Try being all things to everyone, the old saw goes, and you become nothing for no one.
Count on the Utah Symphony to put that cliché to rest. Then again, they have a large cast helping them out this summer season. It’s that time of year when the state’s most venerated musical institution falls prey to the “kitchen sink syndrome,” then pulls it off with typical aplomb. There are nostalgia acts. There are pops concerts. There are country singers backed by symphony strings. There are Broadway singers. And, of course, the Utah Symphony hauls out the canons once more for Tchaikovsky’s loud, if a little labored, “1812 Overture.”
And because most of these concerts take place alfresco, and because it’s so damned hot, you can wear shorts and a T-shirt. Go ahead and pack that picnic basket while you’re at it.
“The symphony likes to reach as large an audience as possible without looking ridiculous,” says Jerry Ferraira, Utah Symphony’s director of marketing and communication. “We want to see the people who wouldn’t normally attend the symphony.”
That said, a quick peek under the surface of all this market maneuvering offers some telling signs about who attends what kind of concert. For anyone who thinks another summer season at the symphony holds the same old songs, there are also a few changes in the pipeline.
Conventional wisdom holds that only the senior set has enough antiquated blood running through their veins to attend strictly classical-music concerts. Conventional wisdom also holds that the younger crowd clamors for nostalgia acts featuring Broadway tunes, country crooners and jazz acts. Wrong, and wrong again.
“It’s mostly the middle-aged people in golf shirts who attend the nostalgia programs. We get a much younger audience in their 30s for the classical programs,” Ferraira says.
So, between trips to the dresser drawer in search of that perfect pair of shorts, have a gander at these:
Nostalgia or, if you must, “Pops”: Today’s cutting-edge acts are tomorrow’s nostalgia acts. Don’t faint, then, if 30 years from now Snoop Doggy Dog is on the pops circuit, touring the nation with accompaniment by local symphonies. Arlo “Alice’s Restaurant” Guthrie recently had his visage placed on a stamp. Naturally, a pops tour was the next logical step. Catch this long-haired legend with the Utah Symphony July 30 at Abravanel Hall. Or wait a day and drive to Deer Valley for his second performance, July 31. How could such nice, clean-shaven men as Flash Cadillac provide the soundtrack to a harrowing film like Apocalypse Now, then play to a seated crowd? If you play ’50s standards, it’s simple. Plus, this quartet balanced out their film career with a soundtrack to more playful film-fare like American Graffiti. All you need are two feet to tap. Flash Cadillac perform with the symphony July 9 at Abravanel Hall, and again the following day, July 10, at Deer Valley.
For moods more pastoral—nay, country—Michael Martin Murphy tips his cowboy hat with the symphony Aug. 6 at Abravanel Hall, and again Aug. 7 at Deer Valley. If the “western symphony” sound of “Carolina in the Pines” doesn’t jerk those tears, your ducts are outside in. No one with a penchant for ’60s lounge music missed Burt Bacharach’s resplendent concert with the Utah Symphony two years ago. Even if you did, there’s a way to make amends: Don’t miss Dionne Warwick, the voice behind so many Bacharach hits. After a call to her psychic, Warwick already knows the order of the program. Catch her at Abravanel Hall Aug. 13, or at Deer Valley Aug. 14.
For true fans of the musical, a great show knows no price. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get value for their money. Case in point: the symphony’s “Broadway Under the Stars,” which melds some of the best singers in the business with show tunes so lovingly familiar they practically pour into your ears. Hold still your beating heart as soprano Christiane Noll, baritone Cris Groenendaal and tenor John Ruess belt out all the Lloyd-Webber standards, plus selections from Rodgers & Hammerstein and Cole Porter. Concert dates are July 16 at Snowbird, and July 17 at Deer Valley.
Family Affairs: National pride ought to be a natural reflex, born of noble, unforced impulses. Too bad our Sen. Orrin Hatch wants to ruin all that with a constitutional amendment that will enforce patriotism by law. So enjoy our unadulterated red, white and blue, and the First Amendment for which it stands, while you can during “It’s a Grand Ol’ Flag.” This is a full menu of Sousa marches, patriotic anthems, and general all-American good vibes. Bring the whole famdamily, July 2 at Snowbird, or July 3 at Deer Valley. While you and yours are at it, add some firepower. Russian composer Pyotr Il’Yich Tchaikovsky never considered his “1812 Overture” to be one his better creations. Because of its cannon-fire orchestration, though, it’s a perennial favorite. And Lord knows that, here in the American West, we love guns. Thankfully, the symphony’s programmers rounded out this program by adding Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. You also get the work of a local talent with Henry Wolking’s Concerto for Two Pianos. The cannon’s roar Aug. 25 at Abravanel Hall, Aug. 27 at Snowbird, and Aug. 28 at Deer Valley.
Straight culture, no pops: Well, almost none. As a primarily pops conductor, Keith Lockhart is a man with two loves: pops and classics. Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story presents no arguments, simply because it’s so enjoyable. The same can be said for Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, a work as glorious as it is short. Add clarinetist Eddie Daniels to the program for a few jazz numbers, and here’s your date night. “Keith’s Classic Favorites” starts Aug. 19 at Abravanel Hall, continuing Aug. 20 at Snowbird and Aug. 21 at Deer Valley.
Finally, The Fred Hersch Trio of jazz musicians gives the symphony a rare taste of syncopated rhythms Aug. 1 at Snowbird, while our own local talent, and first prize winner of the 1999 University of Utah Piano Competition, pounds the keys to the tune of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto Aug. 12 at Abravanel Hall. Her name’s Cassandria Barlow-Martindale, and don’t be surprised if she returns next summer to risk terminal tendonitis with a performance of Rachmaninoff’s infamously difficult Third Piano Concerto.
Further information and ticket prices for all these concert events is a phone call away at 533-NOTE, for symphony tickets subscribers, or 355-ARTS.