Paris In The Springtime: SoNA books flight of the imagination

Paris In The Springtime: SoNA books flight of the imagination

Even as the worst days of the pandemic wane, it might seem a little soon to hop a flight to Paris. But the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas can take you there while you remain (physically) in the comfort of your own living room. It just required nine musicians; a magical, immersive piece of artwork; and the skills to merge the two into one.

Charles Gounod, perhaps best known for his opera “Faust” and his “Ave Maria,” wrote his Petite Symphonie in 1885 for flutist/impresario Paul Taffanel and his Societé de Musique de Chambre pour Instruments a Vent (Chamber Music Society for Wind Instruments). It debuted on April 30 of that year in Paris, which was, quite simply, the center of the artistic universe during the Belle Epoque period. During the years from 1871 to 1914, the Eiffel Tower was built, and the Paris Opera house completed. There were three “universal expositions” that brought millions to Paris to taste the latest in art and technology, and Impressionism and modern art were born.

So when SoNA set out to record the Petite Symphonie, music director Paul Haas wanted a feast for the eyes as well as the ears.

“With this multimedia production, we wanted to present a truly contemporary interpretation of the Petite Symphonie,” Haas says. “At a time when all of us are feeling trapped and dislocated, we wanted to create an environment where the audience can enter into a space free from all constraints, physical or temporal.”

To that end, Haas collaborated with visual artist Romain Erkiletlian, a friend and colleague for the past 15 years.

SoNA’s performance of Gounod’s Petite Symphonie features wind musicians Kristen Salinas (flute), Theresa Delaplain (oboe), Kristin Weber (oboe), Richard Bobo (bassoon), Kay Brusca (bassoon), Bruce Schultz (horn), Jason Hofmeister (horn), Orlando Scalia (clarinet) and Trevor Stewart (clarinet). This image by visual artist Romain Erkiletlian features a composited video still of the SoNA musicians by videographer Darren Crisp. (Courtesy Image/SoNA)

“What he has created is truly liberating, bringing us halfway around the world and traversing over a century of time,” Haas says. “I’m honored to collaborate with him and share his creativity with our audiences.”

Erkiletlian says at first he was “quite surprised” at Haas’ request, “but I understood he wanted to create something unique and contemporary which would transport the Petite Symphonie into our present time.”

“Paul knows well my work as we did collaborate on another project together and thought I could do it,” Erkiletlian says. “I envisioned right away something urban, very lively, contextualized and completely Parisian as we can imagine this city.

“In these four movements’ videos, everything becomes possible, like a totally new world emerging from the past into new urban landscapes. Superpositions of visual layers accompany the Petite Symphonie, allowing it to belong to our current time of modernity, turning into contemporary poetry.”

To bring the music and the artwork together required the expertise of Darren Crisp, who recorded the nine SoNA wind players on greenscreen at Crisp Recording Studio in Fayetteville, then combined that performance with Erkiletlian’s art. Crisp, who started working in audio production 35 years ago in Colorado, says the project forced his computer to work harder than it ever had to process 30-plus layers of video. It was a challenge, he admits, but he was “so inspired by the work, the music of the orchestra and Romain’s beautiful work with the visual backdrops.”

This multimedia production is the latest example of SoNA’s ongoing commitment to delivering creative content to its audiences through its Reimagined Season.

“In spite of the current restraints of the moment, this work opens up new possibilities for the listener to connect with classical music and the musicians they love through a new perspective,” SoNA Executive Director D. Riley Nicholson says. “Additionally, the production simultaneously signals both our commitment to our local community of artists and our ability to join the world’s stage by collaborating with an internationally renowned artist.”




Petite Symphonie

WHEN — 6:30 p.m. April 2

WHERE — As a digital release on Facebook, YouTube and

COST — Free

INFO — 521-4166 or

Categories: Music