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Karen Lynne Deal is the director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.
By Terry Farmer | SUBMITTED
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Orchestrating color
Symphony director plans vivid changes for this season
By Janet Seitz Carlson

Illinois Symphony Orchestra Music Director Karen Lynne Deal, among other feats, is aiming to line up the planets for this coming symphony season. That's just part of the gravitational pull for attention.

Symphonygoers will see a switch from last year's presentations that focused on guest artists such as the Van Cliburn winners. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is a competition and festival dedicated to music and the discovery of the world's finest young pianists. The ISO was the only orchestra in the country to host all six winners.

This year, Deal says, each of the programs has "a large, colorful orchestral composition. A lot of these pieces would be considered in the top 10. It'll be a season with something to enjoy for those who always go to concerts but also something for drawing in new audiences, especially those in their 20s and 30s."

Deal wants potential newcomers to know that attending a concert doesn't mean they need to know the music pieces or dress in a tux or evening gown. "We're trying to break down those misconceptions and to have music that's appealing to everyone," Deal explains.

Deal likens the "colorful" aspect of music to that of a movie score. "It paints a mental picture of what's transpiring," she says. Other artistic elements will be added to round out the experience. For example, Masterworks II/The Butterfly Lovers Concerto will be very lively with lots of instruments to indicate action. The piece is a Chinese version of "Romeo and Juliet" whose characters' spirits turn into butterflies. Narration will accompany some of the performance, and Deal says they hope to have a young child on the stage to read the story for a time.

At that same performance, Ravel's "Mother Goose Suite" will cover various tales, again executed in auditory color. Listeners will understand "Beauty" from the violin and the "Beast" in the contrabassoon.

"It's fun for the listener of any age and maturity," Deal says.

But the last performance of the season may be the big bang as planets and percussion pervade the symphony universe. Holst's "The Planets," a very popular orchestral piece according to Deal, will be accompanied by a large screen multimedia production with 3-D projection of the solar system prepared from NASA video.

The artistic-sensual augmentation to this year's season "enhances the experience," Deal explains. That's important, she emphasizes, to make regular concertgoers happy with great music and new experiences, and it's necessary to developing new audiences. "We're very visually oriented these days with shorter attention spans. We need combination of the arts - one that doesn't detract from the music. You can shut your eyes and hear interaction, but the video will enhance. We've seen others around the country incorporating other things like this and seeing success."

Building new audiences comes from expanding on the tried and true and starting at an early age. The ISO's planned Mini Maestro series will target three different 90-minute "play days" to introduce young children to music. The events will include creating instruments, learning about them and talking with musicians.

Attendance at ISO events is increasing, Deal reports, but the group continues to work to fill seats. "Few communities have an orchestra of this quality, and we're lucky to have people to thank for their contributions and help us defy the odds in a small community.  

"It's more and more important as a community to embrace the arts for ourselves, kids, and growth in the community at large," Deal says. "If you look through history, the arts always remain. Art is what defines a culture. Arts and music are vital to our lives. It allows us to express ourselves emotionally. ...We need as a population to be creative. That's what life is about-new creation every day."  

For the ISO this season, creation and some celestial forces will be at work.

2008-09 ISO programs

Saturday, Nov. 15

Masterworks II/The Butterfly Lovers Concerto

Friday, Dec. 5

Illinois Chamber Orchestra II /A Candlelight Concert 

Saturday, Dec. 20

Home for the Holidays - Holiday Pops

Friday, Jan. 23, 2009

Illinois Chamber Orchestra III /Beautiful Classics

Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009

Masterworks III/Lincoln Bicentennial

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pops II/Gershwin at the Pops

Friday, March 20, 2009

Chamber IV/Tall Tales and American Legends

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Masterworks IV/Brahms Requiem

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Masterworks V/The Planets

 

 

 

Story published Friday, November 7, 2008 ( Volume 3, Number 6 )

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