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We had season tickets to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra back in the '80s and went to Symphony on the Prairie a few times back then, but then we moved away from Indy and could come back only occasionally. We still have two daughters and their families in the Indianapolis area, so last year I bought a Value Pack so we could all go to Symphony on the Prairie together, including our ten, nine and two year old grandchildren. We chose the concert with Maestro Urbanski, and knew right then he should be our new conductor. After our picnic and when the music started, our two year old, Izaak was running pretty wild, so I scooped him up and took him right down front and held him on my lap. He was immediately entranced by the music and kept his eyes glued on the orchestra till the end. He especially liked the young cello soloist. Maybe he'll take after his uncle, Jeremy Kincaid, who was a student of Greg Dugan and now plays contrabass with the Colorado Symphony!

Name: Carol Impola
City: Upland, IN


2 years ago | |
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My husband and I brought our two boys (ages 10 and 12 at the time) to see the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra perform Queen. We put our blankets and chairs down, ate dinner and waited for the concert to start. Our youngest wanted to go down in front of the stage when it started, so one of us went with him. Slowly, more and more people came down, and eventually our whole family was front and center. We all sang and danced through the whole concert and never went back to our chairs! It felt like a concert from when we were in college, but we were enjoying it with our two young boys, who sang and danced along with us. It was a wonderful time for all of us and a great memory. We are looking forward to Michael Cavanaugh this summer!

Name: Patti Hammerle
City: Brownsburg
2 years ago | |
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Last year I took my daughter to the symphony for the first time. It was the fourth of July and we had a fantastic evening. A small picnic and books to read while we waited and fantastic fireworks at the end of the evening. Nothing is better than laying out on the grass listening to the symphony

Name: Emily Barrow
City: Noblesville


2 years ago | |
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Hard to believe, but the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's Marsh Symphony on the Prairie series is celebrating its 30th season this summer.

It's funny how much has changed (the orchestra under a tent ca. 1986).

Symphony on the Prairie ca. 1986

And what still remains the same (our Nike swooshes and bangs are smaller now, but thank goodness you can still sit back, relax and listen to great symphonic music under the stars).

Symphony on the Prairie ca. 1984

What are your memories of Symphony on the Prairie through the years?  Do you have a favorite performance?  A funny experience?  Do you have a classic recipe for Symphony on the Prairie picnicking?  Tell us your story and you could win one of our great prizes.  Click on the Symphony on the Prairie graphic to the right of our blog page, fill out the online form (and include photos!) and submit!  Your blog entry will appear in this space, and winners will be chosen on June 24. 

Have fun and good luck!
2 years ago | |
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I was running with complete focus, I was running at a faster pace than in any race I had run before, and I was...twisting my ankle?! When my dad and I decided to run the ISO's Circle the City race last year, that was certainly not the ending we had imagined! While I had pictured racing to the end, my reality was walking across the line, upset that my injury had ruined the race for both my running partner and me.

As we drove home, looking at my race number, I saw that attached to it was admission to a Symphony on the Prairie concert. "Look at the bright side, at least we get to go to a concert!" Dad said in an attempt to distract me from the ice on my ankle.

A few weeks later, we made our inaugural trip to see the Classical Mystery Tour performing at Symphony on the Prairie. My father is a lifelong fan of The Beatles, so I had a funny feeling that this was the concert we would choose to attend. As a child, I was even sung songs like "Octopus's Garden" and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in lieu of traditional lullabies. We knew this was a father/daughter experience we could not pass up. I will never forget what it looked like walking into the concert. We had mistakenly expected a small crowd, but instead were greeted with thousands of fellow fans. "This looks more like a festival than a concert!" I said as we made our way to the lawn to set up chairs. I remember taking out my cell phone to try to take a picture of just how many people were there celebrating, but no picture could ever do the atmosphere of Symphony on the Prairie justice.

We settled in to hear the Classical Mystery Tour's amazing renditions, but not before giving in to the temptation coming from the booths of food set up around us. With twist ice cream cones in hand, we were blown away by the the performance, the upbeat atmosphere, and the quality of the sound. As we listened to the music we were amazed by the clarity of the sound...we loved picking out the individual instrument lines which make The Beatles music so famous! Our Symphony on the Prairie experience is one I will never forget. It was such a fun, welcoming environment and provided a great night of family entertainment for a daughter and her dad. Symphony on the Prairie gave us a new family tradition that we will enjoy for years to come. The race certainly did not turn out as I had expected, but the time we had as a result more than made up for it.

Name: Katie Hill
City: Lafayette
2 years ago | |
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David GloverThe final Symphonic Hits of the season is upon us, and in fact, it's the final week of the Indianapolis Symphony Orcehstra's Classical Season.  Next week, summer officially begins with the Indianapolis Symphony's move out to the Prairie.  For this last concert, we're hearing Beethoven's final two symphonies led by Music Director Emmeritus, Raymond Leppard. 

These two works are as different as they could be.  The 8th Symphony is bubbly and delightful (it even lacks a slow movement), and imitates the simpler and more elegant style of the 18th century.  The ninth is large, brooding and groundbreaking with its introduction of a chorus into the symphonic world.  Ten years separate the premiers of the two symphonies (1814 and 1824), and during this interval, Beethoven's life is in turmoil.  This stretches over the time from his obsession with the often mentioned Immortal Beloved (some of you might remember the 1994 movie of the same name), to a nasty custody battle over his nephew, as well as through many illnesses.  This tumultuous life (not to mention his difficult personality) along with his deafness, has made him one of the most discussed and written about composers in history. 

Beethoven's HairAs a reflection of this, this week the ISO has partnered with book clubs from across Indianapolis to read the book Beethoven's Hair before coming to hear our performances.  The book simultaneously follows Beethoven's final years, as well as the journey of a lock of Beethoven's hair which falls into the hands of two Beethoven enthusiasts with the unforgettable names of Che Guevara (no, not the Cuban revolutionary), and Ira Brilliant.  They have the lock DNA tested and the book describes their findings in terms of what they discover about Beethoven's health and cause of death.  It's a fascinating book for anyone interested in learning more about Beethoven the man, and just one example of the volumes of great stuff that has been written on Beethoven.  For a closer look at the Ninth, I would also recommend this book, The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824, which chronicles the premier of the symphony (something I will be talking about quite a bit at Sound Off this week) as well as the conditions in Vienna and around Europe when this seminal work was written.  We hope to continue this partnership with local book clubs next year, so stay tuned for more info. 

This weekend's performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday night at the Hilbert Circle theater and 7 p.m. at the Palladium in Carmel.  Hope to see you there.

2 years ago | |
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I simply went backstage for a picture or two.  Two hours later, I learned more about rigging than I ever wanted to know and gained even a greater appreciation for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's crazy-smart stage crew.

Cirque de la Symphonie is this weekend (and few tickets are left - hurry!), and there's more to this show than meets the eye.  When I learned that the aerialist was in the house and that the crew was installing his pulley system, I had to snap a few photos.  Here's the Cliffs Notes version to what happened on Wednesday.

3,000 pounds of weight
3,000 pounds of weight, standing by.

Door to theatre
The door has to come off its hinges, so the aerialist and other performers can easily go to and from the stage. 

lots of plywood, straps and screws
A thick stack of plywood is mounted to the floor and then is weighted down with those 3,000+ pounds of weights (below).

A mean game of Tetris
(this was actually a mean game of Tetris)

Floor support
So, Indianapolis Symphony stagehand Mike Harmeson tells me that you can't put 3,000 lbs. of weight on the Hilbert Circle Theatre stage without support. Next to our spare piano underneath the stage, you'll see we've got some support in place.

Testing!

Ready for a test by Russian aerial artist Alexander Streltsov.

And away we go!

And poof!  All systems a-go!

You don't see these guys when you're sitting in the audience. But this weekend, as you watch these amazing artists perform these daredevil-like feats, remember that it's only possible with a stagecrew team of lighting, sound and engineering experts...right here at the ISO.



2 years ago | |
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David Glover

"Give it more vowel," Assistant Artistic Director Michael Davis implores the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir.  "A little longer - really full," he coaxes.  "Keep everything going." 

This past Tuesday I found the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir hard at work, preparing for next week's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performances of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.   Watching them, I was struck by how much time and effort goes into preparing for a work as grand as this one.  

The work starts weeks, months, and in some cases, years before the performances.  It really begins with the hours of work all musicians put in to learn their craft, but more specifically it involves individual practice on the Beethoven, to make sure all the notes are learned.  The orchestra puts in time with their parts, the chorus learns text and music, the vocal soloists coach the roles with their own staff, and the conductors study the score, playing it through at the piano and analyzing the form and structure.   

Finally, when we get close to the performance, the chorus gets to work first, rehearsing on their own, as I found them this past Tuesday night.  They then meet with Maestro Raymond Leppard, the Indianapolis Symphony's Conductor Laureate, next Tuesday before finally getting with the orchestra on Wednesday.  Don't forget the chorus consists entirely of volunteers who give their time and energy to our performances.  Next week they will be rehearsing or performing six out of seven nights.  Many of them come directly from a full day work and still give 100% through the three hours of warm-up and rehearsal.  We couldn't perform these great choral masterpieces without their dedication! 


ISC Rehearses Beethoven Nine

Once we get everyone together, the hard work is out of the way.  Since everyone knows their own parts so well, Maestro Leppard will then be able to take the time to mold the 200 or so musicians into one unit, as well as put his own interpretation on the work.  By Friday night everything will be set, and we can relax (hopefully!) and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  

Next week we have an extra challenge of playing in two very different theaters, the Hilbert Circle Theater and the Palladium.  Because the sound is so different between the two, the players have to make adjustments on the fly, using their best judgment as they hear the sound coming back to them in the room.  Luckily, we do have an extra rehearsal in Carmel since this is the first time Orchestra and Chorus will perform together in the Palladium.  Wherever you choose to hear this performance, you won't want to miss our season finale!  The ISO and ISC perform Beethoven's Symphony Nos. 8 and 9 conducted by Raymond Leppard June 17 and 18 at the Hilbert Circle Theater (7:30 PM) and June 19 at the Palladium (7PM).  


2 years ago | |
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I'm gladly turning over my blog to our very own Principal Viola Michael Isaac Strauss, who performs as soloist this weekend alongside ISO Concertmaster Zach De Pue. Mike and Zach will be playing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. This will be the first time the pair has played this piece together.

Zach and MikeThe Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364 (320d), is a work that is dear to my heart. I have played the work with over half a dozen violinists. These performances with Zach De Pue are the first time I've played the work with him with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and represent the third ISO violinist that I've played with, as I previously performed the work with Hidetaro Suzuki and Philip Palermo. The difference this time is that we do not have a conductor with us. It will be more of a chamber music effort with the orchestra. That in itself will be very exciting for us as performers.

It is amazing to me that Mozart wrote this work when he was 20 years old. We have this perception that when he put his mind to a composition, he automatically came up with perfection. In this case, it is not true. He actually fooled around with this work for quite awhile before finally settling on the format of using the violin and viola only along with a small, string dominated orchestra. His conception for this piece probably came from his good friend and chamber music partner Carl Stamitz, who was the founder of the modern school for string playing in Mannheim, Germany... labeled "The Mannheim School." Mozart apparently tried incorporating a solo cello into the mix, different orchestrations and the like before settling and completing his masterpiece as we now know it. An interesting fact about the orchestration is that there are actually two tutti viola parts, which splits the viola section in half. But hey, the more the merrier I say, especially with regard to the violas.

I have a love for Stamitz as well, as I had the opportunity to record one of his concertos for viola, and his son Charles' Concertante for Violin and Viola a number of years ago in Chicago with my good friend, Desiree Ruhstrat. The experience of studying the composers that were participating in this new, "modern" way of approaching the instrument has been a great one for me. The list of the "classical" music world's composers associated with the Mannheim School, that have written Viola Concertos that I have performed, are Carl and Charles Stamitz, Zelter (Mendelssohn's teacher), Dittersdorf, Wanhal, Hoffmeister and Mozart. The ironic thing some 250 years later,is that we have labeled all serious concert music, from Monteverdi through Philip Glass, as "classical music." In fact, at the Indianapolis Symphony, we are also at fault by using the label with regard to our "Classical" series. The general population generalizes that this is a correct label, and that this music is "old," sedate and stuffy. In fact, the Mannheim School of music making that dominated the "classical" period was actually a hugely controversial and revolutionary movement in music that broke with a multitude of ingrained habits, and tried to create a voice for the popular culture of its time. Classical music making had everything to do with bravura, technical fireworks, and introducing modern topics that were considered scandalous in public. This piece by Mozart was one of the shining examples of this kind of daring music making. From its heart-on-sleeve harmonies, to its romantic love duets, and finally with its "Mannheim School" stamp at the end of the piece, it was instantly successful with the general public.

Listen for Zach and I to play these crazy, rising arpeggios at the end of the third movement, that culminate with a final declaration. This technique was labeled a "Mannheim Rocket" back in the day, and created quite a frenzy in the audience whenever anyone attempted it. I assure you this piece is anything but sedate and stuffy. Eh, don't take my word for it, come downtown and hear for yourself. This piece will give you a different ear for the word "classical." The performance will definitely give you a different look and listen for what the ISO is capable of on stage!

Title: Sinfonia concertante
Artist: Mozart


2 years ago | |
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David GloverI've been really looking forward to this week's Symphonic Hits concert for a long time.  While I love the music we play week in and week out, it's nice when the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra turns to something that is a bit different from its usual stomping grounds.  This week's concert includes the Vivaldi Four Seasons which comes from the Baroque Period in music history, and it's one that we here at the ISO don't often get to visit.  The Four Seasons is of course one of the most famous works of music ever written.  You hear it everywhere from TV ads to background music in restaurants.  The Weather Channel even used the "Winter" movement for its local weather segments in the '90s.  For a piece of "classical" music, it sure has rather wide popular recognition.  

It's therefore rather amazing that as recently as the 1940s, almost no one had ever heard of this piece or its composer for that matter.  Like many Baroque composers, Vivaldi had fallen out of favor over the course of the 19th and early 20th century, but unlike Handel and Bach who never completely disappeared, Vivaldi had all but been forgotten for nearly two hundred years.  It was only thanks to a few hardworking musicologists and a recording of the Four Seasons in 1942 by Bernardino Molinari, that the work and its composer were rescued from obscurity.  I find it quite fascinating that over the remaining decades of the 20th century, this work from 1725 grabbed the public's attention so strongly.  It is now claimed to be the most recorded piece of Classical Music with more than 100 different versions available.  I think what speaks to us through the centuries is Vivaldi vigorous rhythmic drive.  Check out the visceral excitement created by Vivaldi's use of endlessly virtuosic scales to describe the torrents of water at the end of "Summer."



Another unique aspect to this weekend's concert is the absence of a conductor.  At the time the Four Seasons was written, conducting was still in its infancy.  How an orchestra was led varied considerably depending on the orchestra and the work being performed.  Sometimes there was a rudimentary conductor who would often beat time out loud!  Other times it was lead by the harpsichordist, a staple of every Baroque orchestra, or by the first violin or soloist.  While we don't know how the first performances of the Four Seasons were led, it would be a reasonably good guess that it was played and led by Vivaldi himself.  For our performances this week, Zach De Pue, our Concertmaster and soloist, will be leading the orchestra, giving it an extra layer of authenticity! ??Finally, I don't want to leave out mention of the other half of the concert, Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra, which will be performed and led by Zach De Pue and the ISO's principal Violist, Michael Strauss.  Michael will also by my guest this week at Sound Off where we'll be discussing the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, as well as looking at Vivaldi a bit more in-depth.  I hope to see you there!
2 years ago | |
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