TUPELO • Anyone who attends a live orchestral concert usually enjoys it from the comfort of a seat at a distance from the musicians.
But what if your seat was moved behind the orchestra so you can see the conductor’s face during the performance? How about a spot next to one of the performers or if you had easy access to ask a soloist about a piece of music?
The North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will give its audience an opportunity to see another side of the symphony during its “Discovery” performances Saturday, Jan. 18 at the BancorpSouth Conference Center in Tupelo.
“Discovery” is part of conductor Steven Byess’ effort to build a connection between the orchestra and the public.
“We’re trying to engage the community more in this hundreds of years-old practice of performing with an orchestra,” he said. “I’d like for the audience to see that upclose, to understand and experience like it’s like and, therefore, discover. This is a sense of discovery for this program.”
The NMSO will host performances at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The performance at 2 is the NMSO’s second annual sensory-friendly event that’s free to the public and to any family with special needs children and adults.
Byess said there’s some separation between the musicians and the audience at a concert, but he wants to bring them closer.
“In Tupelo, we’ve always tried to make it friendly by talking from the stage, giving access to these world-class soloists who play literally all over the world,” he said. “We bring them in, and we let the people come and talk to them. People in Memphis, Atlanta, Nashville, Kansas City, New York, Chicago, you can’t have access to the musicians in the orchestra. They’re kind of protected. In Tupelo, we create this environment where people can connect with the music.”
To accomplish this during a performance, Byess said the “Discovery” concert will be “in the round.” Because of this setup, the NMSO is playing at the convention center instead of the Link Centre.
“My idea was to create a concert where the orchestra would be in the round with people sitting all around the orchestra,” he said. “The back, the sides, the front, maybe a few seats tucked inside the orchestra, so you can experience what it’s like to be inside a symphony orchestra. The people can be closer to the performances. They can see the conductor’s face. They can get close to the soloist and feel a part of the collaboration.”
Danilo Mezzadri, the NMSO’s principal flute player, will be the concert’s featured soloist. He will perform Bach’s “Suite No. 2.”
“I’ve chosen three pieces for that program that are really listener friendly,” Byess said, “pieces that are accessible so that there’s not an effort to consume the music, but allows people to hear the music and enjoy the aspects of the communication and mechanics of putting something together.”
For the 2 p.m. performance, the NMSO is partnering with the Autism Center of North Mississippi to perform a sensory-friendly concert for audiences of all ages and abilities, including those on the autism spectrum and anyone with sensory sensitivities.
The concert will be in a relaxed environment where the audience can enjoy the music with family and friends. A quiet room and headphones will be available, and consideration given to lights and sound. Autism Center staff will be on hand to assist children and families during the musical experience.