Classical Music & Dance

The Classical Beat: KC Symphony to boldly go into the concert season

Remember the “Star Trek” theme? Many thanks to composer Alexander Courage. The Kansas City Symphony will play that an other pop favorites Monday at Theatre in the Park in Shawnee. The event is free.
Remember the “Star Trek” theme? Many thanks to composer Alexander Courage. The Kansas City Symphony will play that an other pop favorites Monday at Theatre in the Park in Shawnee. The event is free. File

The Kansas City Symphony’s Pops in the Park concert is not only an end-of-summer celebration, but also marks the beginning of the Symphony’s new season.

Aram Demirjian conducts the season-opener Monday at Theatre in the Park at Shawnee Mission Park.

Demirjian is beginning his fourth year as associate conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, and has chosen a program of light pops, film music and show tunes — just the sort of fare for a symphonic summer fling.

“Since it’s the end of summer vacation, there’s a little bit of a carnival theme,” Demirjian said. “We’ve got the ‘Carnival Overture’ by Antonin Dvorak and music from ‘Carousel,’ and we’re also doing a number called ‘Mardi Gras’ by (Ferde) Grofé. But we don’t stick too hard and fast to the carnival theme. It’s just going to be a good time with a bunch of fun music.”

Other works on the program include a movement from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, a march from “Superman: The Movie” by John Williams and some enterprising sci-fi music.

“We’re doing a great piece called ‘Star Trek Through the Years,’ which covers all of the themes from the ‘Star Trek’ TV show and all of the movies,” Demirjian said. “It’s going to be a light, fun, energetic, upbeat concert. We love doing it every year, and we love how enthusiastic our audience gets.”

You’re encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs and a picnic dinner. The parking lot opens at 4:30 p.m., and the instrument petting zoo opens at 5 p.m. The Youth Symphony of Kansas City will perform at 6 p.m.

7 p.m. Monday. Theatre in the Park, Shawnee Mission Park, 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee. Free. More information at visit

“Classics Uncorked: Made in America”

Demirjian is going to be busy in September.

Friday night he’ll conduct the Kansas City Symphony’s first “Classics Uncorked” concert of the season, “Made in America.”

Demirjian helped start the series in his first year with the Symphony. Classics Uncorked is a winning combination of great music and a glass of champagne, and it’s been an unqualified success.

“The audience response and reception has exceeded my wildest expectations,” Demirjian said. “Our audiences keep getting bigger, and we see a lot of familiar faces coming back every time. And we love seeing lots of new faces.

“The goal of ‘Classics Uncorked’ is to give people a casual, fun experience and an introduction to great symphonic music, but also to present symphonic works with a fresh perspective to people who are regular members of our audience or who know this music really well.”

Made in America is a perfect example of what Demirjian is going for. Lots of music almost everyone is familiar with, as well as offbeat works to perk up the ears of even the most jaded concertgoer. So, in addition to Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” and Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” there’s also a piece called “Lollapalooza” by John Adams.

“As the title indicates, ‘Lollapalooza’ is an energetic, musical party,” Demirjian said. “It’s a fun, short overture that’s pure adrenaline. There are very intense moments, there are playful moments, there are whimsical moments and downright, heavy chaotic moments. You just grab hold and hang on for the ride.

“It’s a piece that probably a lot of people aren’t that familiar with, but it’s one of my favorite pieces by a living American composer. I think people are going to be glad to be introduced to it.”

“Made in America” also will introduce the Symphony’s new associate concertmaster, Justine Lamb-Budge. She’ll be the soloist for the first movement of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, which Demirjian describes as “soaringly lyrical.” Selections from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” will round out the program.

It’s not a coincidence that a concert of American music was planned for Sept. 11. Demirijian says there will be a couple of moments of memorial and recognition of the tragedy of 2001, but mostly “Made in America” will celebrate the enduring American spirit.

“One of the best parts of Classics Uncorked is the chance that we in the orchestra have to socialize after the concert,” Demirjian said. “We just love hearing the reactions in real time that people are having to the music that they hear. It’s a unique way to experience classical music in Kansas City.”

7 p.m. Friday. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$30. 816-471-0400 or

Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax

The Harriman-Jewell Series is kicking off its 51st season in style.

Two legends of classical music, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Emanuel Ax, will perform together Tuesday at Helzberg Hall.

Perlman, who just turned 70, and Ax, 66, are mainstays of the Harriman-Jewell Series.

Kansas City, like the rest of the world, adores these two, not only for their superb musicianship, but also for their charisma.

The duo will play music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and sonatas by Gabriel Fauré and Richard Strauss, music they recently recorded for Deutsche Grammophon. A few program surprises will be announced from the stage.

7 p.m. Tuesday. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $30-$80. 816-415-5025 or

Dance in the Park

September is just right for Dance in the Park.

For Dance in the Park, cool-ish autumn weather means that the dancers are working up a sweat, but the audience is comfortable. The event is 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Kansas City’s lovely Roanoke Park.

A variety of dance genres will be represented, everything from ballet and salsa to swing, Irish and even a Vietnamese lion dance. Participating companies include City in Motion Dance Theater, City in Motion Children’s Dance Theater and Apprentice Company, the Kansas City Ballet Second Company, the Driscoll Dancers and two of Kansas City’s newest companies, Defy Dance Project and Heartlines Dance Company.

A free dance class starts at 6:30 p.m., and members of the audience are invited to bring a blanket or lawn chair and a picnic dinner. But please leave pets at home.

6:30 p.m Saturday. Roanoke Park, 3699 E. Roanoke Drive. Free. More information at

Owen/Cox Dance 2015-16 Season

It’s always exciting to find out what ideas are percolating between choreographer Jennifer Owen and her husband, composer Brad Cox.

Owen/Cox Dance, the duo’s contemporary dance company, has just announced its 2015-16 season and it’s as intriguing and mind-expanding as you would expect from these two creative artists.

The season begins Sept. 25 and 26 with New Dance Partners, a collaborative effort with Michael Uthoff, artistic director of Dance Saint Louis and Oklahoma City Ballet and Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance. The program will include new works by choreographers Brian Enos, Kate Skarpetowska, and Gregory Dawson.

From Oct. 23 to 25 it’s the world premiere of “What Keeps Mankind Alive.” With music by Kurt Weill arranged by Cox, this work will show the more theatrical side of Owen’s choreography. The program also will include contemporary tango.

The classic Faustian ballet “A Soldier’s Tale” will be presented March 19, 2016. Igor Stravinsky’s score will be performed by one of Kansas City’s newest ensembles, NAVO, directed by Shokhrukh Sadikov formerly of the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan.

Closing out the season April 15 and 16 is “Danza: 500 Years of Dance in Spain.” Owen/Cox will be joined by Beau Bledsoe’s Ensemble Iberica for a program of dance from Spain and the New World. Go to for more.

Patrick Neas is program director for To reach him, send email to

Owen/Cox 2015-2016 Season

Sept. 25 and 26: New Dance Partners, Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park

Oct. 23, 24 and 25: “What Keeps Mankind Alive,” Musical Theater Heritage, Crown Center

March 19, 2016: “A Soldier’s Tale,” Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College

April 15 and 16: “Danza”, Polsky Theatre, Johnson County Community College

For more information, go to