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Meadows at the Winspear: The Musicians' Perspective

Meadows Symphony Orchestra to Provide Accompaniment for Ballet and Jazz Dance

by Chris Calloway (B.M. Performance, '12)

The following is the musicians' perspective on preparations for the Meadows at the Winspear concert on March 20. Read the dancers' perspective.

Set the calendar for March 20. Performing at the outstanding new Winspear Opera House will be the Meadows Division of Dance and the Meadows Symphony Orchestra in a stellar night of ballet and jazz with live orchestral accompaniment. The musical program will consist of Tchaikovsky’s heart-felt Serenade in C Major, Ravel’s powerful La Valse and Gershwin’s toe-tapping An American in Paris.

Although it will be the very first engagement with the full MSO performing for the Division of Dance, Maestro Paul Phillips says this kind of program has been talked about for some years. “I’ve had a number of relatively random conversations over the years with members of the dance faculty,” he said. “We would have hallway conversations along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could do such-and-such together.’ Of course, the limiting factor was a hall with a pit big enough for a large orchestra. Now that the Winspear is here, we can actually mount a production that involves many musicians. The repertoire was decided jointly between the dance division and myself, and it took many months to set the program. There were numerous factors the dance faculty needed to consider, and of course many that I needed to consider as well.”

Issues such as finding a suitable rehearsal space for the dancers and full orchestra and scheduling adequate rehearsal time created some unique circumstances for the participants. Rather than rehearsing on campus in Caruth Auditorium, a space large enough for both ensembles was found in Fair Park, where the Dallas Opera continues to rehearse before premiering their works at the new Winspear.

Clarinetist Brent Buemi, who has been performing with the MSO for six years throughout his undergraduate and graduate studies, says preparing for this concert has been different from any other MSO concert. “First of all, the rehearsal schedule is different from past years in that we’re rehearsing in the evening instead of the afternoon,” Buemi said. “I like that much better because I get to eat dinner before rehearsal now! Also, we’re not rehearsing at SMU as usual but at the Dallas Opera facility in Fair Park. It’s a pretty nice facility with a big enough space to accommodate both orchestra and dancers. As far as expectations are concerned, I don’t feel like it’s any different from a normal concert we do. Dr. Phillips always demands the highest level of performance possible no matter who we collaborate with or where the performance will take place.”

With the always strong Division of Dance preparing for this concert since the beginning of the spring semester, the MSO will be prepared to deliver on its end in providing the musical backdrop for their choreography.

“I really think the MSO is playing at a level as high as I can remember here,” said Buemi. “I believe that in performing the Mahler Sixth Symphony and The Rite of Spring this year, two extremely demanding ensemble works, Dr. Phillips was really able to take us to levels of musicianship and maturity that are well beyond anything we could imagine.”

Overall, the level of preparation has been exceptional, with full dance and orchestra rehearsals nightly from 7:00 to 10:00 the week prior to the Winspear performance in addition to months of work already put in by the Division of Dance and the intense preparation of the MSO.

Beyond the work of the ensembles, Dr. Phillips says, “This has been a tremendous undertaking. Not only have there been many efforts taking place with the dance faculty and students, and music faculty and students, but also there are many production people and staff in marketing and development who are involved as well. This is a very large fundraiser for the Meadows School, so the staff time involved is immense. I do think it is going to be a wonderful evening.”

Although such a huge event may not be happening every year in the future, having two wonderfully strong and prepared disciplines come together for music and dance at the stunning new Winspear Opera House will create a night to remember.

Meadows at the Winspear will be performed at the Winspear Opera House on March 20 at 8:00 p.m. To purchase tickets, call 214.880.0202 or purchase online.

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