Mahler And Beyond: SoNA sets sights on summer of moving music

Mahler And Beyond: SoNA sets sights on summer of moving music

Don’t think about “Majestic Mahler,” on the Walton Arts Center stage April 30, as the end of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas season. Think of it as the beginning of a summer of SoNA Beyond, an effort to “showcase the vast spectrum of possibilities of classical music, and to reach audiences in new and innovative ways,” says D. Riley Nicholson, the orchestra’s executive director.

“The heart of our symphony, the cornerstone of programming, so to speak, is our classical programming at the Walton Arts Center Baum-Walker Hall mainstage,” he explains. “However, we also know that we are the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas and should truly serve audiences regionwide! So we really felt the need to reach audiences in other communities and at unexpected venues beyond our mainstage as well.

“Our goal is to reach new audiences and be a force for good in our community by partnering with other key community leaders and organizations.”

In its inaugural effort this year, SoNA Beyond has already offered performances in the new Event Center at the Fayetteville Public Library. But Nicholson teases that in about two weeks, he’ll announce “our largest and most ambitious SoNA Beyond event yet planned for June 24 in collaboration with Crystal Bridges. We also have other concerts and experiences in the works, slated for this summer in Bella Vista and Springdale.

“Because it was our pilot season, we’ve been announcing shows on an ongoing basis rather than all at once like we do for our mainstage classical series,” he explains. “This allows us to be nimble and flexible, which fits the pilot series well. However, in the future we do plan on announcing shows further out to allow more time to get out the word about the events.

“We recognize that many people have the idea that orchestral or ‘classical’ music is only presented at a large formal venue, for a specific audience already versed in the genre, and presented in only a certain time-honored way,” Nicholson goes on. “SoNA wants to shake that narrative up! We want to expand possibilities and perceptions of what a symphony is and who it serves. A symphony can commission poets, work with visual artists, present music by talented composers from all walks of life and corners of the world, collaborate with community partners, and so much more. Out of this desire to move beyond traditional boundaries, SoNA Beyond was born!”

But first, Mahler’s 6th Symphony closes the mainstage season with “something intensely emotional and meaningful,” says Music Director Paul Haas.

“In some ways, this season has been a celebration of human resilience, and in other ways it has honored the extraordinary sacrifices and dark times we all went through during the pandemic,” Haas elaborates. “And what better way to do all of that simultaneously than through the indescribably huge and powerful sound world of Mahler’s ‘Tragic’ Symphony. This is a perfect way for all of us to come together as a single body, to celebrate who we are and what we’ve been through.”



‘Majestic Mahler’

With SoNA

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. April 30

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $35-$57

INFO — 443-5600 or

Categories: Music