Audience’s choice: CSO to play special Sunday matinee

The 2016 election season may still be on the horizon, but Chautauquans are already busy casting their votes.

The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will present an audience choice concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater. Community members had the opportunity to pick portions of the concert program from a list of eight choices ranging from Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday” to Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” via a poll on the Institution’s website. Those choices will be presented in the first Sunday matinee for the CSO in more than two decades.

“We thought that, since I’m new, why don’t we start a few new things?” said Music Director Rossen Milanov.

Sunday also means free admission to the grounds, which ensures a unique group of audience members from Jamestown, Mayville, Westfield and other surrounding communities will flood the Amp. The eclectic mix of newcomers inspired the audience-choice format, adding what Milanov calls a “democratic” flavor to an experience that may not always feel that way.

Audience choice, however, puts an extra burden on the symphony itself. The final selections are whittled down from a total of eight possible choices. Because the poll closed so shortly before the concert, the music library marked the full symphony’s parts for all eight pieces — hundreds of pages of music, in other words.

The winning selections will be pulled from the library and distributed in the Amp, where the CSO will rehearse the program for the first and only time immediately prior to its afternoon performance.

While Milanov said the orchestra is adept at sight reading, and while some of the selections are so popular that the musicians have them in their back pocket, more obscure selections, such as the aria from Bach’s Overture No. 3 in D major, will require a bit more concentration.

“Some of the stuff is quite exotic and rarely makes it on the program,” Milanov said.

The CSO will also perform several selections regardless of the program the audience chooses. These will be pieces such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that everyone will be able to recognize, Milanov said.

Sunday’s concert should accordingly be reminiscent of a pops concert, where the symphony unbuttons a little and the performance takes on a more family-friendly vibe. Yet Milanov underscored that the program will stick to true classical repertoire — the exalted strains of “Star Wars” are as close to a true pops experience as audience members will get Sunday.

Still, Milanov was quick to note this is an event for the whole community, not just music buffs.

“It’s very family-friendly, so people can bring their kids,” he said. “There’s nothing longer than four or five minutes, so I think the attention span of children is not going to be challenged.”

While he hopes everyone knew about the poll and voted, Milanov said he’s intentionally done very little with his own social media to promote the concert. Just as audiences are reminded before every CSO concert to silence their cellphones, he said he tries to stay away from electronic decisions as much as possible in Chautauqua.

“I feel so wonderfully detached from all these things we do elsewhere,” he said. “I don’t go on Twitter. I don’t go on Facebook here. What’s the point?”