APO Up Close And Personal: Evening With The Maestro a ‘powerful’ experience

APO Up Close And Personal: Evening With The Maestro a ‘powerful’ experience

When Steven Byess, music director of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jason Miller, APO’s executive director, asked patrons what kinds of performances they would most like to attend and experience, “accessibility was a significant repeated theme,” Miller says.

“Many of our patrons have commented enthusiastically about how much they enjoy attending performances in venues where they are close to the performers — sometimes only 5-6 feet away from the performers — and where they feel they are a part of the performance,” Miller explains of the new direction taken by the orchestra in the last couple of years. “Attending any orchestral performance can be a thrilling experience, but attending an APO performance is an extraordinary and overwhelming sensory experience especially because our patrons are so physically connected to the performers.”

Many times, those performances — including the one coming up July 15 — offer more than music. For this Evening With the Maestro, for example, award-winning Executive Chef Steven D. Brooks collaborated with Byess to bring patrons a five-course dinner themed “The Summer Peach” paired with selections from Onward Wines. The event will be highlighted by guest performer Karen Mason, who starred as Madame Giry in the North American premiere tour of “Love Never Dies,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic encore to “The Phantom of the Opera,” and originated the role of Tanya in Abba’s “Mamma Mia,” for which she was awarded a 2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress.

“A ‘standard’ orchestral performance places the orchestra on a platform at a distance from the audience, and the experience can be limited because of the separation,” Miller says. “The audience is expected to watch and consume the performance from a distance. The APO works to eliminate these visual and spatial barriers and bring the performers and the listeners closer together.

“Seeing the full ensemble from a distance allows one to experience the sweep of the collective motion, but experiencing the performance in close proximity engages so many more senses and allows the audience to be more closely connected to the music, the performers, and their performance,” he elaborates. “Also, Maestro Byess introduces each selection of our performances from the stage, gently guiding the audience to listen for specific elements and highlighting particular moments that enhance the listening and emotional experiences. The feedback from our patrons about these insightful listening and experiential suggestions has been very enthusiastic.”

A 14-time MAC Award winner and the recipient of the 2019 MAC Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, Karen Mason also won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. During An Evening With the Maestro July 15, she’ll perform classic songs like “It Had to Be You,” “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and “When You Wish Upon A Star” with musicians from the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra. (Courtesy Photos)

Miller notes that while “full orchestra programs deliver powerful sonic experiences from the sheer number of performers in the orchestra,” “some of the most exquisite, passionate, and tender music-making occurs in the moments when a small number of musicians play.” Paired with a vocalist who “has few peers when it comes to ripping the roof off with her amazing voice that knows no bounds,” as TheatreScene enthuses, he anticipates “a powerful and intense sonic experience.”

Miller promises four more Evenings With the Maestro this season, along with “several of the ever-popular Small Bites programs for chamber ensembles” and “an even greater array of diverse and exciting musical offerings, including three different versions and programs of ‘The Four Seasons’ featuring the APO’s extraordinary Concertmaster Er-Gene Kahng; an inventive ‘Feisty Femmes’ program presenting the world premiere of a work for contrabassoon and orchestra; a collaboration with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art featuring guest cellist Anita Graef; flutist Brian Dunbar in the Arkansas premiere of a new work for flute and orchestra by composer Carlos Simon; and the world premiere of a staged drama about the lives of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann featuring music from the four symphonies of Brahms.”



An Evening With The Maestro

WHEN — 7 p.m. July 15

WHERE — Great Hall at The Thaden School in Bentonville

COST — $150

INFO — arphil.org

Categories: Music