It’s Morning Edition on KRPS. Spring and warmer temperatures have arrived in the Four States along with an increased number of people receiving vaccines, has allowed for some in-person music performances to start happening in the area. That includes Pittsburg State and the Southeast Kansas Symphony, who will host a “Sunday in the Park,” an outdoor concert on Sunday, April 18 at 5 pm. On Monday, I spoke with Conductor of the Southeast Kansas Symphony and the PSU Chamber Orchestra Dr. Raul Munguia.
He started our conversation off by thanking the community for their support during the pandemic. “I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody, all our audiences here, in Pittsburg and beyond. How much support we’ve had throughout the year. It’s interesting to think that the last in-person performance that the symphony had was in February last year, 2020. Now, we are in April, and we are welcoming, for the first time in almost 14-months, a concert, a live concert. So yes, it’s going to happen on Sunday, April 18, at 5 pm, outside of McCray Hall.”
The decision to have the first performance in over a year of the SEK Symphony outside was intentional so that as many people that feel comfortable attending could do so. Raul knows firsthand how damaging the pandemic has been on the arts. He says that while universities like PSU don’t rely on ticket sales for revenue, like professional groups, the music department had to figure out ways to plan and stream concerts for students, so they could perform live. “One of the good things is that the university had the ability to provide the performances virtually. That has been a plus. We all have learned something different. Every ensemble has different styles of delivering their performances, and I think we all have to agree that, no matter what, people will get our music. And one of the good things about virtual performances is that you can go back and watch that performance.” Before the pandemic, the home performance hall of the SEK Symphony, the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, hosted nearly an event a day.
Like 1,000’s of other performing arts revenues across the US, the Bicknell had to figure out how to bring new audiences streaming concerts on a more regular basis. Having the capacity to record and stream performance is nice, but it has also increased the value of live performances, according to Raul. “You know, music happens in the split of a second. It’s the beauty of it. And that’s why live performances are so valuable. Because art is being made right in front of your eyes. Yes, we practice, and we rehearse, we prepare for that, but for the audience. You don’t go to a museum and watch a painting being painted. So the artist can come back and fix it as many times as they like. Music doesn’t happen that way. If there is a wrong note, there’s a wrong note; that’s the beauty of the live performances.”
In addition to the SEK Symphony performing on Sunday, April 18 at 5 pm, the following day the PSU Chamber Orchestra will release a streaming performance from the Bicknell Center of the” The Four Seasons,” the iconic set of concertos by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, Monday, April 19 at 7 pm. One of the pandemic’s bright spots is that streaming shows and live performances could co-exist and be able to reach new audiences. “On Monday, at 7 o’clock, we are actually releasing the recording of The Four Seasons, recorded by the Chamber Orchestra. It’s the string section of the SEK Symphony. And we have three different students performing the solos. Briana Moore is playing winter, Lilly Monroe is playing summer, Edith Sigler is playing the fall or autumn, and I am playing spring.”
Raul chose to record this performance not in the Bicknell or in the Sharon Kay Dean Hall Recital Hall, but an area familiar to all PSU music students. “We recorded in the lobby of McCray Hall. So, if you’ve been in this hall, you know that the lobby has a resonance, a beautiful resonance here. About 2-3 second echo, intimating what it feels to be in a church, that’s the beauty of it. I love practicing in the lobby. Sometimes I come in the middle of the night and play Bach, or some kind of baroque music. It’s just the perfect type of room for that kind of music.”
Professor of Orchestras at Pittsburg State, Dr. Raul Munguia, speaking about this Sunday’s performance of the Southeast Kansas Symphony. The concert will be outside. It starts at 5 pm at PSU’s McCray Hall. The PSU Chamber Orchestra’s streaming performance is set to premiere the following night at 7 pm. You can find that at Facebook.com/BicknellCenter.