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Orchestral maneuvers

Profile image for By Cindy Breeding / Staff Writer
By Cindy Breeding / Staff Writer
Violinist Nathan Olson will be a featured soloist in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s April 7 concert at the University of North Texas.Courtesy photo
Violinist Nathan Olson will be a featured soloist in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s April 7 concert at the University of North Texas.
Courtesy photo
Tom Demer, principal violist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, is also known as a country and bluegrass fiddler.Courtesy photo
Tom Demer, principal violist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, is also known as a country and bluegrass fiddler.
Courtesy photo

Dallas Symphony takes its show just up the road

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has been packing up its concerts and touring them around North Texas for decades. The touring program, named simply “DSO on the Go,” plucks the best music of its seasons and takes it to its neighbors.

Maestro Thomas Hong, the associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony, said the majority of the orchestra will perform in the upcoming concert at the University of North Texas Murchison Performing Arts Center.

The April 7 program will be a sampling of standards, including Dvorak’s Carnival overture and selections from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story as well as folk standards such as “Orange Blossom Special” and Jay Ungar’s “Ashokan Farewell.” The program also includes music by the great American film score composers John Williams and Henry Mancini.

“We have a unique concert that is for DSO on the Go,” Hong said. “It caters to the audience that will hear it. That’s our focus, to present music that will be interesting for the community — the pieces that really connect with the general public, like Dvorak’s New World Symphony. That music always resonates with any audience. It was part of a gala concert this year that the symphony did.

“We select music with an audience [in mind] that enjoys classical music, but the tunes are very familiar and there is a natural beauty about it.”

Dallas Symphony violist Tom Demer will trade his viola for the fiddle on the afternoon concert in Denton. In addition to the two solos he’ll perform, Demer will also perform a medley of old-time music, a form that predates the bluegrass Demer often plays.

“In orchestral playing, you’re playing in a section with 11 other people and you’re trying to play as if you were one instrument,” Demer said. “And then, in fiddling, you aren’t reading the music and you aren’t blending with the other instruments. You’re composing on the fly. You don’t do that as a classical orchestral player because the job forbids it.”

Demer’s solos should give local Americana lovers an appreciation for the range and imagination a classically trained pit musician can have.

“Playing to a steady rhythmic groove — well, many orchestral string players don’t think about that,” Demer said. “But I’m always looking for a backbeat and trying to get in the pocket. Even in a Mozart or Beethoven symphony.”

The DSO on the Go program is a community outreach, and Chris Shull, the director of publications for the symphony, said the organization has been staging community concerts in this format since at least the 1960s.

“The most popular of these are our annual free outdoors parks concerts, usually four to six each year in neighborhood parks and this year the campus of Paul Quinn College,” Shull said.

“DSO on the GO is new and different in that we are presenting our concerts in acoustically rich concert halls and sanctuaries, and seek to replicate the concert experience of the Meyerson [Symphony Center] in the various towns and communities,” he said. “These concerts are ticketed, with proceeds returning to the DSO, after minimal expenses at each of the halls.”

The symphony covers the cost of these “neighborhood” concerts, as Maestro Hong calls them, with the help of sponsors. The Ebby Halliday Cos. underwrite DSO on the GO, and the concerts are also supported through ticket sales at every venue.

“This season, we are very pleased to anticipate the DSO on the GO season will ‘break even,’ with our production and orchestra costs being covered by the Ebby Halliday sponsorship and robust ticket sales at all the venues,” Shull said. “Tickets are generally around $20 at each of the venues — generally in the $15 to $40 range.”

Tickets for the Denton concert cost $10 to $20.

Hong said that education is an integral part of the symphony’s mission, but that, when you get down to it, the conductor and the symphony are the interpreters.

“I would say that actually, Mozart and Dvorak are the educators, and our job is more or less to expose people to these wonderful, wonderful educators,” Hong said. “Our job is to reveal their art in all its elegance and beauty and grandeur, and it’s certainly our job to bridge the gap between these educators and the audience and make it less than a foreign experience.

“It actually can be fun. It can be novel, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating whatsoever.”


•  What: Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert with soloists Tom Demer, fiddle, and Nathan Olson, violin

•  When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7

•  Where: Winspear Hall in the Murchison Performing Arts Center, 2100 N. Interstate 35E

•  Details: Tickets cost $20 for adults; $15 for seniors 55 and older and for current and retired UNT faculty and staff; and $10 for all students and children. For reservations, call the box office at 940-369-7802 or visit .