The symphony plays Pops!

Broadway classics, other dance music on tap for Saturday concert

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001

With its first summer concert the Juneau Symphony hopes to expand its offerings - and its appeal.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, in the ballroom of Centennial Hall. Music selections include two medleys of dance music from classic Broadway shows, "My Fair Lady" and "South Pacific," and waltzes, polkas and tangos by artists such as Tchaikovsky and Johann Strauss the younger.

"We wanted to do a type of program that might attract people that had never come to the symphony before," said Kyle Wiley Pickett, music director for the symphony. "Doing the Broadway stuff gives people (an) in - everybody knows 'I Could Have Danced All Night.'"

The concert was made possible in part by the tremendous success of the past symphony season, Pickett said. Attendance increased steadily throughout, with the final show selling out for the first time in the organization's history.

"It was our plan in the next couple years to do a summer pops concert," Pickett said. "But we had such a hugely successful season and there was just a real request for us to play again before the start of our next season."

The concert is geared toward a general audience; families are encouraged to bring picnics and eat on the grass outside Centennial Hall before the concert begins, said Jetta Whittaker, symphony administrator.

"It's just a 'bring your own' thing," she added. "If the weather's good, come and eat on the lawn, kind of like a little Folk Festival event."

Sparkling cider and hors d'oeuvres from the Silverbow Bakery will be on sale during intermission. The ballroom has been arranged in a style reminiscent of that favored by the Boston Pops orchestra, with a row of 12 tables ringing a dance floor.

"We're calling that premier seating," Whittaker said with a laugh.

Seating at the tables is $100, which includes admission for four and complimentary hors d'oeuvres.

General seats are angled behind the tables. Organizers are preparing for 600 to 700 people.

"The sight line should be good for everybody," Whittaker said.

Plenty of space is left for dancing, which Pickett and Whittaker emphasized as one of the focuses of the evening.

"It's one of the few opportunities (people) get to dance to a full orchestra playing symphony music," Pickett said. "I want people to bring their kids - I don't care if the kids run around on the floor , or dance, spin around and move."

"it's nothing like dancing to records," Whittaker added. "Dancing to live orchestral music is pretty great."

Pickett hopes the familiarity of the pieces will add to the light atmosphere.

"One of the challenges we face ... is this perception people have that if they go, it will be unfamiliar, they won't know any of the music," he said. "I always try to say, 'You know a lot more classical music than you think you know.'"

He pointed to Tchaikovsky's waltz from "Sleeping Beauty" as an example. The piece was used in Disney's animated version of the classic fairy tale.

"They're the kind of things everybody's going to know immediately, whether they know the name or not," Pickett said.

The symphony is also forgoing its usual attire of concert black.

"It fits with the Boston Pops kind of thing," Whittaker said. "It's a more casual atmosphere."

"We really want people to just come and have a good time," Pickett added. "Come as they are, they don't have to dress up. It's not a formal affair."

Tickets for the concert are on sale now at Hearthside Books. The cost in advance is $15 general admission, $12 students/seniors and $8 children. Prices go up $3 at the door.

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