Satisfy, Surprise, Surpass
SoNA season introduces more music to love
For this season — and really any season — my goal is threefold,” says Paul Haas, music director of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas. “First, to satisfy the audience member, to give them something truly special. Second, to surprise the audience member, to surpass their expectations and give them a new approach to the concert experience. And third, to highlight the incredible musicians who make up this extraordinary ensemble.”
The 2017-18 SoNA season kicks off on Oct. 14 with Masterworks I: Tchaikovsky 5, featuring guest trumpeter Christopher Coletti of the Canadian Brass quintet. On Dec. 16, it’s A Very SoNA Christmas with the SoNA Singers and guest choruses, followed by “The Snowman: A Family Concert” on Dec. 17. On Jan. 27, Bruce Schultz, principal horn of SoNA and the Tulsa Symphony, takes the stage for Masterworks II: Mozart & Mendelssohn, while on March 10, SoNA swings to the sounds of Pops: Fayetteville Jazz Collective. And, to finish the season on a high note on May 5, SoNA welcomes an internationally renowned cast of talented opera singers for Masterworks III: “La Boheme.”
All that being said, Haas believes “there are two concerts that really will be unlike anything else we’ve seen presented in Northwest Arkansas: First is the collaborative concert with SoNA and the Fayetteville Jazz Collective, playing the greatest cinematic hits of the past century. Then, the final Masterworks concert will be staggering in scope, starting with the first act of Puccini’s best-known opera, ‘La Boheme,’ and blowing the roof off after the intermission with Strauss’ ‘Zarathustra,’ best known as the opening soundtrack from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.”
Haas, who has been with SoNA since its revival under that name, is in the middle of his own odyssey, which he says does affect him musically.
He and wife Suzette Won Haas and their two daughters are “in the middle of moving into our new homestead in the Hudson Valley, where we’re planning on growing most of our own food,” he says with enthusiasm. “At this point, it’s all about fixing the things that need to be fixed and then moving in all our furniture — I know, exciting stuff!
“After that, I get to build the mobile chicken coop, cut in a whole lot of swales and plant nut trees in the fall. And did I mention the birth of our son this coming September?
“There’s a lot going on in my life right now, all incredibly rich and meaningful,” he says. “And yes, it does have a relevance to the music I write, which celebrates the beauty that swirls around us, waiting to be noticed.”
That sentiment also resonates with Matthew Herren, SoNA’s executive director. His vision for this and every season is “more of the music that people know and love, combined with music people may not know that they will love.”
“He’s maybe a little riskier than I would be,” Herren says of Haas’ musical selections. “But he’s very in touch with the audience and very aware that the concert is for the audience, not for him.
“I wish that people who may be new to us would come and get hooked,” he adds. “One of the things about any orchestra — and particularly SoNA — you can’t really sample it, you can’t describe it, but when you’re in the room, you get hooked.
“Being with other people for a shared experience is still valuable to human beings,” Herren believes. “The symphony may not be the most immediate choice for music, but I don’t think we have lost what it takes to appreciate the experience. TV did not kill live sports! There’s still nothing like going to a football game!”
Paul Haas, music director of SoNA since its revival under that name, is known for surprising his audience. His first concert ended with the Razorback Fight Song.