In an era of iPods and satellite radio, you can get your classical jones whenever and wherever you want. So why bother with the time and hassle of live concerts?
Because when a Shostakovich quartet or a Donizetti operetta are relegated to a CD murmuring as you do your household tasks, the music scratches feebly somewhere beneath consciousness. But when you're "in the room" -- not fiddling with something else, but really listening (feeling and thinking, too), a succession of chords can clamp onto your head and heart.
Beethoven, it turns out, can rock your world.
He'll rock about 600 folks' worlds on Oct. 15, when the Big Easy hosts the Eckart Preu Band (or, if you insist, the Spokane Symphony Orchestra). With video on big screens, a light show, intoxicating beverages and a banishment of tuxedoes, "Symphony on the Edge" will deliver the classics in a rock 'n' roll atmosphere. The program includes a long list of short, accessible but edgy works by the likes of Hector Villa-Lobos, Alberto Ginastera, John Adams and some guy named Ludwig.
Preu, of course -- he pronounces it "proy" -- is the Symphony's new music director. "There's a real buzz around town because of Eckart," says marketing director Annie Matlow. "Some people have been leery of change, but as he has met them, they have seen his vibrant enthusiasm. He absolutely connects with people -- he was telling jokes at the Parks concert [at Comstock Park on Labor Day] and people loved it."
Thus it is that on Sept. 17, a German conductor and a Cuban pianist will headline the "Russian Masters" program, the first in the Symphony's Classics series. After Preu leads the SSO in Glazunov's ballet music from The Seasons, Horacio Gutierrez will offer Sergei Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. The evening concludes with the 1919 version of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, an exotic voyage among the magicians of Russian folklore.
On Oct. 8, Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante will summon forth the Symphony's principal players on violin, oboe, cello and bassoon -- respectively, Kelly Farris, Keith Thomas, and the husband-and-wife duo of John Marshall and Lynne Feller-Marshall. Jean Sibelius' Third Symphony (1907) will convey the darkness of Norse mythology and the wilds of Finland after the program begins with a ballet suite by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.
Two weeks later, 21-year-old violinist Tai Murray presents the Korngold concerto in a program called "Rhythm Is Nature." What came naturally to Erich Wolfgang Korngold was movie music -- and the concerto reflects his Warner Brothers scores of the 1930s. The program opens with a ballet suite by French composer Albert Roussel and concludes with Claude Debussy's revolutionary (for 1905) tone poem, La Mer. (This Oct. 22 Classics concert is also the first of four "Symphony YES!" events, in which children, ages 8-14, are especially invited to attend with their parents and get a behind-the-scenes look at the SSO world; on this occasion, Murray will greet kids during intermission.)
The centerpiece on Nov. 12 is Felix Mendelssohn's symphony-cantata, the Song of Praise -- the German composer's response, 16 years after the fact, to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The two movements of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony have been added to the program as well.
At the Met on Oct. 29 and Oct. 31, Preu will conduct a work you may have heard of -- Vivaldi's The Four Seasons -- and then Spokane native Stephen Drury returns to solo in Beethoven's first piano concerto.
Morihiko Nakahara of EWU returns for his second season as associate conductor and begins by leading the first two SuperPops concerts. First up is Sandi Patty, who will sing standards, songs from musicals and gospel tunes on Oct. 2. Patty's 33 Dove Awards are probably what put her in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame; she has also won five Grammys. On Nov. 6, the Dukes of Dixieland sextet will offer some New Orleans-style jazz by the likes of Fats Waller, Sidney Bechet, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton.
The Spokane Symphony isn't about to neglect your holiday music needs, either. The Alberta Ballet makes its annual journey south to join the Symphony in presenting four performances of The Nutcracker on Dec. 3-5.
On Dec. 18-19, the Spokane Area Children's Chorus and the Symphony Chorale help Preu celebrate in "Eckart's First Christmas" (At least in Spokane. He's flying home two days later to see his mother in Germany and celebrate his 34th Christmas.) Preu has selected Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, the Skater's Waltz and some of the score from Home Alone as part of this Holiday Pops concert.
If you want a seat at the first pair of Chamber Soiree concerts at the Davenport Hotel on Nov. 17-18, sorry -- you're too late. They've sold out. But gallery seats are still available. Bring a drink up from the Peacock Lounge and listen to the best of baroque, classical and contemporary chamber music in the elegant confines of the Marie Antoinette Ballroom.
The Spokane Youth Orchestra, with Verne Windham and Philip Baldwin conducting, performs on Nov. 4 at 4 pm at Central Valley High School. The SYO is joined by the Spokane Area Children's Chorus for two performances of "American Carols" on Dec. 5 at St. John's Cathedral. And
The Spokane Junior Orchestra and the Spokane Strings perform on Dec. 6 at Covenant Christian Church (on the Palouse Highway) with Carol Pederson and Faye Atwood conducting.
The Spokane String Quartet has a new violist and a new performing venue to look forward to this fall. Jeannette Wee-Yang replaces Nick Carper, joining Helen Byrne on cello and first and second violins Kelly Farris and Tana Bachman. They'll perform at the Met on Nov. 14, but they'll play at CenterStage twice, with dinner served before the performance. (Let's hope the silverware from the 5:30 pm meal stops clattering before the 7 pm concerts begin.) The SSQ season launches on Oct. 24 with a Robert Schumann quartet and American composer George Rochberg's variations on the Pachelbel Canon. The Dec. 8 program, entitled "Russia in the Dark of Winter," will feature String Quartet No. 13 by Dmitri Shostakovich and the first of Beethoven's Op. 9 quartets - also the first of his quartets to use a Russian theme.
Allegro Baroque and Beyond has added Executive Director Carla Warren to handle its marketing and development needs so that co-artistic directors Beverly Biggs and David Dutton can concentrate on being, well, artistic. Joined by guest dancers and actors, Allegro's strings, winds, trumpet and harpsichord will present Henry Purcell's King Arthur, or, The British Worthy (1691) on Friday, Oct. 15, at the Met. Purcell's opera presents Saxon sacrifices, nymphs and shepherds, a drinking song with Comus and a patriotic finale.
Allegro will also continue its Music in Historic Homes series. Evergreen boughs and the aroma of fresh gingerbread will convey the holiday spirit as you listen to piano, oboe and mezzo JoAnne Bouma in the warmth of a 1909 Craftsman home on the South Hill. "Gingerbread Holiday" features eight sittings on Dec. 7-8.
You can visit China, Vietnam and Greece this fall - and travel no further than West First Avenue. CenterStage is offering a World Music Series (four-course meal from the featured nation at 5:30 pm, concert at 7 pm). The first scheduled stop explores Chinese food and music on Oct. 17, with Warren Chang - master of the Chinese fiddle, the erhu - and his Ensemble performing. On Nov. 21, Chi Khac Ho and Ngoc Bic Hoang tell traditional Vietnamese stories and perform on handcrafted instruments. On Dec. 5, Cristos Govetas and his quintet turn CenterStage into a Greek taverna, making up for all the Olympics coverage you missed and appealing to your inner Zorba.
Opera Plus! presents Gaetano Donizetti's romantic comedy L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love) with five soloists, the Opera Plus! Chorus and the CdA Chamber Orchestra on Oct. 9-10 at NIC's Schuler Auditorium. In it, effete Nemorino is in love with a coquette named Adina, but must overcome the machinations of a con man and his oddball assistant before he can claim her as his own.
Spokane Opera will present Ann Fennessy and the Brent Edstrom Trio on Oct. 13 at Far West Billiards; on Oct. 20, they'll be at Brix in Coeur d'Alene. In addition, the Diamonds and Divas Gala and Auction will present "An Evening in Italy" at the Davenport Hotel on New Year's Eve.
The Washington-Idaho Symphony performs in the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum on the WSU campus on Saturday, Sept. 25. Selections include Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino, Walter Piston's suite from the ballet The Incredible Flutist and Dvorak's New World Symphony. The five-member British brass quintet Onyx Brass celebrates its 10th anniversary on Sept. 29 in WSU's Bryan Hall Theater. The Seattle Symphony will bring more than 40 musicians to the East Side for once, arriving at WSU just in time for Homecoming Weekend to perform at Bryan Hall. Yunjie Chen -- who, though only 24, has already performed as a soloist in Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai and all over his native China -- will deliver a recital on Nov. 10 in Kimbrough Recital Hall.
The highlights of the fall music schedule at Gonzaga include Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra concerts at the Met on Oct. 11 and Dec. 6, the University Choir and Schola performing Gregorian chant on Oct. 22 in St. Aloysius Church, a Nov. 4 Wind Ensemble concert at the Met, and the University Chorale in concert at St. John's Cathedral on Nov. 16. In addition, the GU Choir and Chorale and the Clarion Brass will present Gonzaga's annual Christmas Candlelight Concert on Dec. 3-4 in St. Aloysius Church.
On Dec. 6, John Pickett plays solo piano at the Met in a GU Music-sponsored event.
At Whitworth, the Wind Symphony's fall concert is on Nov. 14 in Cowles Auditorium. Dr. Marc Hafso conducts the annual Christmas Concerts at First Presbyterian Church on Dec. 10-11.
Over at EWU, the Music Building Recital Hall will present a choral concert on Nov. 10, an orchestral concert on Nov. 13, and a program entitled "Soundscapes" on Nov. 15.
You can sing along with the NIC Symphonic Band and NIC choral groups on Dec. 11-12 in Boswell Hall's Schuler Auditorium.
Meanwhile, Holy Names Music Center would like teach you orchestral music (Tuesdays at 6:30 pm beginning Sept. 21), choir singing (Wednesdays starting Sept. 22) or bluegrass music (Friday evenings beginning Oct. 1); fees are in the $30 per month range. On Wednesday mornings from Sept. 29-Nov. 17, children (infant-age 6) and their parents can enjoy Music Together classes.
A singing quartet consisting of Sofia, Melanie, Amanda and Justin (ages 9-15) will be performing on Nov. 16 at the Cutter Theater in Metaline Falls, Wash., and again on Nov. 17 at the Met. Never heard of them? Sure you have -- indirectly. They're the great-grandchildren of Captain von Trapp (as in The Sound of Music).
The Kiev Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Ukraine, more than 150 strong, will present music of Ukrainian native Sergei Prokofiev on Sept. 16 at the Spokane Valley Nazarene Church.
Which, of course, is tonight. The opportunities for live classical music -- not background recordings, but 3-D and full-decibel -- begin now.