WORTHINGTON – Intermission lasted longer than usual. Normally, a 15-minute break in the midst of a concert is expected.
But the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra (WASO) has been on pause for nearly two years.
“We haven’t had a concert since November 2019, when Brulé was our special guest,” said Kris Stewart, a WASO flutist and one of WASO’s four leadership team members. “We have definitely missed making music.”
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, Stewart and approximately 50 other WASO instrumentalists will resume their concert positions for a free performance in Worthington’s Centennial Park.
Dubbed “Red, White and Boom,” the concert’s pops format is sure to entertain all comers—and anyone who hasn’t sampled WASO in the past will find something to love in the open-air, more casual venue.
“This is 100% Americana music,” WASO conductor Dr. Christopher Stanichar said. “We’ve programmed selections that are reflective of America and all its diversity, regalia, patriotic moments, Hollywood touches and general favorites. It has all kinds of things for everybody.”
Specifically, Stanichar has chosen Henry Mancini’s ever-popular “Pink Panther” theme, a John Williams piece (the march from the movie “1941”), the “Colonel Bogey March,” Leroy Anderson’s sultry “Blue Tango,” the concert suite from the movie “Dances with Wolves,” a medley from the hit musical “Hamilton” and more.
Other special touches include John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” plus the National Anthem (with vocalist Eric Parrish) and “Over the Rainbow” (with vocalist Sarah DeSmith).
“This is really accessible for everyone,” said Stewart, noting that anyone who thinks orchestras play only “stuffy classical music” will be pleasantly surprised.
Added Stanichar, “The concert’s settings and the program selections might spark people’s interest in hearing different kinds of music. This doesn’t require heavy-duty listening—and WASO is an orchestra for everybody.”
Piggy-backing on the Wednesday evening tradition of the “Amazing” Worthington City Band’s concerts in the park is another perk.
“When we talked about possibly scheduling a summer concert, we knew there was a built-in audience due to the city band,” Stanichar said. “We all agreed it was a great idea—so here we are, ready to put together some music after not playing for almost two years.”
Speaking for the musicians, Stewart admits it’s been a long drought without concerts.
“Bringing musicians and audience members together in one place is going to make us really happy,” Stewart said. “We’ve missed making music.”
For a professional conductor, music professor and composer like Stanichar, who is working on composing an overture honoring WASO’s decade-plus history, the pandemic shutdown was particularly tough.
“WASO had just started its series of rehearsals in early March 2020 to practice for our May concert,” said Stanichar, who had many other musical balls in the air that were also suddenly suspended. “I’d prepared all the music, everything was ready to go -- then bam, everything was locked down.”
But on the strength of vaccinations and changes in public health guidelines, the show will go on.
“There have been some logistics to work through in getting our gear to the park, coordinating with the musicians, incorporating some new faces into the orchestra and presenting a concert with only two full rehearsals,” Stewart said, “but our first outdoor concert will be a fun way to get into the orchestra routine once again.”
Stanichar eagerly anticipates welcoming back longtime musicians from not only the Worthington area but also from Sioux Falls, S.D., and the surrounding region.
“We even have one woodwind player who comes from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” said Stanichar.
“And some former WASO musicians who are now college students will return to join us; our leadership team does an amazing job of keeping in touch with everyone.”
Both Stanichar and Stewart hope the dozens of people who have been in the habit of attending the city band’s Wednesday night concerts will plan to extend their musical evenings in the park by one more week to take in WASO’s Red, White and Boom event.
“Ride your bike or walk, come to offer your applause and don’t worry about dressing up,” suggested Stanichar.
“This is a celebration of music in all its forms—marches, jazz, Hollywood—and it will be a fun time for everyone in the family to sit back and relax while enjoying the crickets, the beautiful lake view and the music.”
The Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, at the Centennial Park pavilion, Worthington. The concert is free and open to the public. In case of inclement weather, the concert will take place at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.