It seems intimidating: The bright lights lining the marquee, the grand hall, and a proscenium stage filled with impeccably dressed instrumentalists playing classical music. But the symphony isn’t just for the overly sophisticated. It’s available for all, with a wealth of diverse offerings for Chattanoogans to wet their symphonic whistle.
There’s something to be said for rock and roll, for country and bluegrass, but if you’ve never ventured into the world of classical music, there’s no time like the present—the hands-on present.
In this spirit, the lights of the Tivoli, the starched collars, slacks and dresses, will give way to bright sunshine, T-shirts and blue jeans. For the second year, the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra has invited musicians from the community to join professional members of the CSO in the event “Play Along with the CSO” at the Chattanooga Market on Mother’s Day, May 11.
The CSO, conducted by Music Director Kayoko Dan, consists of top players from the Chattanooga area as well as from across the country. The community musicians, some who have played in bands or orchestras in their earlier lives or who have chosen alternate careers but still carry a torch for making music, come from all walks of life, and range in age from 18 to 90 years old.
“It’s such a wide variety of ages. We think that’s cool,” says Samantha Teter, director of marketing and corporate partnerships for the CSO. The CSO is excited to welcome these community members to share the stage with their veteran professionals, she explains, and to introduce Chattanoogans to something they may not otherwise experience. Musicians will play in one of three performances on the First Tennessee Pavilion stage, at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Music to be presented includes: Grieg’s Suite No. 1 from “Peer Gynt”, Movement 4: “In the Hall of the Mountain King”; Elgar’s Variation IX (Nimrod) from “Enigma Variations”; Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from “Rodeo”; and John Williams’ “Imperial March” from “Star Wars”.
This year, in contrast with last year’s event, participants receive coaching from the principal players, allowing the community players to gain a little extra confidence (and encouragement). In order to distinguish the CSO members from the community players, the former will perform in black T-shirts, the latter in red, letting them steal the spotlight.
“It’s a fun event. The musicians really like it,” Teter says. Plus, she mentions, “the Market’s very excited to have us out there.”
Members of the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra Youth Orchestra ensembles will be showcasing their talents as well inside the First Tennessee Pavilion at 11:30 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. They will also present an instrument “petting zoo” from 1 - 3:30 p.m.
“Play Along With the CSO” is modeled after a similar event put on by the Baltimore Symphony, called “Rusty Musicians”, and much like that program, is intended to build community and foster a greater interest in and appreciation for the symphony orchestra. Though she is quick to point out that the CSO would not be viable without the support of the community through ticket sales and donations, Teter says, “We’re trying to find more ways to get the symphony to connect to the community…connect with the audience,” but without funding, community events are much less feasible.
“We try to do events like this to create more awareness. The symphony is here in town for them. We’re here for the community. Whether or not [those who attend the “Play Along” event] ever end up being ticket buyers, we still want them to experience the symphony and hear us perform,” Teter says.
“Play Along With the CSO” is an exhilerating experience for musicians and music lovers alike, and an opportunity for a community that may not be as well-versed in symphonic performances to get a taste of the beauty, power and relatability of the CSO. And it’s a great Mother’s Day out!
If you like what you hear, be sure to visit the CSO’s website, chattanoogasymphony.org, for information on upcoming performances, community events and other opportunities to support the Chattanooga Symphony.