Summer nights aren’t only for rock, pop, R&B, rap and jazz — at least as far as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is concerned.
After spending the rest of the year in the stately environs of Orchestra Hall, the venerable ensemble likes to get itself into the fresh air during June, July and August, whether at county parks or its participation in Greenfield Village’s annual Salute to America Independence day program. And this week, the DSO hunkers down at its longtime summer home, Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Music Festival, for a five-concert run that will mix classical and pops and feature one premiere work.
“Outdoors, it’s kind of an entirely different atmosphere,” explains Keith Koppmeier, who was the DSO’s marketing director for three years before taking over pops programming in November. “It’s very community oriented, very family oriented.
“We find there are a lot of families who come out to Meadow Brook, a lot of kids, a lot of people coming out to sit on the lawn. A lot of our subscribers will come out, but we also have a lot of new people who ... haven’t been down to the Hall, and maybe this is their first time hearing the symphony.”
Erik Ronmark, who oversees the DSO’s classical programming, adds that the Meadow Brook dates “have always been our sort of chance to show off our classical repertoire as well as some pops. You want to show some of the staple pieces of your repertoire and maybe bring back some old favorite (performers) we haven’t seen in awhile and introduce some new things.”
Among the latter will be “... for our children’s children,” a new composition by up-and-coming composer Kenji Bunch that was commissioned last year by the Michigan Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee and will receive its DSO premiere on July 30 as part of the orchestra’s “American Celebration” program.
The piece was first performed by the Kalamazoo Symphony and will be conducted at Meadow Brook by Andrew Grams, with Michigan state Sen. Cameron Brown reading the Lincoln speech to a regiment of Ohio troops during the Civil War that inspired it.
The “American Celebration” will also feature works by Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and Ferde Grofe, as well as a performance by Chinese pianist Chu-Fang Huang.
The DSO’s Meadow Brook stand actually began Thursday, with “Oh What a Night,” a pops program built off the successful run of “Jersey Boys” in Detroit and also featuring songs by the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and others. Tonight, JoAnn Falletta will conduct an “Italian Carnival” that Ronmark says is build around Niccolo Paganini’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” and also includes Gioachino Rossini’s popular “Overture to William Tell” and pieces by Hector Berlioz and Felix Mendelssohn.
Besides the “American Celebration,” the DSO’s second Meadow Brook weekend also features a “Russian Spectacular,” also conducted by Grams and featuring pianist Huang, that includes a pair from Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — the “Sleeping Beauty Suite” and the “1812 Overture” — and selections from Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Borodin. The residency concludes with “A Night at the Movies” on Aug. 1, with Stuart Chafetz conducting selections from “Gone With the Wind,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and others.
“It’s a mish-mash of a lot of stuff,” Koppmeier says of the movie program. “We wanted to do early blockbusters like ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Dr. Zhivago,’ then move into ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Far and Away’ that young people would like to hear and ... hopefully get families to come out together.”
Koppmeier and Ronmark’s work, meanwhile, will barely be finished with this year’s program before they start working on next summer’s Meadow Brook fare.
“We start looking at Meadow Brook almost as soon as it’s over,” Koppmeier explains. “We lay some groundwork — what worked, what didn’t work, what can we do better. Then we start sitting down right after Christmas and really start to make some decisions. It’s really an ongoing process.”
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra performs four more times at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the Oakland University campus in Rochester Hills — 8 p.m. Friday, July 23, and July 30-31 and 7 p.m. Aug. 1. Tickets are $30 pavilion, $15 lawn for each show. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com or www.detroitsymphony.org.
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