RSO Season To Run The Gamut, Feature Big Broadway Star As Bonus

Mar 2, 2016

Kristin Chenoweth
Credit ICM Partners

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra announced the lineup for its next season Tuesday.  The RSO’s executive director is Julie Thomas.  She’s excited about a special concert, and a special guest performer, added to the 2016-2017 season.

“Without a doubt, having Kristin Chenoweth as a special performance part of our season is something very new and exciting for our orchestra.  Kristin is an Emmy and Tony Award winning actress. She’s definitely a superstar in the Broadway world, and to have her come perform with the orchestra is really significant.  I think we’re going to draw people from all across the state and the region to come and hear the orchestra with her,” Thomas says.  

Chenoweth’s appearance isn’t the only thing Thomas is looking forward to.  

“I’m really excited about the pops series,” she says. “The pops series will be a really big draw for people those who haven’t been to the orchestra before.  It’s a great way to introduce yourself to orchestral music.  We always have our traditional holiday pops. But in the fall we have a night of symphonic rock.  So there’s a lot of familiar music - classic rock from the 70s and 80s, set with an orchestra.  We have a former lead singer from Kansas and Mickey Thomas from Starship are singing with a band and orchestra, which should be great fun.  And then in the spring, we’re doing what’s called “I Hear Symphony,” which is Motown’s greatest hits. So we’re taking another genre of popular music and backing it up with orchestra.  I think it’s a little more contemporary. It’s familiar music to people and it’s the music you might have grown up with,” she  says.

So, are there highlights as far as the classics series? Sure, Thomas says.

“There’s some really great warhorses that we’re doing in the classics series, and certainly having an all-Beethoven program to start the series in October will be pretty exciting for people.  And then we’re ending with Mahler’s First Symphony. So the season starts with Beethoven and ends with Mahler, which I think really bookends a magnificent season,” Thomas says.

So what else can we look forward to?

“Our November classics concert features choruses from great operas. And of course the Mendelssohn Chorale will be joining us for that as well.  So there’ll be, you know, 150 musicians creating wonderful music, so I think that’s really a blockbuster of a show,” she says.  

And that’s not all, Thomas says.

“We are featuring Howard Levy.  He is known as the finest harmonica player in the world.  He is joining us in March to do one of his own concertos that he has written, which I think will be incredibly popular.  Violinist Ilya Kaler, his son is a very accomplished cellist and they will be performing the Brahms double concerto together, which will be pretty exciting.  He is a very high-level musician who just happens to be based in this region right now, and we are very lucky to have someone of his caliber.  And of course violinist Rachel Barton Pine is coming back,” Thomas says.

Pine has soloed with the RSO under Artistic Director Steven Larsen on a number of occasions, usually on big Romantic violin concertos. Will there be anything different this time? Yes, Thomas says. Pine will be channeling her other interests in Baroque and heavy metal music.

“Steve Larsen is very excited about the concert with her, because she’s playing three different types of instruments:  her traditional violin, a viola d’amore, and then an electric violin.  So she’ll play different pieces that highlight different instruments,” Thomas says.

Not to mention music seldom heard on a classical concert. But maybe par for the course in an RSO season that runs the gamut.