News Column

TSO takes it outside

July 10, 2014

By Marta Hepler Drahos, The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.

July 10--TRAVERSE CITY -- Say "outdoor concert" to an orchestra manager and you'll likely see the multi-tasker cringe.

Performing en plein air is notoriously fraught with disaster -- from wind, rain and humidity that can hamper players and their instruments' tonality, to audience distractions like rustling leaves and road noise.

"I have played in tents that leaked around the seams," said Traverse City musician Rick Jaissle. "I can remember playing an Oktoberest and one of the seams from the wall to the ceiling leaked so the drummer had to wear a raincoat."

None of that should come into play when the Traverse Symphony Orchestra presents its first outdoor concert since going professional 13 years ago. "TSO @ the Village at Grand Traverse Commons" will take place under a 20,000-square-foot "grand event tent" that can hold 4,000 people.

"We can cover everyone -- audience and performers," said Sam Porter of Traverse City-based Porterhouse Productions and Tent Venue, producers of the July 19 event.

That's a load off Jaissle's mind. The TSO manager of operations and orchestra personnel is tasked with making sure that all the amenities present in a concert hall -- from a place to secure instruments to separate changing areas for men and women -- are provided for the orchestra outdoors.

"The biggest thing for us is the wind," he said, adding that orchestra members will bring clothespins to clip their music to their music stands. "The wind does affect sound but one of the things about the tent we're playing in is that it has acoustic capabilities. If you have a shape around you, then the sound can travel around the walls so it enhances the sound."

Two outdoor rehearsals will help the musicians get used to the sound -- having sound and light equipment onstage is another adjustment they'll have to make -- and their instruments to get used to the humidity.

"The more humidity there is, the more out of tune they go, especially wood and string instruments," Jaissle said. "But they can settle down once they're used to the atmosphere."

The outdoor event will feature the largest orchestra of the season, including 30 supplemental players, and pre-concert entertainment by local duo The Accidentals and Satchmo: A Louis Armstrong Tribute.

It also will feature a light show of images from around the region choreographed to the orchestral music, local foods paired with local wines in a "geo-specific walking tour" of the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas -- imagine popular landmarks geographically placed around the Commons lawn -- and two "lighthouse" galleries showcasing local photographers and artists.

"The lights are going to be moving so the whole thing becomes a moving venue of lights," Porter said. "It won't be like a Pink Floyd concert, but it will be spectacular."

The event is part of an effort to reach out to new audiences with a new experience, said Krista Cooper, TSO executive director. Family-friendly highlights include special pricing, a casual atmosphere in a picnic setting and a sans-notes program of light, high-energy classical "hits" and the debut of an orchestra piece arranged by The Accidentals.

"We want to introduce the community to the symphony in a format that is approachable and comfortable," Cooper said. "There are some folks who are a bit afraid of the traditional symphonic setting, concerned they might not know the rules of attending. We want to break down some of those stuffy barriers and show them it's something they can experience in a family format."

General admission chair and lawn seating (bring your own chair or blanket) is $35 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger. Kids 2 and younger get in free. A "VIP upgrade" and table seating also are available.

Pre-concert entertainment starts at 5 p.m; the TSO concert begins at 8 p.m.

For tickets or more information, visit or


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Source: Record-Eagle, The (Traverse City, MI)

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