By Bill Blankenship
Musically, the Topeka Symphony Orchestra will boldly go where no one has gone before when it performs music from “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Battlestar Galactica” and other space-set, science-fiction movies and television series.
Kyle Wiley Pickett will conduct the orchestra when it performs its “Out of This World” pops concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, in White Concert Hall on the campus of Washburn University. Tickets are $35, $30 and $25 (half-price for full-time students) and on sale at the door 60 minutes before the concert or in advance by calling the TSO offices at (785) 232-2032.
The program will include a suite of music from John Williams’ score for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the 2015 movie that is the first of franchise’s three trilogies.
Pickett said he has been a fan of Williams’ music since his best friend got the soundtrack of the first “Star Wars” as a birthday gift.
“He and I wore that record out,” said Pickett, who added his two young sons also are fans of Williams’ movie music, such as the scores he wrote for “Harry Potter,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Jurassic Park.”
Pickett said the Topeka Symphony would be the first orchestra in the area to play music from “The Force Awakens,” which he called a “brilliant addition” to Williams’ canon.
In addition to music from other sci-fi franchises, such as “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica,” the concert also will feature the opening fanfare of Richard Strauss’ tone poem, “Sprach Zarathrusta,” which became universally known when Stanley Kubrick used it for his 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Other space-themed music will include selections from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.”
Pickett said the mix of such classical fare with music from well-known sci-fi franchises offer a good draw for first-time Topeka Symphony Orchestra concert-goers.
“Our pops concerts are always a ton of fun and a great time for anyone who hasn’t attended a symphony concert to come check us out,” Pickett said. “You’ll hear music you already know and it’ll be fun for everybody.”
School Day Concerts
The repertoire also drew around 2,500 schoolchildren Wednesday to the Topeka Performing Arts Center for the Topeka Symphony Orchestra’s 19th annual School Days Concerts.
Through the sponsorship of Kaw Valley State Bank, Cox Communications, Union Pacific Foundation, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Security Benefit, SE2, Westar Energy Foundation and Federal Home Loan Bank, the symphony was able to present the concerts at no charge to the schools and home-schooled children, most of whom were fifth- through eighth-graders.
Pickett said his main goal at these concerts was to make them a fun experience for the youngsters, recalling when as a youth orchestra member in high school, he was a volunteer at a concert for youngsters during which the conductor stopped the program and berated the audience for being too noisy, telling them he wouldn’t proceed until there was quiet.
Even though Pickett was in high school at the time, he remembers thinking, “We’ve just turned off thousands of kids forever” to orchestral music.
Pickett called the School Day Concerts forward-looking.
“Playing for kids is a real long-term investment in our audiences and in the future of live orchestral music,” he said. “And one of the big reasons for that is if you’ve never sat in the audience and seen an orchestra play, later on in life you’re kind of unlikely to go and make that leap into something that unfamiliar.¨
In addition to wanting young people to see that orchestral music is fun to listen to, Pickett said he also wants children to see it can be fun to play musical instruments.
Before Wednesday’s concerts, some orchestra members strolled the aisles of TPAC to give the children closeup looks at their instruments and let them see how they are played and what the sound like. From the stage, Pickett asked the youngsters to raise their hands if they played an instrument and said he hoped to see some of them on stage as future members of the Topeka Symphony Orchestra.
Young Artist Competition winner
Saturday’s concert will feature one young musician who has already demonstrated a bright future in the world of classical music.
Shwetha Ramachandran, a junior at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, will perform with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra as the winner of its 64th annual Young Artist Competition.
Ramachandran, the daughter of Renuka and Murali Ramachandran and student of Tatiana Ioudenitch, will perform with the orchestra he first movement of Frederic Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11, the piece she performed to win the keyboard division of the Young Artist Competition, as well as the overall title.
“We are always delighted to share the stage with our Young Artist winner,” Pickett said. “I have been consistently impressed with the level of student musicians we have been able to showcase, and I think audiences are going to be truly amazed at Shwetha’s piano virtuosity.”
A representative of Capitol Federal will present awards at Saturday’s concert to Ramachandran and the other division winners:
- Peter Sandquist, a Topeka High School junior, who won the strings division. The son of Art and Carolyn Sandquist and student of Alice Joy Lewis performed the opening movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219.
- Kolby Van Camp, a Topeka home-schooled senior and son of Tracy Van Camp, who won the vocal division. The student of Christopher Reed sang “Why do the nations so furiously rage?” from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” and “It is enough! O Lord, now take away my life” from Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.”
- Lillian Wen, the winner of the winds/percussion division and a Washburn Rural High School senior who plays flute. The daughter of Erin Win who studies with Sara Frisof performed “A Night Piece” by Arthur Foote.
Prior to the concert, at 6:30 p.m. in the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center, which is across the street from White Concert Hall, Pickett will present a “Concert Conversation” about the evening’s program. The talk is free to concert ticket-holders.