New Concerts Added for 2017/18 Season


A sensory-friendly family concert

Thursday, October 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Helzberg Hall | Kauffman Center

Jason SeberDavid T. Beals III Associate Conductor

The Kansas City Symphony welcomes patrons and families with sensory-sensitivities to a symphonic performance on Thursday, October 19 at 6:30 p.m. The program will feature repertoire from the Young People’s Concert: Out of this World, combining symphonic music with visual elements. This fun and diverse performance will be specially adapted so families and friends of all abilities may enjoy symphonic music in a safe and welcoming environment. Tickets are $10.

Visit this page to learn more or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.


A soothing evening of meditation and music

Tuesday, October 24 at 6 p.m.
Helzberg Hall | Kauffman Center

Prepare to unwind as our certified Relax and Renew® trainer Anita Bailey coaches you through various breathing and meditation techniques. Symphony musicians will perform selections to assist in your relaxation. Tickets are $10. To learn more visit this page or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.


A side-by-side performance with students of the UMKC Conservatory of Music

Wednesday, October 25 at 6 p.m.
Helzberg Hall | Kauffman Center

This early evening performance of Mozart’s tuneful Serenade in B-flat major, “Gran Partita,” written for 13 wind instruments and bass will be a true “side-by-side” between Kansas City Symphony musicians and UMKC students. This is event is free and open to the public.

Reserve free seats here or call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Kansas City Symphony Chats with Organist Dorothy Papadakos

Dorothy Papadakos
Dorothy Papadakos

Dorothy Papdakos is known for her silent film programs. The Kansas City Symphony is presenting the 1929 silent film classic “Phantom of the Opera” starring Lon Chaney. Papadakos will improvise at the console of the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. while the film is shown giant screen in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets from $25. Select your seat here or call the Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Tell us about yourself. When did you start performing the organ for silent film classics?
I learned how to improvise for silent films while I was Cathedral Organist at NYC’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine from the legendary theater organist Lee Erwin who played silent films there every Halloween. I sat up at the organ watching him, taking it all in at the master’s feet. By then, Lee was in his 90s! One year he didn’t feel well and at the last minute they threw me on! I had two days to compose musical cues for a double feature of “Phantom of the Opera” in front of 3,500 people. I was terrified — my improvisations were “liturgical,” and I’d never improvised in the harmonic language of a silent film. But I dove in … Lee coached me over the phone on how to write good musical cues for my characters … 30 minutes into the first performance something inside me broke free, and I’d never felt freer in my improvising or at the organ. It’s an incredible feeling I still get in every silent film performance. Each show is utterly new and different. I never get bored!

How do you prepare? Do you watch the film many times?
Improv is best when it’s fresh and I’m on the edge of my seat, so I rarely preview a film once I’ve learned it. When we do screen check, I get to see some scenes, but I prefer seeing it fresh each time. I do study the scene breakdown and cue sheet on the plane flying to a gig, but my biggest preparation is registering a venue’s organ — choosing sound combinations to match the scenes and setting my pistons (the organ’s computer memory).

How does the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ compare to other organs you play? What is the process for becoming acquainted with an instrument when you travel?
Helzberg Hall’s magnificent 5,548 pipe Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ is a genuine masterpiece! I LOVE playing this instrument because it goes wherever I need it to musically in any moment of a film — from loud and spooky to sparkling and charming — it has lots of what we organists call “toys and heavy artillery” on board! Getting acquainted occurs over hours of listening to each stop and combining sounds. Every film is different, so each year the sound combinations are different.

What part of “Phantom of the Opera” is your favorite and why?
I love the scenes where Carlotta brings down the chandelier, when the Phantom takes Christine on his gondola into his lair, the Masked Ball and when the inspector and Raoul search for Christine in the dungeons under the Opera House and get trapped. Universal’s 1929 re-issue of the 1925 original feature was brilliantly edited by the film’s star, Lon Chaney, down to 92 minutes and the action never stops. These scenes in particular are emotionally charged and the audience and I are right in there with the characters. I think this is why this film is so popular — together we all go on an exciting emotional ride of humor, suspense and romance with a profound subtext about “the outsider cast from society” are what makes this film so enduring and such a satisfying experience.

Since this film is presenting near Halloween, do you have any Halloween traditions? What do you find spooky?
My annual Halloween Horror Tour has become my Halloween tradition! In fact, I’ve become a Halloween tradition in many places … Dorothy coming to town with her costumes and creepy friends Nosferatu, the Phantom, Quasimodo, Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde. For me, spooky is a delayed or cancelled flight on tour! I love graveyards, full moons and pumpkins … though I’m pretty sure I never want to run into Nosferatu. THAT’S scaaaary.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
This Christmas my new Young Adult (11-14) sci-fi adventure book “The Kingdom of Winter” is being released! It’s book No. 1 of the “Kingdoms of the Seasons” quartet, and it’s already getting lots of great attention. It’s nature’s four seasons like you’ve never experienced them! Also in development, I have a terrific new TV drama series, “The Golden Door,” about Ellis Island’s incredible team who managed the largest migration in human history of 12 million immigrants. And, on top of it all, my fun musical “Bacchus” is also in development!

If you have any free moments while visiting Kansas City, is there anything particular you plan to do outside of the concert hall?
I have dear friends who live in the area, and we always get together for a lovely meal. I love Kansas City’s jazz history since jazz is how I learned to play the piano and improvise. Maybe I can catch a set somewhere!

After KC, where are you headed next? What are other highlights for your 16/17 season?
From here I go to St. John’s Cathedral in Denver to play “Nosferatu,” then to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for a double feature of “Nosferatu” (two in one night!). Both venues have spectacular, huge organs and acoustics, much like Helzberg Hall, so I feel very lucky to get to perform in all these wondrous buildings. Two really special treats coming up for me are performing “Phantom of the Opera” in Singapore in 2017 and a tour of “Phantom of the Opera” in Japan (TBD), which means translating the film for the first time ever into Japanese! Won’t that be cool to see!

Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to perform “Phantom of the Opera” in Helzberg Hall! I can’t wait to be with you all again and see your costumes — as I discovered the last two seasons with “Nosferatu” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Kansas City loves their horror movies and ROCKS!

Don’t miss “Phantom of the Opera” with Dorothy Papadakos at the console of the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. while the film is shown giant screen in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets from $25. Select your seat here or call the Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Get to Know Guest Artist Brody Dolyniuk

Brody Dolyniuk
Brody Dolyniuk

Guest artist Brody Dolyniuk joins the Kansas City Symphony to present David Bowie: A Musical Odyssey with the Kansas City Symphony on Saturday, September 24 at 8 p.m. in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets start at $40. To order, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online.

You’ve been called a multi-instrumentalist — what instruments do you play?
I started on piano, then guitar, drums, bass and harmonica. I’ve also dabbled on the mandolin a bit. I’m strictly self-taught by ear. To this day, I still can’t read sheet music. I’ve also done some arranging for orchestras, which is pretty unorthodox for someone who doesn’t read music. And oh yeah … I sing sometimes. 🙂

How would you describe this concert? What makes it special?
It’s a hybrid rock concert/symphonic performance. At the core is a great band that faithfully performs Bowie’s catalog, but Brent Havens has written great arrangements for symphony that sometimes underscore what the band is playing, and other times they become the dominant element. Of course, Bowie’s music lends itself well to this pairing because they’re such well-written songs in the first place.

Do you have a favorite Bowie song?
There are so many to choose from. “Space Oddity” is sort of an obvious choice, but the day David Bowie passed, I stayed up until the wee hours of the next morning listening to his catalog and rediscovered “Life On Mars,” and suggested it for the show. Thankfully, we’ve not only included it, but we’ve made it our closer. It’s a perfect choice for the concert. There are a few other songs we don’t do that I love, like “Jean Genie,” “John I’m Only Dancing,” “The Man Who Sold The World,” etc., but really there’s not a single song in the show that isn’t great or highly recognizable. The man wrote a lot of very good songs!

With Bowie’s passing earlier this year, how does that change a tribute concert like this?
I sense that people are still reeling from the loss a bit, and there’s a notable amount of emotion. There are many die-hard Bowie fans out there whose lives were impacted or changed by the man, and this show has to be a balance of musicality, respect and also good-natured fun. I’m not trying to be David Bowie up there, I just try to make it a celebration of his life in my own way, from one fan to another. With all the shows, I do my best of singing in the vein of the original artist without it coming off like an impersonation.

Why is this a can’t-miss concert?
First and foremost, you have a very talented, major orchestra right here in your city, and everyone should take part in that culture. It’s a great family bonding event in an age when it’s so easy to get distracted with gadgets and TV. Furthermore, this is great, timeless music… I feel it has the staying power of the classical composers (classical purists, don’t hate me), and quite honestly, whether you’re a fan of rock, pop or classical music, I recommend seeing the show as it’s a different twist that brings different genres together. Anything that brings people from different cultures together is a good thing, in my book.

Is this your first time to Kansas City? What are you looking forward to with this trip?
Actually I was born in Wichita, Kan., but moved away as a baby (I took my parents with me). And when I first started playing music professionally, one of my first gigs was playing in the dueling piano bar/restaurant inside the Kansas City Station riverboat casino. That was back in ’97, so it’s my first time back since then. Kinda nice how things turned out.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I’m looking forward to sharing in this great musical experience with the Kansas City Symphony … and meeting some friendly Kansas Citians 🙂

Tickets for David Bowie: A Musical Odyssey with the Kansas City Symphony start at $40 and can be purchased through online or by calling the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Get to Know Five for Fighting (Singer-Songwriter John Ondrasik)

Five for Fighting (John Ondrasik) performs with the Kansas City Symphony on Thursday, June 9.
Five for Fighting (John Ondrasik)

Editor’s note: John Ondrasik, also known as Five for Fighting, performs with the Kansas City Symphony on Thursday, June 9 in a special, one-night-only concert. To secure your seats, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online. 

Welcome to Kansas City! What are you looking forward to most for your performance with the Kansas City Symphony?
Performing with a symphony allows me to add a new dimension to the popular songs as well as pull songs from my catalogue that I would not perform in a typical band show. I have been blessed to work with some world-class composers during my career and the opportunity to share their creations with fans, old and new, is exciting.

How many different orchestras have you performed with, and how does this setting differ/compare to one of your non-orchestral concerts?
I have performed with more than a dozen orchestras and look forward to building out this part of my career. Frankly, though my audience (and I) enjoyed the rock clubs and festival shows, to be able to sit down and interpret these songs with world-class orchestra’s fills me with the joy I experienced in my first national tour. The medium also allows me to provide a more intimate experience and talk about the inspirations for certain songs and the stories behind the music.

Which of your songs do you consider the most fun to play in this kind of setting? And why?
The songs with the amazing arrangements by Brazilian George Del Barrio have to be at the top of the list. I have to be careful during “Two Lights,” “Devil in The Wishing Well,” and “Nobody” as it’s easy to get lost in George’s orchestrations. Of course, singing “Superman” and “100 Years” with an orchestra behind you is rather awesome as well…

Could you tell us about where the name “Five for Fighting” came from?
Early in my career my record label came to me and said that the male singer-songwriter was dead, that nobody could pronounce “Ondrasik” (true), and I needed to come up with a pseudonym band name. I had just come from a L.A. Kings hockey game so I blurted out, “How about Five for Fighting?” (The reference comes from a 5-minute penalty for fighting in hockey) To my shock, they loved the name, and though there aren’t five band members, and my boxing skills are rather limited, 15 years later … here we are. 🙂

Where are you off to after Kansas City?
I am doing a tour with quartet directly after this KC gig. The response to the symphony shows has inspired me to take a smaller version to other markets across the country that may not have local orchestras … hence Five for Fighting with Quartet. After that, I’m off to New York to work on a Broadway musical or two… Stay tuned!

What advice would you give to aspiring singers and songwriters?
Listen to great songwriters, write hundreds of songs, record your songs in simple formats so you can listen back, and most importantly Play Live. Your audience will be your greatest teacher.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Congrats on your Royals! As a huge sports fan I was so pleased to see you all get your ring. No fan base deserves it more! Repeat???

Singer-songwriter John Ondrasik, best known by his stage name Five for Fighting, joins your Kansas City Symphony for one very special evening of inspired hits on Thursday, June 9 at 8 p.m. in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo.. Enjoy favorites like “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” “The Riddle,” “Chances” and “100 Years” performed with stunning live orchestral arrangements. Tickets start at $30. To purchase, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online.

Doc Severinsen Returns June 2017!

Doc Severinsen
Doc Severinsen will perform with the Kansas City Symphony on June 8, 2017, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Doc Severinsen Returns June 2017 to Play with Kansas City Symphony for His 90th Birthday Celebration

Concert available as add-on to season subscriptions now; single tickets on sale in July

Legendary trumpet player and former bandleader of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” Doc Severinsen returns for his second appearance in back-to-back seasons with the Kansas City Symphony. In celebration of his 90th birthday, he will perform with the Symphony at 7 p.m. on June 8, 2017, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

In the coming “Here’s Doc!” concert, Severinsen will present his take on hits from the American Songbook and Big Band eras while sharing stories from his incredible 70-year career. The lineup includes favorites such as “Summertime,” “September Song,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” plus several special surprises.

Severinsen previously appeared with the Symphony for a sold-out, holiday-themed concert called “Jingle Bell Doc” in December 2015.

Currently, season subscribers can add on the Doc Severinsen concert to season packages. Concert tickets range $49-99. In July, single tickets will go on sale to the public. For more information or to add-on tickets to a season subscription, please visit or call the Kansas City Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400.

Get to Know Guest Organist Dorothy Papadakos

Editor’s note: Screenland at the Symphony: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” features guest organist Dorothy Papadakos who will improvise on the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Learn more.

Dorothy Papadakos
Dorothy Papadakos

1. Tell us about yourself. When did you start playing the organ? When did you decide to pursue music as your career?

I started piano at age 9 in Reno, Nev., with a marvelous teacher who moonlighted as a jazz player in the clubs. When I was 11, he started teaching me jazz, how to read lead sheets of the great jazz and Broadway standards, and how to improvise off charts and invent my own spontaneous music. Five years later he died suddenly, and at age 16, I was utterly bereft. One Sunday in church I heard the organ going and started lessons … just four years later I would find myself a student at Barnard College and improvising a few blocks away on Friday nights at the world’s largest gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC, for Night Watch, a program where teens from across the nation would come for weekend retreats. I studied classical organ repertoire and earned my master’s degree in organ at the Juilliard School and then became the assistant organist at St. John the Divine. That’s when I learned how to improvise for silent films, from the legendary theatre organist Lee Erwin who’d come play a movie there every Halloween! Three years later in 1990, I was appointed head cathedral organist, the first woman in history, and I held that post for 13 years until 2003 when I moved into music theatre.

2. Are you performing a lot of silent movie concerts these days? Have you seen an uptick in interest for these types of performances in recent years?

There’s a HUGE uptick, yes!  Silent movies haven’t been this popular since their golden era in the 1920s. My Halloween Horror Tour this year is eight cities in four weeks, and I have all kinds of gigs booked already into 2016 and 2017, including screening Charlie Chaplin shorts at next year’s American Guild of Organists National Convention in Houston, Texas! Charlie Chaplin at a national organist convention — I think that may be a first! It’s all about showcasing the art of improvisation.

3. What are you most looking forward to as you return to play the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ for the second time and your second Screenland at the Symphony concert?

I absolutely love the spirit, personality and power of the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ. When I played “Nosferatu” at last year, I was so energized and inspired by its evocative and hauntingly beautiful sound combinations as well as the thunderous whomp it delivers! It shakes my bench up there! I also love the feel of the console six stories up — it’s like you’re floating out there over the stage in all that sound. It‘ll be terrific to see the whole Kansas City Symphony gang again, too!

4. How do you prepare for a silent film performance? In your opinion, does a silent film performance require more energy or endurance than a traditional organ recital?

Improvisation is best when it’s fresh and I’m on the edge of my seat, so I rarely preview a film once I’ve learned it. I have my scene breakdowns and cue sheets that I study on the plane flying to a gig, but the biggest preparation is registering a venue’s organ, choosing the sounds I like, and setting the memory combinations, the pistons. The cue sheets — all my silent movie scores are original material I’ve composed — are just like films and TV shows today where major characters each have his/her own theme, or “hook,” which I then improvise off of throughout the film. Since there’s no talking, the themes have to do the work of conveying the character’s interior world, dilemmas and action. Cues vary in length from as little as two bars to 16 bars.

Yes, silent film performance is an endurance test! A genuine marathon of non-stop improvisation, usually for 90-plus minutes for the horror films. In organ repertoire recitals, you get a break between pieces, even sometimes take an intermission. But when accompanying a silent film, you’re having to generate fresh new musical ideas non-stop to keep it interesting for the audience on the journey of the story. Because it’s such a test of endurance, improvisational ability, and quick adaptation to any kind of organ, there aren’t many of us who do it. But those of us who do accompany silent films professionally LOVE it. I know for me it’s one of the most freeing and creative musical experiences I have … it’s always different, every audience is new energy, every organ sings and plays differently, and I’m different each show with new musical ideas — I never get bored!  To me the thrill is discovering in performance what’s inside me, inside the audience and the organ, moment to moment, in the synergistic four-way relationship triggered by the actors on screen.

5. Even though you improvise during the film, are there specific scenes where you’ve already pre-planned a special effect or to play a certain passage? Will you sample famous organ works throughout any of your improvisations? If so, what melodies or pieces might be featured?

I learned long ago you can’t pre-plan anything in improvisation. It never goes the way you planned! … because you’re not who you were when you wrote the pre-planned effect and in front of an audience everything changes. I have to enter each performance in complete surrender to the new moment and trust my bag of tricks will be there if I need it. I’m often asked if I using a cue sheet is it really improvisation. The reason for the cue sheet is to remember which pistons/preset sounds go with each cue — every organ is different and with all the gigs I play, there’s no way to remember which buttons to push. Also, no cue ever works/sounds/plays the same way on any two organs!

My dear mentor, legendary silent film organist Lee Erwin, told me that to truly accompany silent films the right way, which is to tell the film’s story and heighten the drama, you compose your own original themes that you think convey the emotional subtext and action of a scene. The only film where I do a direct quote of a popular piece of music is in “Phantom of the Opera,” where, in homage to Lee’s memory, I play his “Masked Ball Theme,” which is his marvelous rendition of the French Can-Can.  I then improvise off it after the initial 12-bar quote. I tell my students the main reason silent films often don’t land in performance is that accompanists insert pop tunes, or even bad musical jokes, that have nothing to do with the story, characters or dramatic action of the moment. Instantly, the audience is jolted out of the film and shifts their focus onto the performer. It also diminishes the film’s power and integrity as well as your authenticity as the aural storyteller. Lee always told me, “If you do your job correctly, the audience forgets you’re there — audiences know when you’re with the film or faking it!”

6. Do you have a favorite part of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?” If so, which part do you like best and why?

I love how brilliantly John Barrymore performs Dr. Jekyll’s first transformation into Mr. Hyde, without makeup, all in one take. It’s pure theatrical genius! I also enjoy the film’s variety of locations, from London music hall to opium den to laboratory to high society parlor — it gives me the opportunity to create fun different styles of music for each one, like vamp music for Gina and the music hall, Chinese music in the opium den and Dr. Jekyll’s theme in his laboratory. OK, the spider scene is pretty cool, too!

7. Can you reveal anything about your costume? Or is it a surprise? 🙂 

A dear friend who makes costumes for the film industry in Wilmington, N.C., created my gentleman’s cape and trousers and we’ve pieced the other bits together. The main considerations for my costumes are fabric and comfort at the organ (it gets hot playing for 90 min!) … and that’s all I’ll tell you!!  🙂

8. What’s up next for you — any big concerts or tours coming up?

My musical BACCHUS (the first musical ever about wine!) is my 24/7 focus as my Broadway producer and I develop it for production. But from Oct. 16 through Nov. 13, I’ll be in “Halloween Horror mode” with my creepy cool friends “Nosferatu,” the “Phantom,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” On Halloween night,  I’m playing a “Phantom of the Opera” double-feature at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, hosted by San Francisco Jazz — everyone will be in costume … it’s Halloween in SF!

9. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to perform “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in Helzberg Hall! I can’t wait to be with you all again — as I discovered last year, Kansas City audiences love their horror movies and they ROCK!

To learn more about the Screenland at the Symphony: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29 featuring guest organist Dorothy Papadakos, visit the Symphony ticket page here. Tickets start at $25. Wear a costume and be considered for the Symphony’s costume contest prior to the concert! Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners.

SPECIAL FEATURE: ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeBy: Butch Rigby, Screenland Founder

This year’s Screenland at the Symphony Halloween concert features John Barrymore — patriarch of one of the great American film-acting dynasties — as the protagonist in the silent-film adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The story itself is one of great intrigue. Dr. Jekyll, criticized for his dispassionate manner, becomes fascinated with the idea of two personalities residing within one person. He then embarks on a “scientific” journey not only to discover this other side of himself, but to give it a life of its own in the form of an alter ego, Mr. Hyde. Unfortunately, this extreme “evil twin” becomes dominant, leading inevitably to the good Dr. Jekyll’s demise.Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde still

While many have attempted to bring this famous character to life on screen over the years, it was Barrymore who most genuinely captured the grotesque spirit of Stevenson’s character. And although he adapted to “talking pictures” quite well, Barrymore always will be remembered for his work in silent films and especially the performance you will see tonight.

John Barrymore was the son of actors and the brother of Lionel Barrymore, who many will recognize as “Mr. Potter” in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  His sister, Ethel Barrymore, was considered one of the finest actresses of her time, and he was the grandfather of modern cinema star, Drew Barrymore. Barrymore was often referred to as “The Great Profile” due to his handsome features and incredible popularity. His life — and death — are the stuff of Hollywood legend. It is rumored that after his passing at the age of 60, Barrymore’s buddies Errol Flynn and director Raoul Walsh commandeered his corpse and had a final drink with him at Flynn’s home before his funeral.

Regardless of whether you believe the legend, tonight, we have a rare opportunity to watch a true master of the silent-film era on the big screen. The music, courtesy of Dorothy Papadakos and the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ, will make it once in a lifetime.

To purchase tickets to the Thursday, Oct. 29 Screenland at the Symphony: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” performance featuring organist Dorothy Papadakos, call the Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select your seat online.

Get to Know Special Guest Mary Chapin Carpenter

Editor’s note: Mary Chapin Carpenter sings with the Kansas City Symphony and guest conductor Vince Mendoza at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Learn more.

Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Russ Harrington.
Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Russ Harrington.

1. Tell us about how you and Vince Mendoza started on this journey of orchestra shows. Did he come to you with the idea, or did you reach out to him? How long did the process take?

I first heard Vince’s work more than a decade ago, when I was performing at one of Don Henley’s fundraisers for Walden Woods. Vince was the arranger of all of the songs, and they were so beautiful, lush, evocative… I remember standing on the side of the stage and in that moment making a wish that if I could ever do an orchestral record, Vince would be the composer/arranger that I would love to work with. From that moment on, it took many years for it to come to fruition. We reached out to him when we felt we had the means to pull this project off. The phrase “worth the wait” comes to mind; I have never been so happy to wait so long for something so life transforming and artistically satisfying.

2. What are the some of the differences of performing with an orchestra versus a smaller ensemble? What do you appreciate about each format?

Playing with my 5-6 piece rock band is quite different from playing with an orchestra, as is fairly obvious.  But I love doing both and have discovered how many different skills are required to perform within each incarnation. I had to learn how to sing live with an orchestra, as well as to sing with an orchestra in the studio of course. I liken it to surfing; you have to stay atop the wave, recalibrating constantly … you don’t want to over-sing and lose all of the nuance and emotion, and you don’t want to under-sing and get swallowed up by this enormous wave of sound … so you learn how to listen to everything, follow your conductor, and know your own voice and it’s resonance within the orchestra. Having great monitors helps a lot! I appreciate being able to do many different things as an artist, the notion of being “nimble” enough to present my music in so many different settings is something I treasure and appreciate every day.

3. What type of response do you receive from fans from these symphonic concerts?

I have felt so grateful for the response we have received… I am always aware that no doubt there are a number of folks in the audience who are unfamiliar with the material, and so I always want to try and provide some brief introductions to the songs, to at least offer some context. It is always a pleasure to do this and it gives me a chance to bring a little bit more of myself into the more formal environment of a concert hall. Presenting the music last year from Scotland to New York to Los Angeles and back was the thrill of a lifetime.

Songs from the Movie album cover.
Songs from the Movie album cover.

4. Do you have a favorite moment or song from the “Songs from a Movie” set? If so, which one and why?

I do not have a favorite moment, as the set truly is a sum of its parts. What made this project in particular so challenging and satisfying was the fact that I was culling songs from so many years of recordings. Basically, these songs came from many different lives… Vince was the alchemist, the magician if you will, who made them all sound as if they originated from the same time and place and put them in musical settings to bind them to one another. It was extraordinary to hear the finished work, and to feel how the songs all connected to each other.

5. When is the last time you performed in Kansas City?

I last played there with my old friend Shawn Colvin a few years ago. It was a memorable evening!

6. Are you looking forward to performing within Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with the Kansas City Symphony?

I can’t wait… the Kauffman Center [for the Performing Arts] is one of the most glorious venues I have ever had the privilege to play, and I cannot wait to present our music there… a dream come true.

Mary Chapin Carpenter sings with the Kansas City Symphony and guest conductor Vince Mendoza at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Tickets start at $40. To purchase, call the Kansas City Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online. To learn more about Mary Chapin Carpenter, visit her website.