“The Amazing Orchestra”

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Texarkana Symphony Orchestra getting ready to be ‘Amazing’

-The Texarkana Gazette
by Aaron Brand, Feb 25, 2021

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The Texarkana Symphony Orchestra invites you to see symphonic music through a child’s eyes with its next concert, “The Amazing Orchestra,” on Saturday, March 6.

With a 7:30 start at the Perot Theatre, this TSO event is billed as a family concert for everyone, children to grandparents, and features a trio of talented Texarkana women. Both Mary Scott Smith and Robin Thomas play piano, while Susannah Linnett provides a poetic narrative to accompany two compositions.

On the repertoire that night are Camille Saint-Sans with “Carnival of the Animals,” Francis Poulenc with “Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D minor” and Lucas Richman’s “Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant.” Both the classic, humorous suite “Carnival of the Animals” and Richman’s piece include poetry by Jack Prelutsky.

Conductor Philip Mann says he’s excited about this program. “It’s a program that I have wanted to do for years,” he said. The focus rests on music that people of all ages and, in particular, families will enjoy.

“But just as a masterworks subscription concert, it’s a program that has three exquisite pieces of just the highest quality that feature larger-than-life, evocative characters,” Mann said, “characters that are full of wonder and kind of creatively inspired by the composers that wrote the music.”

In “Carnival of the Animals,” for example, there’s a tortoise and donkeys — “these are incredible, colorful characters that people of all ages can really like,” Mann said, adding there are characters in “Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant” that are also wildly creative, such as the Zipperpotamus.

“All these combinations of real animals and common objects,” Mann said.

Then there’s the Poulenc selection, full of incredible Parisian personages.

“Basically this is an incredibly colorful program,” Mann said. He’s using a colorful palette to introduce orchestral music to families, he said, noting the diversity of voices and instrumentation.

“In a way it would stand on its own as a masterworks concert just with the repertoire, but my vision is that it’s kind of like a young person’s concert for people of all ages,” Mann said. This is the entire experience of attending the program, he explained.

“When people arrive at the hall, we’re going to have something called an instrument petting zoo, which is an opportunity for people to see some instruments demonstrated and perhaps try some things themselves to get to know about the construction and background of instruments,” Mann said.

It’s a peek behind the curtain to express how special an orchestra is, he said. It’s a way to focus on the wonder and amazement of symphonic music.

“For me, an orchestra is not just an assemblage of instruments. It’s an extraordinary collection of diversity that becomes one of the world’s great instruments that’s capable of playing any type of music,” Mann said. “That’s kind of my vision for the program, to deepen everyone’s appreciation and wonder with our fantastic orchestra. And to give people a chance to fall in love with music again in a new way.”

Both Smith (formerly Goode) and Thomas have performed frequently with the TSO. Smith was a co-founder of the TSO. “These are familiar faces to the Texarkana Symphony audience, who will enjoy getting to see them return to the spotlight in this role,” Mann said.

Linnett will read Prelutsky verse that accompanies two numbers, and Mann helped commission “Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant” when he was associate conductor at the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. He conducted the world premiere.

“It was one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of my entire artistic career,” Mann said. Of the poet Prelutsky, Mann said he’s an octogenarian who has the wonder of a 5-year-old. “And it comes out in his poetry,” he said.

Children 12 and younger can see this concert for free.