A performance featuring rock guitar and a classical string quartet will open a diverse three-concert series presented by the Salina Symphony in collaboration with Theatre Salina and the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts.
“Rock ‘n Roll Meets the String Quartet,” will feature guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Lipke, best known as the lead guitarist for the Led Zeppelin tribute band Get the Led Out. Lipke will collaborate with a string quartet of Salina Symphony musicians to perform an eclectic mix of rock and classical music ranging from Beethoven to The Beatles.
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Stiefel Theatre, 151 S. Santa Fe. Tickets start at $39.
The second featured concert “American Patriots,” is a theatrical song cycle conceived by singer and arts activist Samantha Rose Williams, who recently was featured as guest soprano for the Salina Symphony’s March 2023 concert “All You Need is Love.”
Williams, performing with soprano Annie Sherman, bass/baritone Robert Wesley Mason and eight instrumentalists from the Salina Symphony, will explore what it means to be American from the perspectives of Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, New Americans and White Working Class Americans.
The show includes newly commissioned songs that reflect the diversity of the nation with elements of classical, jazz, rock, opera and Broadway.
“American Patriots” will be performed at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Sunflower Financial Theatre at Theatre Salina, 303 E. Iron. Tickets are $35.
The third featured show, “The Harmony Games,” is a concert for children conceived and composed by Salina Symphony conductor and music director Yaniv Segal and narrated by Maggie Spicer Brown, education director at Theatre Salina.
The show tells the story of four families who, after fighting for as long as anyone can remember, come together through the power of music. Young concertgoers will be introduced to the instruments that comprise the orchestra while also learning how music and math are connected.
“The Harmony Games” will be presented at 4 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Stiefel Theatre. Beginning at 3 p.m., those attending are welcome to participate in children’s activities and an instrument “petting zoo.” Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children/students.
Segal not only composed “The Harmony Games,” but wrote songs and arranged the orchestral accompaniment for the “American Patriots” show and will play violin in the string quartet for the “Rock ‘n Roll Meets the String Quartet” concert.
“I get to wear all my hats for this,” he said. “It’s going to be an awesome experience.”
Rock and Strings
Segal said he was introduced to musician Andrew Lipke by Stiefel Theatre executive director Jane Gates, who has booked Get the Led Out concerts at the facility multiple times.
“Andrew was here doing educational workshops, and Jane thought we’d hit it off,” Segal said. “I wanted to increase the spectrum of the things we’re performing, so that’s how this collaboration came about.”
Segal said Lipke has developed and worked with chamber orchestras in Philadelphia that have highlighted the influence of classical music and how string quartets specifically have influenced rock music.
Lipke will play electric and acoustic guitar with a string quartet composed of Segal and Salina Symphony concertmaster Denise Blehm on violin, Melanie Mann on viola and Dena Berquist on cello. They will perform music by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, as well as classical selections by Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Philip Glass and original music by Lipke.
“Some things we’ll do on our own, and some things we’ll do with Andrew,” Segal said. “We’ll demonstrate how many similarities there are in the different genres and styles of classical and rock, from Haydn, considered the father of the string quartet, to The Beatles, who used a string quartet in songs like ‘Eleanor Rigby.’
“We’re hoping our selections will be both eye opening and ear opening.”
Samantha Rose Williams began writing “American Patriots” in 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic and protests surrounding the racial-based George Floyd murder.
“I was taking in all that was happening – the protests, the tanks in the street – looking at everybody there from the police to the military to protesters, who all believed they were there for patriotic reasons,” she said. “I thought about where our country was, how divided we were, and I started asking people about themselves and why they were there.”
Expanding the scope of her interviews, Williams spoke to 50 people from throughout the nation (“all done by Zoom, since I couldn’t go anywhere during the pandemic,” she said), which she then wove into 19 people representing four specific “identities”: Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, New Americans and White Working Class Americans.
“Many of these were people who don’t often get interviewed,” she said. “I asked them how they defined the American dream and if their family has been able to achieve it; how they defined a patriot and if they considered themselves one; and what they thought about the state of our country now.”
Williams transcribed the interviews and began turning them into “conversations in song,” working with five diverse composers who composed music that reflected the diversity of her subjects and their unique perspectives in a methodology she called “intentional storytelling.”
“I collaborated with marginalized communities, allowing them to present themselves in ways that felt authentic to them,” Williams said. “I told them we wouldn’t use anything from their interviews unless they approved it. If I used portions of their interview, I didn’t change anything they said. I wanted them to feel they were part of this.”
Williams created a system of checks and balances that ensured interviewees were paid for their time, approved the final song selections and decided on their own level of credit or anonymity in the project. She also made certain to recruit ethnically diverse composers to create music that accurately reflected the interviewees’ unique experiences as Americans.
The result, she said, “asks us to entertain perspectives other than (our) own and to practice the crucial skill of listening across difference.”
“As the actors traverse race, ethnicity, gender and class to embody 19 Americans in their exploration of fundamental questions of American identity, we ask (audiences) to enter with curiosity, hold your judgments lightly and, just for an hour or so, listen to understand,” Williams said. “I hope audiences will be able to see the humanity in someone who sees differently than them.”
Segal, who wrote songs and did orchestral arrangements for the show, said reactions to previous performances have been “incredible and thought provoking.”
“We hope we’ve created a space where people can listen and think without judging,” he said.
Segal wrote “The Harmony Games” as a commissioned piece to introduce young students to the instruments in a string orchestra in a fun and interactive way.
“I conceived of four families on an island, who have been fighting for a long, long time,” he said. “Each family has to complete a piece of music, based on a theme, using string instruments and doing different layers at different speeds. I’m trying to show that the orchestra can be very versatile.”
In the end, the winning family realizes how unproductive it is to continue fighting and decides to bring all the families together “to create an orchestra,” Segal said.
“I’m really happy how the piece captures the attention and imagination of children of all ages,” he said.
Additionally, the concert will feature music from Disney’s popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, as well as pre-concert activities that include games and an interactive “petting zoo” of instruments of the orchestra.
“We intend this to be a real hands-on experience,” Segal said.
Tickets for “Rock ‘n Roll Meets the String Quartet” and “The Harmony Games” are available at the Stiefel Theatre box office or by calling (785) 827-1998. Tickets for “American Patriots” are available through the Salina Symphony office on the second floor of the Stiefel Theatre or by calling (785) 823-8309. Tickets for all shows will be available at the door. For more information, visit www.salinasymphony.org.