In March 2015, an unlikely collection of artists converged at the new home of Terrain for a night of music and storytelling. Hip-hop collective the Flying Spiders, electro-pop duo Water Monster, singer- songwriter Hannah Reader, writer Sharma Shields and theater director Charlie Pepiton performed original works, while the Spokane Symphony provided musical accompaniment.
This sold-out event, something of an extension of Terrain, was billed as “Uncharted,” and it represented the first collaboration between the local art collective and the Spokane Symphony. The organizers of “Uncharted” – symphony conductor Eckart Preu, the symphony’s marketing director Clint Burgess and Terrain co-founders Luke Baumgarten and Ginger Ewing – immediately knew they had something special on their hands.
“It really resonated with people,” Burgess said. “I think the excitement that bubbled up from the last event is going to carry over to this one, and I think we’ll be able to build off of that.”
“I’ve been doing art events in Spokane for a decade now, and it was the first time where I was run over with emotion,” Ewing said. “I actually started crying at the end of the night.”
“We decided in the room that night to do it again,” Baumgarten said.
For both the symphony and Terrain, “Uncharted,” which hits the Fox Theater stage on Friday night, represents a win-win partnership: Audiences who don’t normally attend symphony concerts are exposed to the orchestra, and those who wouldn’t be caught dead at a rock show have a chance to appreciate local talent.
“It means exposing younger generations who would never come through these doors (to a classical concert), and doing it in a fun, nonthreatening kind of way,” Preu said. “That was our intention: How can we get people who love Water Monster or the Flying Spiders to listen to our repertoire, even just once? And vice versa, because a lot of our audience doesn’t listen to bands like that.”
“It’s redefining peoples’ expectations, both internally and externally, about what the symphony is, what Terrain is, who these artists are,” Ewing said. “I like that we’re redefining those roles.”
Now that the event is in its second year, the organizers are changing things up a bit. This year’s event will be “an ambitious continuation of last year,” Preu said.
Part rock concert, part symphony concert and part art show, the evening will serve as a showcase for several local musicians and artists: bands Von the Baptist and Mama Doll, performance artist the Divine Jewels, poet Ellen Welcker, singer-songwriter Liz Rognes, dancer Vincas Greene and graphic novelist Simeon Mills.
Those artists will present original work conceived specifically for the event, and the evening will close out with a full symphony performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s beloved narrative composition “Peter and the Wolf.”
“It’s a well-known piece, but it’s also adventurous,” Preu said. “We threw out a bunch of ideas, and ‘Peter and the Wolf’ stuck, particularly with Luke and Ginger. I think it reminded them of their childhoods. … No matter how old you are, memories of it will come back when you hear it. We’re hoping people remember it but also rediscover it.”
This year’s concert will be as conceptual as Prokofiev’s musical story: Each distinct half of the evening’s program is designed to flow into the other, which means the original music, poems, performance art and graphics on display at the start of the show will deliberately evoke images and themes from “Peter and the Wolf.”
“The first half is going to be sort of a procession; each person’s going to do their thing,” Baumgarten said. “The second half is going to be more free flowing, especially as the nonmusical people weave their way into the musical composition. … We’re taking all of these people, none of whom have really worked together before, and having them coexist on the same stage.”
“The idea was to do something unpredictable, and to mesh things that, at first glance, don’t go together,” Preu said. “It’s getting down to the roots of music – we all play with the same notes, just in different ways and with different approaches. … It’s bringing all these genres together that usually don’t play in the same sandbox, and we basically just provide the sandbox.”