When a power shutoff forced the cancellation of a Halloween-themed family concert, the Santa Rosa Symphony and music director Francesco Lecce-Chong decided to get a bit creative with the calendar, and reschedule it this Sunday afternoon. It’s called Halloween in January with Harry Potter, and time of year notwithstanding, audience members are invited to come in costume (there’s also an “instrument petting zoo” and photo booth). There will be a regular season concert the following weekend, with Lecce-Chong conducting works by Sibelius, Brahms, and Missy Mazzoli.
There’s more information about the concert at the Santa Rosa Symphony website.
Even when he knew his schedule wouldn’t allow him to conduct a full season last year, he wanted to make sure to focus attention on a kid’s concert. “One of the things I loved last season was getting to take over a family concert. I figured since I couldn’t take all of the classical sets, I’d come back into town and lay down the framework for how I think a family series should be run.” And that involves real music amid the fun. “Family concerts with most orchestras these days have become sort of entertainment hubs. They’ll either be some jazz, not even classical music, or they’ll be like a story, something that’s completely not about music. Just to entertain kids, it’s sort of like, ‘Parents, bring your kids, and we promise your kids will sit for an hour.’ And we do everything possible to make the kids interested for an hour, whether it has anything to do with the music or not.” So he thought the popularity of Harry Potter and the John Williams scores might get kids’ attention, but he also wanted to introduce them to something that they probably won’t have heard before. “Along with those little tidbits of Harry Potter that we’re going to do, we’re going to do a performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird (1919) suite. Big, honking piece of… you know, 22 minutes of music. I’ll break it up so that I can narratively tell the story about what’s happening. But also, it’s a great piece to teach kids how instruments create characters in the orchestra… That’s what really excites me, when I’m digging in and I’m like… Harry Potter, Firebird go perfectly together. What a great way to get them into Stravinsky. I’m doing 25 minutes of Stravinsky in a family concert, but it’s going to be awesome. One of my favorite things to do is to get kids excited about music the way I am.”