Explore and discover are the operative experiences for this newly reconfigured series of programs taking us ‘home’ to attend live programs at the Hilbert after an eighteen-month hiatus.

The season kicks off September 17-18 with Printing Partners POPS,  “Welcome Home: A Spotlight on ISO Musicians,”  followed on September 30-October 2 by the opening DeHaan Classical Series program, “Welcome to the United States of America.”  

The special event “Opening Night Celebration” returns on Sep. 24.

“The efforts of the tireless heroes working continuously to keep us safe during this past year inspired the POPS season [as] a celebration of live music,” offered Jack Everly, Principal POPS conductor, as an introduction to the opening “concert celebrating the art of live orchestral music, the extraordinary artistry of our own musicians, and the return home to the Hilbert Circle Theatre. As the ISO returns to the stage, individual musicians will be front and center as featured soloists.

“Season after season, we experience beautiful music made on our stage by a collective group of musicians known as a symphony,” added Everly. “Now, we’re putting the spotlight on the individual artists in our Orchestra, [alongside paying] tribute to the resilience of the community, its healthcare workers…We want to celebrate everyone who contributed to us being back on stage with a live audience,” says Everly, [including] “our own musicians who have shown remarkable resilience and tenacity during an extremely difficult time.”

According to Everly, there is something for everyone in this performance, including introducing Dr. Eric Yancy to the ISO stage, to perform the “Star Spangled Banner.” 

Basketball enthusiasts may recall Riley Children’s Hospital physician Dr. Yancy singing the national anthem prior to the tip-off of the NCAA Final Four in April 2021.

Opening program highlights also include the Orchestra playing “Prelude to Act III: Madame Butterfly,” and selections from “Carousel Waltz,” “Mary Poppins” and “Star Wars.” 

Sections of the orchestra are predominantly featured in the program with Leroy Anderson favorites including “Clarinet Candy” that shines the spotlight on the woodwinds, while “Bugler’s Holiday” features the trumpets and trombones. Concertmaster Kevin Lin will perform a violin solo on “Fiddler on the Roof,” Principal Viola Yu Jin on “Smile,” and Principal Trumpetist Conrad Jones on “Nessun Dorma.”

2021 marks Jack Everly’s 26th anniversary as part of the ISO, forward from 1994 as guest conductor for the Yuletide program. Here’s his response to an email Q/A:

Rita Kohn:  Building the 2021-22 season in the midst of COVID-19 showcases as much an opportunity as it does a challenge--two aspects that mark the trajectory of your career as an innovator for the Symphonic POPS genre. What makes this 8-concert program particularly special for you?

Maestro Jack Everly: To return to the stage with our magnificent Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and perform for our enthusiastic audiences once again will begin the journey of healing our musical souls. Creating the various concerts has been a joyous feeling of normalcy.

Kohn: I'm recalling a posted article where you describe your childhood experiencing your father's joy in his work--something you have been bringing to YOUR work, every day. Now, everyone talks about 'the joy of being back on stage,' etc.  Share, please, how your father's temperament has made JOY the central foundation of your 50-year career.

Maestro Everly: I remember a photo of Dad in the Pal-Item (Richmond’s own newspaper). He had just returned home from WWII (in the South Pacific) and was holding two handfuls of snow. His smiling face said it all: good to be home and appreciating the simple pleasures. When things are bad, I try to remember that.

Kohn: The 2021-22 ISO Season opens with "Welcome Home: A Spotlight on ISO Musicians." What makes this newly configured orchestra one we in the seats must particularly observe? What is the spotlight shining on?

Maestro Everly: The “Spotlight On Musicians” is celebrating the soloists and sections of our wonderful orchestra in a greatly varied repertoire. The ’spotlight’ is shining on their musicianship and how important they all our to our community.

Kohn: Nimble now is the operative word in arts and culture programming. How easy, or not, will it be to adjust the scheduled eight programs? What happens if....? Or should I, as a reviewer, shrug off my deep sigh after 18 months of zigzagging around what was planned and altered?  What must the ticket holder take in stride and, back to the top, 'be joyful' with whatever? [ I'm equally recalling the televised  Capital Fourth 2021 concert--it was a total makeover from the usual format we all got used to. And, I very much enjoyed the trip around the USA and the environs of Washington DC.]

Maestro Everly: Orchestras, theatres, opera & ballet companies are struggling to survive the world over owing to the pandemic. They represent a quality of life for all of us, part of the joy of living that has been missing these painful many months. It is seldom easy to adjust a program, no matter the reason. Last season I was fortunate to conduct in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Naples because those orchestras were presenting concerts either live or streamed. The repertoire and the instrumentation needed to change quite often throughout all of last season and although I am hoping that is not the case this season, it could very well be so. The most wonderful thing that could happen is that our audiences show up in great numbers and are overjoyed to see and hear us. I think more than a few of us on stage will be more than misty-eyed.

Kohn: What more do you particularly want to share as we all come out of our shells to be present physically downtown LIVE with the ISO, September through March?

Maestro Everly: Enjoy and celebrate the possibility of doing so. ‘Waiting until it’s all over’ before we venture out and celebrate our existence by attending the performing arts may very well result in the performing arts simply not being there. We need them.  Life is better with music. Live music.  I know.

The time format for all POPS concerts is 11 a.m. for the Coffee Pops, and 8 p.m. for the evening dates. Here’s what you’ll be applauding:

Welcome Home: A Spotlight on ISO Musicians: Sep. 17-18

Frank Sinatra and Great Ladies of Song: Oct. 22-23

Ciirque Spectacular: Nov. 12-13 [no Coffee concert, 8 p.m. concerts only]

Christina Bianco: Who’s Your Diva? Jan. 21-22

Valentine’s Day with the ISO, Feb. 11-12

Jack’s Broadway Standing Ovations, March 18-19

An Evening with Lea Salonga, April 29-30

Michael Cavanaugh with the ISO, June 3-4

Subscriptions and single tickets to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra are currently on sale at the ISO’s website or by phone at (317) 639-4300, by mail, or in person at the Hilbert Circle Theatre Box Office, 45 Monument Circle, Indianapolis, IN 46204. 

The ISO news release points out, “Benefits of becoming an ISO [Season] subscriber include advance ticket-buying opportunities for special events such as the Opening Night Celebration and the annual holiday tradition AES Indiana Yuletide Celebration. Subscriber benefits also include discounted tickets to classical, pops and family concerts and an opportunity to purchase a pre-paid season parking pass to EZ Parking Garage, located at 20 N. Pennsylvania.”

The entrances to Hilbert Circle Theatre will open 60 minutes prior to the start of each concert. Guests will be required to show proof of vaccination — either with the my Bindle app or with an image of a vaccination card with an ID — or a negative PCR test upon entry to the theater.

Learn more about how the ISO builds its season here:  “Backstage with the ISO”: https://www.indianapolissymphony.org/backstage/

Cover image courtesy of Nicholas Shotwell

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