber Singers return in two concerts, including "Home for the Holidays" in December. The concert also features the NMC Children's Choir, a former staple of the annual holiday program that is making a return to its traditional roots.
"We're excited to be back in the routine, as it were," said Jeffrey Cobb, director of all three groups. "It's an opportunity for our young singers to be on stage with the TSO and for the audience to hear that fantastic group. There's many in our area who do not know we have an incredible children's choir with a 21-year history."
The choirs' reappearance is possible because of the orchestra's recent move from the City Opera House, where it has performed most of its concerts for the last few seasons, to venues with larger stages, like Corson and Lars Hockstad auditoriums and First Congregational Church, Rhodes said.
"We actually found a way the first year we played there to shoehorn them on the stage, but the fire marshal wasn't happy with that," he said, of the Opera House.
The change of venue also will allow the TSO to perform larger, "true orchestral works," and will eliminate the need to mic vocal soloists, said TSO marketing and development director Krista Cooper. The orchestra's education programs will continue to be held at the Opera House, she said.
The new season will see the TSO take a gamble on its first concert version of a musical: "Guys and Dolls."
"We've had Broadway evenings, we've had an opera gala, but this is a project I've been wanting to do," said Rhodes, whose wife, Jane, will sing the comic lead role of Adelaide as part of a mostly local cast. "There are very few musicals you can get the rights to do in concert, and of all of them, this is my favorite. It's a fun score, there's some fun dialogue. I love the whole retro '50s thing."
The orchestra also will introduce its first no-intermission "musical fireworks"-theme concert, inspired by New Year's concerts Rhodes conducted in Europe.
"They're fun, light, classical pieces with no deeper meaning," he said, of the repertoire that includes Strauss polkas, opera-operetta overtures and a Gershwin tune. "It'll be a fun way to pick up the mood during gray January."
Season and series tickets range from $72 to $352, plus fees, and are on sale now by phone, 947-7120, and after April 15 online. Single tickets range from $20 to $50, plus fees, and go on sale June 1.
For more information, visit www.traversesymphony.org.