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story.lead_photo.caption The Texarkana Symphony Orchestra embarks upon its first season with Philip Mann as music director and conductor on Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Perot Theatre with the concert "A New Era Begins." Photo by Nancy Nolan

The Texarkana Symphony Orchestra embarks upon a new era for its upcoming season, the first with Philip Mann as music director and conductor.

Mann takes the TSO helm on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Perot Theatre with the concert "A New Era Begins," which features a dynamic program of Mozart ("Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, No. 21, in C Major") and Tchaikovsky ("Symphony No. 5, in E Minor"), plus the world premiere of commissioned work by Texarkana native and composer Clint Needham.

"How this works with a non-resident music director is he will be in residence each of the weeks prior to our concert. We'll have him all over the community in the days before the concert and before dress rehearsals begin," said Andrew Clark, the TSO's executive director.

For the Mozart, respected international pianist Elisso Bolkvadze is featured. She's worked with UNESCO to develop arts-related education and outreach events, Clark said. "A great opportunity for us," he said, noting that Needham and Mann actually know each other from graduate studies at Indiana University.

And Mann said of the night's program, "One of the great combinations of all time, it always works. Tchaikovsky and Mozart are just a fantastic combination. It's like peanut butter and jelly or whatever you want to say. It just always works great together."

The new movie projector at the Perot Theatre will be in play for "Blockbuster Movie Themes" on Saturday, Nov. 2. The TSO will perform music from an eclectic mix of films, ranging from "E.T." to "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "Lawrence of Arabia" to "Titanic."

"It should be a lot of fun, touches on all different demographics. We'll be using, if all goes well, a little bit of audio-visual stuff with that," Clark said. For future seasons, the TSO plans to show feature length films with orchestral accompaniment.

"I had a ball putting this program together," Mann said. He went through the whole history of big, cinematic scores to get it arranged. The music he wanted stands alone on its own but is also integral to the films. "These are scores that truly feature the orchestra," he said. He also wanted variety.

"It really spans all different kinds of musical styles, but I also wanted to include some diversity in movie themes," Mann said.

"Christmas at the Perot" on Sunday, Dec. 15, continues the TSO's holiday concert tradition, this time featuring soprano Maria Fasciano and tenor Vernon DiCarlo, the TSO's chamber singers, the Texarkana Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Celebrity Conductor Competition winner.

Clark said it's been a while since guest artists were part of the Christmas concert. They'll bring a bit of a different flavor to the concert. "Still all the things people expect. We'll have the celebrity conductor, 'Sleigh Ride.' Our chamber singers will still be on stage for a couple of the numbers," he said.

A Hanukkah piece will be added to the program, as will renditions of "Feliz Navidad" and "Mele Kalikimaka," a Hawaiian-themed Christmas song.

"In my mind, the audience will experience something of a show," Mann said.

The TSO dives into a new year on Saturday, Feb. 22, with "Enchanted Tales," which features a contemporary composer, D.J. Sparr, who plays electric guitar. His work "Violet Bond: Concerto for Orchestra and Electric Guitar" will be performed, along with works by Mendelssohn, Stravinsky and Liadov.

"This is a very unique program, some works that we performed in the past. They tell a story, each of the works tells a story. Of course Stravinsky's 'Firebird' and the rising phoenix. That's a story familiar to many. The Liadov 'Enchanted Lake' has a story and an inspiration behind that," Clark said.

About the Sparr piece, he said, "It's a unique way to broaden our audience that we can do classical music with a little bit of a twist." In addition to incorporating the guitar, it also tells a story. The Mendelssohn is the concert overture "The Hebrides."

"It's a program that's designed to really showcase color and orchestration," Mann said. "It's a program that really shows off, let's say, the Technicolor capabilities of an orchestra, that unabashedly reaches out to new audience members." Featuring a guitar soloist is part of that outreach, too. He said there's something easy to love about all four works performed.

To round out the season, the TSO celebrates a titanic composer's 250th birthday. That's Beethoven, who gets the party on Saturday, April 4, with "Happy Birthday, Ludwig!"

Beethoven's "Overture to Egmont," "Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major" and "Symphony No. 5, C Minor" are on tap for the festivities, which feature Kiril Laskarov on violin, Brett Andrews on cello and Tatiana Roitman-Mann on piano.

"There's several different hopes in this program that I'm very, very excited about," Mann said. That includes the historic importance of Beethoven's birthday, which orchestras the world over will celebrate.

"In our art form this is an important anniversary, it's among the most important," Mann said about looking back on Beethoven's extraordinary legacy and impact, in this case with an iconic work like Beethoven's 5th. For many in the audience, it may still be a new symphony to experience. It's the kind of thing that energizes musicians, the conductor said.

"I think the 5th Symphony will be full of fire and power, and I'm very much looking forward to that," Mann said.

He's looking forward to continuing the strong relationship he felt when he served as a guest conductor for the TSO. And about the upcoming lineup of concerts for 2019-2020, Mann said, "I think if you look across this whole season, it's really meant to reach out, to grab hold of people's hearts and minds and bring them to us in a way that I hope starts a famous relationship."

Concert previews before all masterworks concerts start at 6:40 p.m.

A special discount rate is being offered to patrons through July 26. First time subscribers can get a buy one, get one season ticket half price deal. General sales for season tickets will go on sale in August via the Perot Theatre's box office.

(Ticket information: 870-773.3401. On the Net: TexarkanaSymphony.org.) 

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