Mozart at the Max

Kansas City Symphony musicians perform classical chamber works for inmates in maximum security for the first time at Lansing Correctional Facility

Photo of Symphony musicians
Maria Crosby (cello), Stephanie Cathcart (violin), Sunho Kim (violin), and Philip Kramp (viola) pose for a photo before processing in. No cameras allowed in maximum security.

“What I feel can only be understood by someone who feels it with me.”

As cellist Maria Crosby introduced Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor to an audience of around 50 inmates gathered in the maximum-security wing of Lansing Correctional Facility, she read these words from a song the composer had written and on which his second string quartet was later based. One inmate raised his hand and asked her to repeat the line so that he could write it down.

Those words encapsulated the experience on April 21, when a quartet of Symphony string players visited the prison to share some chamber music — a highly personal format. As music filled the auditorium for an hour that evening, the orchestra members and Lansing inmates felt their common humanity.

The visit was part of the Symphony’s Community Connections program that makes it possible for Symphony musicians to share their talents throughout the community in nearly 150 free concerts and events annually. Several previous concerts at the prison have involved more than 20 Symphony musicians in all; however, this was the first program in the maximum-security wing.

Crosby joined Assistant Concertmaster Sunho Kim, violinist Stephanie Cathcart, and violist Philip Kramp for a program that also included Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1 “Kreutzer Sonata” as well as Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue in C Minor.

A brief question and answer session followed the performance, and several inmates continued to chat with the musicians as they packed up their instruments. Questions ranged from “How much time do you spend preparing a piece?” to “I’m getting out in the fall. What are all the kinds of concerts that you do?”

Before the evening ended, it was announced that a different quartet of musicians would be visiting Lansing to give a concert on Tuesday, May 9. The inmates could look forward to another opportunity to share a moving musical experience with the talented members of the Kansas City Symphony.


If you would like to learn more or make a gift to support the Symphony’s community programs, please contact the Kansas City Symphony’s Manager of Individual Giving, Dan Malanowski, at dmalanowski@kcsymphony.org or (816) 218-2637. You also may donate online here.

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From the Desk of Michael Stern

DEAR FRIENDS,

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HELZBERG HALL, AND LITERALLY DECADES
of absence from the Kansas City Symphony’s programs, we present a towering 20th-century magnum opus (May 5-7). It is an understatement to categorize Britten’s searing masterpiece, War Requiem, as large-scale. Despite two discrete orchestras, a large chorus, a separate children’s chorus and three powerful soloists, for me, the overwhelming impact of this magnificent music comes from much more than its sheer size. Nine powerfully beautiful poems by Wilfred Owens, an English poet and soldier who perished just days before the armistice ending World War I, are interspersed with the traditional liturgical Latin text of the Requiem Mass.

Britten was commissioned to write this work to rededicate Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during World War II, but this work speaks to us on many levels. A lifelong pacifist, Britten reacted personally to the bloodshed of his times with a prayer for peace that is an indictment of war and violence itself, making the Requiem into a statement for all humanity. On the score’s first page, Britten quotes Owens: “The Poetry is in the pity… /All a poet can do today is warn.” Now, more than ever, this music is essential. With our brilliant soloists Christine Brewer, Anthony Dean Griffey and Stephen Powell, I am thrilled that we can share this music together.

Then too soon, our season ends in June with two outstanding concerts. Returning to play two Mozart piano concerti is my longtime friend and great artist Emanuel Ax (June 2-4). The merriment of Manny’s insights into Mozart create a perfect foil to Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel.

Rachmaninoff’s luxurious Second Symphony closes our finale concerts (June 16-18) where we also welcome two wonderful artists. Dynamic violinist Philippe Quint returns to our stage with Barber’s glorious Violin Concerto. Narong Prangcharoen, a brilliantly gifted young composer with University of Missouri-Kansas City roots, opens the program with his colorful and driving Phenomenon. It is an honor to bring this music to Kansas City. Music is alive and well here, and we are grateful to you all for this season — and for the future.


MICHAEL STERN | Music Director, Kansas City Symphony


To secure seats, visit kcsymphony.org or call (816) 471-0400.