Stuffy no more

Wichita Symphony out to bust myths

WRITTEN BY JOE STUMPE

Cirque De La Symphonie

Cirque De La Symphonie

Symphony Myth No. 1: You have to be a classical music expert to appreciate a symphony performance.

(Reality: Upcoming Wichita Symphony concerts include performances devoted to the music of Broadway and Paul McCartney.)

Symphony Myth No. 2: Tickets to the symphony cost a small fortune.

(Reality: Admission to some Wichita Symphony shows starts at $20, and a mid-range ticket to a series of four classical concerts runs $126 about what one big show at Intrust Bank Arena costs).

Symphony Myth No. 3: Tuxedos and formal gowns are de rigueur for the symphony crowd.

(Reality: Some audience members dress to impress, but no one gets turned away for wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes).

The Wichita Symphony is out to correct these and other misconceptions that might stand in the way of anybody enjoying its performances.

"I think that symphony organizations in general the Wichita Symphony included sometimes suffer from a pop culture stereotype of what a symphony orchestra is: stuffy, playing old music, not for me," said Daniel Hege, the Wichita Symphony's conductor and musical director. "We certainly do play music from the past, but we can also do a wide variety of other things, like jazz and pop. Even when we play older music, we like to I don't want to say put a fresh spin on it, but put a fresh context on it by using video or other media to enhance the experience."

Hegel doesn't want audience members to worry about old symphony conventions like "when do we clap?" during a performance. To make audience members feel like they're part of something, Hegel generally talks to them, giving background about composers and their music, historical context and motivations.

He's all for jazzing up the visual aspect of concerts as well. Take the February 1st-2nd productions of "Cirque De La Symphonie," in which aerialists, strong men, jugglers and more will perform as the symphony plays well-known classical pieces.

Or the February 15th-16th concerts, "The New World." As the renowned American Brass Quintet performs music inspired by the American west, including music from "Dances with Wolves," iconic photographs taken of native Americans by Edwin Curtis will be shown.

"In this day and age, everybody has to compete in the visual sense," Hege said. "You can't just say 'We're all about music, it doesn't matter how it looks.' It does matter."

A third boundary-crossing performance that has Hege excited is "Three Phantoms In Concert" on February 8th. The concert brings three of Broadway's leading male vocalists Craig Schulman, Ciaran Sheehan and Ron Bohmer to Wichita to sing selections from "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Damn Yankees" and more. The trio mix in a little comedy as well, keeping the audience in suspense as to just who will sing "Music of the Night" from Phantom. (We're not telling who it is, but be prepared for a surprise.)


Beer and Beethoven?

When it comes to promoting the Wichita Symphony, conductor Daniel Hege isn't confining himself to the Century II concert hall. Twice last year he hosted "Classics on Tap" gatherings for young adults that paired good food, good beer and a "four- course lecture" by Hege between sips and bites. For more unusual symphony events, see wichitasymphony.org.


Starting young

It doesn't show up in the symphony's regular schedule, but the symphony each year plays to about 25,000 area schoolchildren as part of its Young People's Concerts.


Coming soon

Hege and executive director Don Reinhold can hardly contain their excitement about the lineup for the 2014- 15 season, which starts in September. Hege said he "can't let the cat out of the bag" yet, but says fans are in for a surprise and treat.

 
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