Audience Accessibility a Refrain in San Antonio Symphony’s 2018-19 Season

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The San Antonio Symphony rehearses for an upcoming concert at the Tobin Center.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The San Antonio Symphony rehearses for an concert at the Tobin Center.

After a season of tumult and renewal, the San Antonio Symphony is ready to celebrate its 80th anniversary by embarking on its future as “the people’s symphony.” Given the desire to broaden its audience to attract new donors and ticket-buyers, “accessibility” is now a word heard frequently in terms of Symphony programming.

“All the programming is very accessible, so people who have not been to the Symphony, this is the time to go,”said Karina Bharne, the Symphony’s interim executive director. “You will know the pieces, and you will enjoy them.”

The 2018-19 Symphony season will feature such “greats” as pianist André Watts, orchestral classics such as Beethoven’s Pastorale, and journeys through the musical palates of Italy, France, and Spain, with pieces by Rossini, Debussy, and Manuel De Falla, in a three-part Spring Culinary Festival that recognizes San Antonio’s status as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.

“We’ll start right off hitting the ground running with André Watts playing the Grieg, a very well-known, very accessible piano concerto,” Bharne said. Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor is accompanied in the season-opening Sep. 21-22 program by Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.

On Sept. 28-30, the Symphony’s second concert of the new season will feature Star Wars: A New Hope, with film composer John Williams’ classic melodies played live by the full orchestra along with the classic 1977 film. For the first time, the movie concert will take place at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, the Symphony’s regular home, with Friday and Saturday evening shows and a Sunday matinee.

Pops concerts include “Sinatra and Beyond” on Jan. 18-19, and young Broadway vocal talent Michael Cavanaugh singing the popular songs of Billy Joel on March 15 and 16.

Bharne encouraged a “try it, you might like it” attitude among would-be and first-time ticket buyers. “We want to be inclusive,” she said. “The programming for next season takes into consideration people who are interested in just trying it out. I think we have a good season for that.”

Yet, Bharne said, the programming offers balance to regular patrons. “I believe with the repertoire we’ve chosen for next year, we are on sound footing, with some ‘greatest hits’ and some pieces that have not been heard here before.”

The greatest hits category will include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 Pastorale, with Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante on the Nov. 9-10 program. For the Jan. 11-12 concert, Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 491 accompanies Brahms’ Symphony No. 4.

Heard perhaps less frequently are Toru Takemitsu’s Nami No Bon on the Nov. 16-17 program, alongside the more familiar Bernstein Serenade; Elgar’s Enigma Variations on Mar. 1-2, restored from a canceled concert earlier this year; and De Falla’s El Amor Brujo in the “Savor Spain” program of April 12-13, 2019.

Two other culinary-themed programs, “Tuscan Tours of Taste” on March 29-30, and “Flavor France” on April 5-6, will also take lighthearted tours of European food and music, with the Guadalupe Dance Company performing during the Spanish evening.

Even the familiar might be new to San Antonio. Guest conductor and harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell will play six Brandenburg Concertos on Feb. 8-9. “The Brandenbergs haven’t been done here for quite some time,” Bharne said.

Kathleen Weir Vale, the Symphony’s board chair, also promised “some very exciting surprises in each concert,” but would not reveal specifics.

Additional details of the season are still being worked out, Bharne said, including potential community concerts similar to those offered last month at Palo Alto College and Edgewood Independent School District. “We’re looking to get ourselves out there,” she said.

Subscription renewals will become available in the middle of next week, Bharne said, and regular tickets are set to go on sale Aug. 1. Further information will be posted on the Symphony website as it becomes available.

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