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story.lead_photo.caption Broadway performers Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins will perform with the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra on March 5 for "Pops II: Frank and Ella Together." Photo by Submitted photo

TEXARKANA, Texas — The Texarkana Symphony Orchestra will bring unity and harmony to the Perot Theatre stage for the 2021-'22 season, say the organization's top officials.

"Together Texarkana: A Season of Unity and Harmony Through Music" is the tagline for the upcoming year with an opening concert slated for Oct. 16, say TSO Executive Director Andrew Clark and the TSO's conductor, Philip Mann.

That first concert, "Masterworks I: Heroic Voices," features Sharon Roffman on violin with a powerful repertoire that includes music from Prokofiev ("Overture on Hebrew Themes"), Adolphe ("I Will Not Remain Silent") and Beethoven ("Symphony No. 3").

Mann says the announcement of a season is always an artistic director's high point of the year. He's excited about the artistic direction.

But it's also the first full season returning to normal capacity from COVID-19, Mann said, and they also have the potential to tweak the patron experience with the TSO's new relationship with the city and theater as Perot managers.

"I don't remember being more excited about a season announcement ever," Mann said, adding that what we've all been yearning for is making connections with others and experiencing those rejuvenating and uplifting things with other people that the pandemic made more difficult.

"What I've tried to do is create a season that focuses on music's ability to connect us and to provide powerful, nuanced and amazing experiences that we can share with each other in person," Mann said.

Sharon Roffman
Photo by Submitted photo
The first program focuses on heroism, he explained, opening with perhaps the greatest work of Western classicism. It's Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony, which he calls an important work with a natural spotlight on it as part of a symphony season.

"It's a tremendously popular work with audiences," Mann said, noting, "It is a work that changed all of music after it, particularly because it changed the role of artist and composer."

It brought to the forefront the voice of the artist in that the composer makes statements that "expand beyond the music itself."

Said Mann, "This is a work that codified a musical movement that all composers afterwards followed, which is that the composer's voice can be a powerful and compelling one." It's also catchy and wonderful to hear, he says.

Jorge Cruz
Photo by Submitted photo
A Nov. 13 concert features the bassoon with featured artist Jorge Cruz in a show titled "Masterworks II: Ancient Fire and Voices." The repertoire includes Bach ("Brandenburg Concerto No. 3"), Vivaldi ("Bassoon Concerto"), Vaughan Williams ("Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis"), Respighi ("Ancient Airs and Dances No. 3") and Bartok ("Romanian Folk Dances").

"The second program is an exploration of voices from within the orchestra that are empowered and amplified to play together," Mann said.

One might not normally hear them in this way, but this concert allows them to step out, the conductor said, adding about the timeliness, "This program shows and puts to work some of what we learned during the pandemic in our programs in presenting in the Perot with alternate performing setups and capacities."

The Perot, Mann said, is a fantastic space for smaller, chamber orchestra formats. Hence, for this concert, they'll use the strings and feature soloists, such as the principal bassoonist.

"It's a rare chance to hear a bassoon soloist, and we'll be making some extra effort to introduce the instrument, as well, as part of our pre-concert talk and some things that Jorge has offered to do," Mann said.

On Dec. 12, the TSO ushers in the holiday spirit with "Pops I: Christmas at the Perot."

"I can't wait for a full, 100% audience in our Perot Theatre to return again for our annual holiday tradition of 'Christmas at the Perot,'" Mann said. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished over the last couple seasons on making this program something that has been a memory for everyone who's attended it."

Expect concert elements to include a chorus, soloists and a mix of popular and classical works with a holiday flare, he said, with an increased emphasis on community collaboration.

Ted Ludwig
Photo by Submitted photo
On Feb. 5, "Masterworks III: Exotic Inspirations" features a jazz guitarist as guest artist in Ted Ludwig for a program of Ravel ("Suite from Mother Goose"), Sparr ("Katrina: Concerto for Jazz Guitar and Orchestra") and Tchaikovsky ("Suite from Swan Lake").

"The way music connects in the next program is how it seeks to explore a little bit of how music seeks exotic or different or diverse voices, and through that enhanced color palette, the notion of myriad voices, defines great power," Mann said.

Ravel's suite, he said, is one of his favorites to rehearse and perform. He compares it to a painting, a compelling work popular with audiences.

"I specifically mention rehearse because this work has an extraordinary variation of color and sound, and it brings voices and combinations of voices out together that sound novel and modern even today, even though the work is more than 100 years old," Mann said, noting Ravel looked to Asian influences, in particular.

On March 5, the TSO presents "Pops II: Frank and Ella Together" with two Broadway performers in Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins singing Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald numbers like "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me."

This pops program for the spring presents explores the timeless collaboration between these two iconic singers.

"You can imagine that this is a program with very different backgrounds, people of different styles, but the styles overlap and influence each other in profound ways," Mann said. "It's just a celebration of a wonderful musical collaboration and connection."

For DeSare, it's a return to Texarkana. "Back by popular demand, you could certainly say," the conductor said. "He brought the house down last time he was in town."

Jenkins, Mann said, is a star and veteran of the Broadway and symphonic stage, appearing here in a program that's received critical acclaim everywhere.

Gabriela Martinez
Photo by Submitted photo
To close the season, "Masterworks IV: Dreaming Together" on April 23 features the return of Gabriela Martinez on piano for a repertoire of Mendelssohn ("A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture"), Mozart ("Piano Concerto No. 20") and Brahms ("Symphony No. 2").

They'll finish in grand style, Mann said, which he hopes is a tradition for their season closers.

"It has a little bit of a tip of the hat to the notion of kind of the midsummer night's dream looking into the summer together," Mann said about the "Dreaming Together" theme. It's a program of extraordinary beauty, he said, with comforting and lively melodies.

Starting this past week, information was already being distributed about the season, Clark said, with tickets going on sale soon in conjunction with mailings to past season ticket subscribers.

"We'll be back to 100% capacity in the theater, and we don't foresee any problems there. We're looking forward to being able to have a normal spacing of folks on stage, as well as our most of our musicians have been vaccinated," Clark said. "We'll move forward in that way, as well."

(To purchase tickets and for more information, call 870-773-3401 or visit TexarkanaSymphony.org.)

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