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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Triumphant return of the Shreveport Symphony

Good news of the cultural variety has arrived from The Times of Shreveport, Louisiana. The first concert following a prolonged strike of over one year took place on the weekend, and by all reports, it was a great success. May this portend well for the future.

January 31, 2010

Full house, high spirits greet symphony’s return

Player-management talks are ongoing

By John Andrew Prime

The program for the return of the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra to the local arts horizon Saturday featured an all-Tchaikovsky lineup, but it could have included a song by pop singer and songwriter James Taylor.

After all, he had a hit in “Traffic Jam,” and that’s what greeted people at Riverview Theater on Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway: car after car, driving in slow but large circles, looking for that elusive parking space, and a throng pouring through the doors.

General manager Leah Escude estimated the crowd would be close to the full house of about 1,600, a major accomplishment for the orchestra that for more than a year has been silent due to ongoing negotiations between its players and management.

“This is wonderful,” she said. “We had hoped for 800, and we have gone way beyond that, double.”

People still poured in to buy tickets even as lights blinked to warn people to take their seats and musical director/conductor Michael Butterman excused himself from the lobby, where had been chatting with concertgoers.

The player-management talks go on, but an agreement was reached to put on three events — the “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” on Saturday, the “Cirque de la Symphonie” on March 5 at Riverview, and “A Keyboard Extraveganza” on May 15 at First Baptist Church of Shreveport.

Some in the crowd were just thankful to have a city symphony to cheer on, while others were there for specific items on the program.

Leonard Kacenjar, music director and conductor of the Marshall (Texas) Symphony Orchestra and a long-time figure in the Shreveport music scene, was looking forward to the evening’s second number, Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D, opus 35,” with guest soloist Jennifer Frautschi.

“It’s a long time in the coming,” said Kacenjar. “It’s amazing, and what a great crowd too.”

Kacenjar’s orchestra has a concert scheduled Feb. 22. And the Shreveport concerts, which pay players for services — not only concerts but practices also — help bolster his base as well.

“There are a lot of the same players over in Marshall, so I’m excited about this. I’m tickled to death to see this come down.”

Local violinist Leah Sayad, a fresh Centenary College graduate, played with the orchestra at Hurley School of Music and now is with orchestra at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport.

“I’m excited to see them. I know a lot of the players and have been waiting for them to come back. But I’m especially looking forward to the violin concerto.”

Charles Moore, of Shreveport, stood in line for his ticket. And while not an every-show attendee in the past, he hopes to steadily attend future performances.

“It’s about time for live music. I’m looking forward to the violin concerto.”

That would follow the “Festival Coronation March” and precede “Symphony No. 5 in E minor, opus 64,” taking up the entire second half of the performance.

Joe and Kaylon Gates came from south Bossier City.

“We’re thrilled,” Kaylon Gates said, adding that her 14-year-old son Samuel “was the first to say ‘Can we please go?’”

For her, “just being back in the Symphony Hall with the music playing and having a great evening is enough.”

She, too, anticipated the violin concerto.

But for husband Joe, the whole bill was inviting. “I’m looking forward to all the songs and to a wonderful evening.”
Additional Facts
What’s ahead

The “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” concert performed Saturday at Riverview Theater will be broadcast in full on Red River Radio, including Shreveport radio station KDAQ-FM, at noon Feb. 19.
Future Shreveport Symphony Orceshtra concerts will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 5 at Riverview Theater, 600 Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway, and 7:30 p.m. May 15 at First Baptist Church, 543 Ockley Drive in Shreveport.

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