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At Symphony with a Splash, eclectic lineup includes cocktails

Spokane Symphony music director Eckart Preu conducts Friday’s concert.
Spokane Symphony music director Eckart Preu conducts Friday’s concert.

The mission of Symphony with a Splash is multilayered.

The Spokane Symphony program now in its second year aims to introduce the symphony to a new crowd. It wants to show that orchestral music isn’t always antique. And it wants the audience and musicians alike to cut loose and have fun.

The symphony’s music director and conductor, Eckart Preu, said he hopes people are willing to step out of their comfort zones and try something new.

“An adventurous spirit has brought humanity quite far,” Preu said.

The event begins with a no-host cocktail party – Band, Bar and Banter – in the lobby of the Fox Theater from 5 to 6:45 p.m. Local Americana/bluegrass band Big Red Barn will set up shop in the lobby and perform a number of songs from the early- to mid-20th century. Then at 7 p.m., the symphony will take the stage for an hourlong program described as unconventional and fun.

The idea, Preu said, is to have at least one number that everyone knows. In this case, that number is the iconic “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland.

As for the other works, people may not be familiar with “Self Portrait” from “Death and Fire – Dialogues with Paul Klee,” but they probably know the composer, Tan Dun, who created the Oscar-winning score for the 2000 movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” “Self Portrait” is the work’s second movement, which says has “remarkable luminous string effects including melodies that move in parallel trills.”

“Scratchband” by John Adams (the modern American composer, not the former U.S. president) is a minimalist work that draws on the syncopated style of jazz.

The 19th century Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps famously wrote variations of the American folk tune “Yankee Doodle” while touring the U.S. and frustrated by the lackluster response he found for classical music. His “Souvenir d’Amérique” became an instant hit. The symphony’s concertmaster, violinist Mateusz Wolski, will tackle the energetic solo.

Preu looks for pieces that are “maybe a little edgy, are rhythmically driven and are appealing,” he said, adding with a laugh, “And even more so appealing when you have alcohol in you. That always helps. People are always more open-minded after a couple martinis.”

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