Symphony tries to regain lost youth with dance concert

April 08, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

If you're under 30 years old, David Zinman wants you!

More specifically, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra wants you to attend the orchestra's "dance mix" concert at Meyerhoff hall tonight at 8:15.

"I want them," Zinman says with undisguised intensity. "I want the sort of audience that goes to rock concerts and would never go to a classical concert. That's why I wanted to find a type of concert that would give a sense of ownership to a younger audience."

American orchestras, the BSO included, are worried that their aging audiences may be dying off without younger people to replace them. The design Zinman has come up with to give younger people the sense of ownership they experience at pop-music concerts is to play 12 rhythmically vibrant, accessible, short works -- the longest will be about 13 minutes, the shortest about 2 --by American composers who use pop music idioms.

The concert will include the lighting that's featured at rock concerts and at the concerts of the Kronos String Quartet, which has attracted a younger, pop-oriented audience to its classical programs. Like a disc jockey, Zinman will announce the selections from the stage.

And there will be two intermissions in which WHFS-FM (99.1) radio personality Zoltar will spin club music in the lobby and, after the concert, at a dance. The orchestra has peppered local high schools, colleges and coffeehouses with hundreds of posters announcing the concert and saturated the Baltimore area with radio advertising.

The concert will cost $6 -- "less than a movie," Zinman says -- and, as of yesterday, about 1,500 of Meyerhoff's 2,400 seats were expected to be filled.

But if the one-time concert will be inexpensive to attend, it is proving very costly to produce -- despite generous support from the families of Louis J. Nicholas and Oscar B. Camp. The #F orchestra has invited several of the composers -- including Christopher Rouse ("Bonham"), Michael Daugherty ("Desi"), David Schiff ("Stomp"), Aaron Jay Kernis ("New Era Dance for Orchestra"), Libby Larson ("Collage: Boogie"), John Harbison ("Remembering Gatsby") and Michael Torke ("Charcoal") -- to attend rehearsals as well as speak at the performance.

These pieces are so technically challenging that performing them properly has required the orchestra to pay its musicians for seven rehearsals -- "and I could have used several more," Zinman says. (The average subscription concert, which is repeated 2 to 4 times, usually requires only four rehearsals.) Zinmanand the orchestra will spend this weekend recording the 12 pieces for a disc scheduled for release on the Argo label next year.

"This concert is expensive to put on," Zinman says. "But just getting some younger people to listen to the orchestra makes it worth it. If even a few of them come back for more, it will be a bargain."

DANCE MIX CONCERT

What: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays dance music of Bernstein, Christopher Rouse, John Adams, Michael Torke and several others.

When: 8:15 tonight

Where: Meyerhoff Hall

Tickets: $6

Call: 783-8000

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