Everything Old Is New Again

Everything Old Is New Again

SoNA celebrates 65 with innovation, outreach



It’s a season that includes everything from Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninov and Ravel to Copland’s Four Dance Episodes from “Rodeo” and a brand-new composition by music director Paul Haas. It’s also the year the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas plans to branch out, extending its reach beyond Fayetteville and its programming beyond traditional orchestra concerts in a great hall.

In other words, turning 65 doesn’t mean SoNA will stop working — but it does mean it might be a little more casual sometimes and move in some new directions.

“We — board, musicians, community partners — spent time last summer looking at where we are and where we need to be, and we all agreed that we could be a more inclusive asset to Northwest Arkansas if we brought music to some of the many attractive smaller venues in the community,” says Matthew Herren, SoNA’s executive director. “These new programs will be shorter, with small ensembles, and free to the public. We want to add a new experience and perhaps attract a new kind of concertgoer.

“We want to go wherever we’re welcome,” Herren adds with his trademark enthusiasm. “We have wonderful relationships with Crystal Bridges, the Arkansas Music Pavilion and John Brown University, which allow us to play Bentonville, Rogers and Siloam Springs on a regular basis. Last season we made debuts at the Springdale Public Library and Cooper Chapel, so we’re already covering some ground.”

Adding new audience members is vital for all arts organizations nowadays, and SoNA is fully committed to the idea, including a new offering this season of a limited number of free tickets to concertgoers younger than 18.

“It’s an understatement to say that there is much more competition for one’s attention — and time and dollars — than in 1954 [when SoNA was born as the North Arkansas Symphony Orchestra],” Herren says. “But we know that people still crave experiences that are live and unique and communal. In the five short years since I became executive director, Northwest Arkansas’ arts community has both expanded and unified. We are in close contact with one another, and everyone is extremely supportive. I can’t think of another place in the country like this, and it’s thrilling to be a part of it all.”

With that power comes responsibility, of course, and Haas says new music like his composition “Angelique” is “only risky if the audience doesn’t like it.”

Haas says he wrote “Angelique” “after reading ‘Angelique Abandoned’ by James Stevens. It’s a story about a Métis woman who is left with her husband on Isle Royale (Lake Superior) over the winter to guard a huge copper boulder for some white prospectors. Her husband dies, and she somehow survives. It’s an incredible story, and in the music I try to capture some of the emotional states I imagine her going through as she faces this unbelievable challenge.

“I would never program anything that the audience won’t love,” Haas promises. “That relationship and that trust are far too important to me to risk on a bad programming choice.”




65th Anniversary


Nov. 9 — Masterworks I: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto: Featuring curtain-raiser “Blow It Up, Start Again” by young American composer Jonathan Newman; Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with guest soloist and two-time Grammy Award nominee Jennifer Frautschi; and Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninov.

Dec. 21 — A Very SoNA Christmas: A mix of holiday favorites featuring the SoNA Singers, area high school and collegiate choruses and special guest artists. Back by popular demand, SoNA will present two concerts: a 2 p.m. matinee and a 7:30 p.m. evening performance.

Dec. 22 — “The Snowman: A Family Concert”: Enjoy a special screening of the classic children’s movie “The Snowman,” while SoNA musicians bring to life the extraordinary musical score in an afternoon that is sure to enchant your little ones. Showtime is 2 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Feb. 1 — Masterworks II: Carmina Burana: Featuring “Angelique” by Paul Haas and “Carmina Burana” by Orff with special guest soloists, plus the Bentonville High School Chamber Singers, the University of Arkansas Children’s Choir and the SoNA Singers.

March 21 — Masterworks III: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto: With SoNA Principal Clarinet Trevor Stewart and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”

May 2 — Masterworks IV: Pictures at an Exhibition: SoNA wraps up the season with Copland’s Four Dance Episodes from “Rodeo” and “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky/Ravel.

Season subscriptions are $140, $195 and $250. Student subscriptions are $45 each with a valid student ID.

Single tickets will be $33, $44 and $55.

INFO — 443-5600 or sonamusic.org

Categories: 'Tis the Season