Star Wars Stories

May 25, 1977: 20th Century Fox isn’t quite sure what they have on their hands, so Star Wars opens in only 32 theaters nationwide.

May 25, 1977: My college roommate and I are visiting his parents in Reston. We don’t have any plans, so we look in The Post and see a tiny ad for something called Star Wars playing at the Uptown. Word of mouth was so strong by then that we had to wait through a showing, but yes, we saw the original Star Wars on opening day. Since then, I’ve seen every Star Wars movie on opening day.

May 21, 1980: The Empire Strikes Back opens nationally in limited release (only 126 theaters).

May 21, 1980: My girlfriend and I are visiting my parents. We decide to see The Empire Strikes Back at the Springfield Mall. The line wraps around the mall twice! We had to wait almost 6 hours to see the movie, but that was OK - it was a beautiful May day, there was a festive, carnival atmosphere, and the theaters were selling drinks and snacks from pushcarts. Most important? We saw Empire on opening day.

May 25, 1983: The Return of the Jedi opens nationally in 849 theaters.

May 25, 1983: I work in an office building across from the Springfield Mall. We can see the lines forming to see Jedi, so a group of us go to our supervisor and ask for the rest of the day off. He asks if we’re going to see the movie, we say yes, and he says “get out of here.” Not only did we see Jedi on opening day, we saw the first showing on opening day!

32 years later, I already have tickets to see The Force Awakens on opening day. Won’t be seeing the first show, though – screenings start at 8:30 a.m.!

Michael Ream, SONOVA Secretary

Leading S. American Pianist Escudero Joins Symphonic Tap Lineup!

One of South America's finest pianists, Juan Carlos Escudero, will be performing with SONOVA and Capitol Tap at Saturday's Symphonic Tap concert. Escudero, whose solo performance with SONOVA at the 2014 Gala was featured on CNN Espanol, has been a celebrated musician since childhood. In 1995 and again in 2002, he won First Prize at the Ecuadorian National Musical Competition. At the age of 12, Juan Carlos made his debut as a soloist with the Guayaquil's Municipal Museum Chamber Orchestra and two years later with the Cuenca´s Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Escudero has toured widely - and with acclaim - from Boston and New York to Mexico and China. He has been a soloist with every symphony orchestra in Ecuador, the Pan American Symphonic Orchestra of New York, and Ecuador's National Symphony, among many others. Escudero also served as the National Director of Performing Arts at the Secretary of Culture of Ecuador in Quito through 2013. Truly a virtuoso, his technical skill is exceeded only by the enthusiasm for music that he exudes. Collaborating with Juan Carlos Escudero is an honor, and SONOVA is thrilled to welcome him back! One more reason you just can't miss this show - get tickets now while the pre-sale lasts: 

Tap, tap, tappity!

SONOVA rehearsed with Capitol Tap for the first time tonight, and it became incredibly clear that this concert is going to be one of the most unique and exciting we've done. That's coming on the heels of a record-setting rendition of Les Mis, and a year after we showed you how Mozart and heavy metal come together. SONOVA has put together some one-of-a-kind shows, and this is a worthy cap to an incredible year.

Baakari Wilder of Broadway fame ("Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk") is so captivating it's hard to stay focused on our parts - but we will. Grace, ease, and lightning heels carry him through four intense movements of Gould's "Tap Dance Concerto." You won't want to miss this.

Wilder's virtuosity is overwhelming, but the ensemble is also inspiring. As they dance to Gershwin, Ellington, and other favorites, it's easy to see why CapTap has been featured on local TV - their energy is electric and their beats keep us going.

You won't find a concert like this anywhere else. Get your ticket now, before they sell out!

Silent Auction - Get Ready to Bid!

This year's silent auction features a truly prodigious selection of exciting experiences, perfect gifts, and gorgeous items. Check out a handful of the most exciting features - and get ready to place your bid! The silent auction begins at 5:30 pm on March 28 at the gala and continues during intermission. Winners can pick up their items after the show. Questions? Contact

  • Love vino? Enjoy a private wine tasting for 20 from Total Wine
  • Theater buff? Be ready to fight for packages such as 2 tickets to Man of La Mancha from the Shakespeare Theatre Company and 2 tickets to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Arena Stage
  • Need to kick start your workout routine? We have 1 month individual fitness membership to Ballston Sport and Health Club!
  • Want to get to know SONOVA better? Bid on dinner with Jeffrey Dokken, Musical Director & Conductor.
  • Looking to update your home? Check out the 2 hour interior design consultation from Whittington Design Studio.


At a value of $5,950, consider bidding on the Zulu Nyala African Safari: 6 days & 6 nights at Zulu Nyala Luxury Hemmingway Tented Safari Camp or Heritage Safari Lodge or Game Lodge, including full board (3 meals a day by fine international chefs) and 2 game view activities per day guided by professional game rangers in open game viewing vehicles. Valid for 2 yrs. Flight is not included. (minimum bid is $3,000)

We can't wait for the gala & silent auction - coming up in less than 2 weeks...and now we bet you can't either! This is just a taste of the dozens of exciting offerings from donors such as the Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals, Wolf Trap, the Spy Museum, numerous local eateries, and so much more.


Looking Back and Looking Ahead

2014 was a bang up year for SONOVA. As the calendar turns over, we look back at some of our highlights - and get excited about what's coming up in 2015!

Our biggest news of 2015 is that we have an active project up on KICKSTARTER! Please check it out and support the symphony - plus take advantage of amazing rewards from program recognition to t-shirts to reserved gala tables.

Back to 2014 - what a year it was! In March we celebrated North and South with our Ecuadorian soloists, in June we rocked out, in August we got historical, in November we performed Carmina Burana to not one but two sold out audiences, and in December, we packed the house as never before, with audience members seated on the stage! Here’s a brief recap:

March 30, 2014, A Celebration of North and South: SONOVA’s 3rd Annual Gala Concert featured world renowned Ecuadorian musicians, violinist Jorge Saade Scaff and pianist Juan Carlos Escudero. Presented in conjunction with the Ecuadorian Embassy, SONOVA performed “Rhapsody in Blue,” and the American premiere of the “Oviedo Violin Concerto.” Additionally, SONOVA gave the east coast premier of "Weatherwax Celebration" by Peter Rauch with the composer in attendance (Mr. Rauch gave us the honor of playing the snare drum part with SONOVA during the performance).

June 14, 2014, Mozart Meets Metal – SONOVA Rocks Out: With a band comprised of the Washington, DC area’s finest rock musicians, SONOVA performed symphonic covers of some of rock music's biggest hits, and rock covers of two of Mozart's most famous overtures. 

August 24, 2014, Candlelight Concert Series: SONOVA’s Chamber Ensemble performed an evening of free classical and popular music at the historic Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, Va. The concert featured the premiere of "Parish Suite" by SONOVA member Michael Ream, written especially for the occasion. 

November 8 & November 9, 2014, Premiered at the Opera House: SONOVA presented two sold-out performances of famous works premiered at opera houses around the world—Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld,” Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” and Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliette Overture.” In collaboration with The Metropolitan Chorus and featuring guest conductor Maestro Barry Hemphill, and soloists Polly Baldridge and Bob Burner, SONOVA also performed Orff’s famous “Carmina Burana.” 

December 20, 2014: Holidays in Paris: This year’s sold-out SONOVA holiday concert featured French carols, audience sing-a-longs, our annual drawing for the chance to play sleigh bells with SONOVA, and candy cane giveaways. 

So what do we have to look forward to in 2015?

March 28, 2015Annual Gala and Silent Auction Reception, showcasing a new production of Boublil and Schonberg's Les Misérables.

April 19, 2015Chamber music concert at the Arlington Central Library.

May 2, 2015: SONOVA has been hired by St. Marie’s Musica in California, MD for their Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem concert.

May 30, 2015Symphonic Tap, a collaboration with Capitol Tap. In this unique performance, SONOVA partners welcomes dancers including Bakaari Wilder (of "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk" fame on Broadway). The show features dancers not just as performers but also as "instrumentalists"! Don't miss this unique experience. 

Plus - an exciting 2015-2016 season that we'll be announcing soon!

None of this happens without the generous support you - our community - provides. Please back us today on Kickstarter. Whether you can give $5 or $500, your support is essential.

Maestro Dokken and Secretary Michael Ream contributed to this post.

What Your Donation Means to Us

THANK YOU for being our audience, our home, our community. SONOVA is humbled and thrilled to perform month after month for you.

Though you might not know it, SONOVA is only four years old. We're still building, and we invite you to be a part of it! Can you support us this #GivingTuesday? Take a look at some of the expenses we need your help with:

*Percussion rental: $600/concert              *Printed programs: $300/concert

*Website fees: $125/year                            *Rehearsal space: $40 per week

*Postage to send out fliers: $25/month     *Copies of public domain music: $10/section/concert

They say a little bit goes a long way - and that couldn't be truer than when it comes to donations to SONOVA. This orchestra provides world-class performances on a start-up not-for-profit budget, which means we put every penny to work. So whether you can sponsor a concert or help us make some copies, you are the most essential part of our community. We can't wait to see you in person for Holidays in Paris and Les Mis!

Swan Sings Own ... well ... Swan Song

Alas, poor me!

Have you ever wondered how a swan feels about being roasted for dinner? (Short answer – not good.) 

Olim lacus colueram (Once in Lakes I Made My Home) is one of the stranger sections of Carmina Burana. It's the only tenor solo in the entire work, and it's the only song sung by an animal (the swan).

The swan, who once dwelt in beauty, tells us what it's like to turn on a spit as the fire roasts it, and then what it's like to lie in a serving dish.

Now in a serving dish I lie, 

and can no longer fly.

Gnashing teeth confront me.

Some people think it's funny, some people think it's sad. What will you think?

Join us on November 8th and 9th as we present Carl Orff's Carmina Burana with the Metropolitan Chorus. Our very own Jeffrey Dokken, SONOVA Music Director & Conductor, is singing the tenor solo. Will he be a comic swan or a tragic swan? There's only one way to find out...

blog content credit: Michael Ream

More Carmina Lyrics Revealed

Come now,
pluck the strings
without delay

These words are from the opening movement, Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Fortune, Empress of the World), of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. And wow does he have us pluck the strings! The strings are pizzicato (plucked) for almost the entire opening movement. A coincidence? Probably not.

Of course, the lyrics continue:

and since by fate
the strong are overthrown
weep ye all with me.

We don't think you'll be weeping when we present Carmina Burana with the Metropolitan Chorus on November 8th and 9th. Gasping with delight perhaps. But if you well up, that's ok. We'll try to have some tissues on hand! Missing the concert would definitely be  a reason for tears, so be sure you get tickets before it's too late! 


That Song Means WHAT?!


Carmina Burana is edgy. And to think that the lyrics are based on manuscripts discovered in a monastery! In contrast to their sacred hiding place, these poems are decidedly secular. Check out this excerpt from “The Courts of Love” section of the piece:

If a boy and a girl
linger together,
happy is their union;
increasing love
leaves tedious
good sense far behind,
and inexpressible pleasure fills
their limbs, their arms, their lips.

Yes, the lyrics of Carmina push the envelope. Even the way the piece is set up tells you it’s not the work of a prude: the sections are titled, “Springtime,” “In the Tavern,” and “The Courts of Love.”

Take the section about the tavern. It starts out with:

When we are in the tavern,
we spare no thought for the grave
but rush to the gaming tables
where we always sweat and strain.
What goes on in the tavern
where a coin gets you a drink,
if this is what you would know
then listen to what I say.

Later the song talks about the way members of every class and profession drink, creating visions of nuns imbibing alongside soldiers, travelers, and even the king and the pope! The vivid imagery surprises.

Perhaps the most famous part of the piece is the epic “O Fortuna” that starts and ends it. Those lyrics ring true without the risk of offending:

O Fortune!
Like the moon
rising first
then declining;
hateful life
treats us badly
then with kindness
making sport with our desires,
causing power
and poverty alike
to melt like ice.

But don’t worry about the edgier stuff – this really is a family friendly event. After all, the lyrics are in Latin and German, so unless you’re fluent in both, you might never know how titillating some of these songs really are!

Inside the Orchestra

What's it like to be a SONOVA member?

We all have different experiences, of course. But each week, we prepare on our own, head to rehearsal, and build beautiful music together. Take last week, for example. While Maestro Dokken visited The Metropolitan Chorus' rehearsal, we prepped Orpheus with trumpet player and Associate Conductor Michael Thompson. Is it curious that the famous "can-can" is in a piece about the underworld? We also worked William Tell and the beginning of Romeo et Juliette (the Gounod version - many have written music for star-crossed lovers!).

The second half of rehearsal focused on Carmina Burana with our conductor back from observing the choir rehearsal. We will rehearse together in a couple of weeks, but until then we're working our parts out separately. Visiting their rehearsal helped us know what to expect when Maestro Hemphill conducts us.

This week, we're holding sectionals. That means each section of the orchestra practices just those parts that are most challenging. Trumpets will rehearse in one room, violins in another, and flutes in a third. We'll work out the last major kinks for each section so we can put it all together in preparation for performing for you! 

Parish Suite Replay Oct. 5!

In August, the SONOVA Chamber Players performed at the historic Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg. SONOVA violist Michael Ream crafted original compositions for the performance. If you missed us in Williamsburg, catch a replay of that concert October 5, 4 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church located at 2217 Columbia Pike (at South Wayne Street) in Arlington, VA. Below, Michael offers thoughts on one of his original compositions from the concert, "The Parish Suite."

Michael writes:

The Parish Suite is subtitled "in the American Folk Style." I'd always wanted to write a suite in the American folk style, and our recent concert in Colonial Williamsburg seemed like the perfect opportunity. I also knew that we'd never find any music arranged for the specific (and somewhat unusual) ensemble we were taking to Williamsburg, so this gave me the chance to write something just for us.

I called it the Parish Suite because we performed at Bruton Parish Church, but also because I wanted to evoke a time when all of us lived in parishes - small towns in rural American. Back then, if you wanted to hear music, you either made it yourself or you went where the musicians were playing. The musicians probably weren’t professionals, but your friends and neighbors. They might not always play in tune, they might not always be rhythmically accurate, but that's OK - the music had a good beat and you could dance to it (Barn Dance, Stomp). Or you'd be in church on a Sunday morning, the soloist is singing a beautiful hymn to organ accompaniment, but the choir is slightly off key (Hymn). Or maybe you're at the local tavern on a Saturday night, the pianist is playing a rag, but the piano is out of tune (Rag), but again, that's OK - it's Saturday night, you're having a drink with friends, life is good. 

I said earlier that I wrote this for us, but the truth is, I wrote it for you, the audience. I sincerely hope you enjoy hearing it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Coming Fall 2014...

As an orchestra, we love making music. It's what we do. Starting this fall, orchestra members will begin sharing with you about the music we make. We'll talk about rehearsals, composers, events, music history, local trivia, and most importantly, the experience of being part of SONOVA. Check back soon for stories from SONOVA Musicians!