Lessons Learned: Symphony continues rich mix of music in 2021-22

Lessons Learned: Symphony continues rich mix of music in 2021-22

The Fort Smith Symphony is taking the lessons learned during the pandemic and incorporating them into a 2021-22 season that promises everything fans have always loved — and more.

“We wanted to present a season of variety that audiences would enjoy,” says Music Director John Jeter. “It’s a thank you for all who supported us and attended our concerts as well as a welcome back for people who took the year off from attending.”

These are some of the changes for the season:

• As one of only a few orchestras in the nation performing full concerts during the covid-19 shutdown, the Fort Smith Symphony learned that audiences preferred an early start time, so the concerts for 2021-22 will begin at 7 p.m., not 7:30 p.m. as has been traditional.

“Three quarters of our audiences requested an earlier starting time,” Jeter says.

• Jeter also learned that listeners preferred the concert presented without interruption. So in the 2021-22 season, performances will be about 75 minutes without intermission.

That earlier conclusion has created space for what Jeter calls “a major addition to our concerts.”

Music Director John Jeter (center front) has taken the lessons learned by the Fort Smith Symphony during the pandemic and scheduled earlier concerts, performed without intermission, for 2021-22 while keeping the same rich mix of music audiences love. (Courtesy Photo/Laken Emerson)

“We are offering post concert ‘after parties’ directly after all of our concerts at the Bakery District, which is across the street from the concert hall,” he explains. “After hearing the symphony, audiences can head across the street for music, food, drink and special time. So we are really offering musical evenings and social time for a complete evening out. Post-concert music includes performances by the Latin Duo Capriccioso, Kool Cats Jazz Quartet, Fort Smith Symphony String Quartet and guitarist Gary Hutchinson.”

• An outdoor concert held at the United States Marshals Museum was extremely popular, so Jeter has programmed another one, Patriotic Pops, for Oct. 16 with first notes at 5 p.m.

“Our audience survey plus lots of feedback told us that our audiences loved hearing us outdoors and enjoyed the grounds of the U.S. Marshals Museum on the Arkansas River as a venue,” Jeter says, “so we decided to do it again but with an Americana, patriotic theme.” The performance includes marches by John Phillip Sousa; Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”; W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues”; William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1; and James Horner’s “Apollo 13,” plus music by John Williams.

• Concertgoers adapted to having the program accessible through their smart phones, so that will continue in the upcoming season, reducing what Jeter calls “the enormous use of paper.”

“As long as people silence their phones, this works great,” he says. “We have had no issues with the digital program books.”

But most of all, Jeter says, audiences reinforced their desire for and support of “a mix of programming that includes some classics, popular, holiday and film music.”

“Looking back over the years, we have programmed everything from the classics to jazz, rock and country,” Jeter says. “Our audience enjoys as wide a range of music as we do. In addition to symphonies by Brahms and Dvorak, the upcoming season includes some wonderful music by female composers Florence Price and Amy Beach as well as music by the first famous black concert composer, Joseph Saint-Georges. (Mozart and Beethoven loved Saint-Georges’ music!) We have an exciting program of American music for our concert at the Marshals Museum and some thrilling music on our December holiday concert.

“I think everyone is excited about the entire season,” Jeter enthuses. “However, the showing of the complete Lucasfilm/Disney production of the ‘Raiders of Lost Ark’ film with the symphony playing the soundtrack may be the high point. The music has been digitally removed from the film while the entire dialogue and sound effects remain. It’s a huge production with a very large orchestra under a huge film screen.

“I think what makes all of concerts special is the experience of a live orchestra,” he concludes, “and the glorious sounds a wonderful symphony can make.”



Fort Smith Symphony

2021-22 Season

Sept. 11 — Orchestral Brilliance: Music by Amy Beach, Florence Price and Antonin Dvorak featuring violonist Er-Gene Kahng, 7 p.m., ArcBest Performing Arts Center.

Oct. 16 — Patriotic Pops: Music by John Williams, John Phillip Sousa, Irving Berlin, W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, 5 p.m. at the U.S. Marshals Museum.

Dec. 4 — It’s Christmastime: “Carol of the Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” “The Nutcracker,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” 7 p.m., ArcBest Performing Arts Center.

March 5 — Classical Masters: With Saint-Georges’ Symphony No. 1 in D Minor; Eric Ewasen’s Marimba Concerto; and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, 7 p.m.,ArcBest Performing Arts Center.

April 2 — “Raiders of the Lost Ark”: With the symphony playing the soundtrack while the film is screened, 7 p.m., ArcBest Performing Arts Center.

Season tickets are currently on sale to new subscribers. Single tickets will be offered in late August.

INFO — 452-7575 or fortsmithsymphony.org

Categories: Music