At Orchestra Hall, it’s in with the new (but keep the old, too)

The premiere locale is widening its doors for a younger audience.

Samir Ferdowsi

With a show featuring guest artist Gregory Porter and his rendition of Nat “King” Cole classics, Friday, Nov. 30 marked the unofficial start of Orchestra Hall’s holiday programming.

Classic and elegant, a concerto waltzed from the strings of an ensemble playing next to a “Jurassic Park” poster.

Audience members were warmed by vibrant lights and Christmas trees. Tinsel stage decor reflected gleaming smiles on their faces as Porter’s impeccable voice serenaded the iconic hall filled with cheer, joy and — as always — a cubic backdrop. 

“I used to go to the orchestra when I was back home, and coming here feels like a little part of that,” said University of Minnesota management information systems sophomore and California-native Laura Buscheck at the performance. “The atmosphere is wonderful — elegant, yet open.”

Sounds like the Minnesota Orchestra’s wish came true.

Recently, the Orchestra has worked to fill its hall with a more diverse audience — especially in regards to age. 

Student discounts, catered programing, university outreach and other similar programs have been established at the Nicollet Mall staple to foster a new generation’s appreciation of the classical.

“We’re always cognizant of, ‘What are things that will attract people who may not want to come to Orchestra Hall for whatever reason?’” said Grant Meachum, director for live at Orchestra Hall. “We have found it great to have the infusion of student energy coming to our shows.”

The Orchestra’s “Campus Nights” bring the majority of the professional ensemble to a local college campus. This allows anyone from a chemical engineer to an agriculture student and a trumpet performance major the chance to listen in a personal way. 

“I can remember in college trying to fit so much in. Live music gives two hours where you can escape and be entertained,” Meachum said. “It helps remind you that there still is a wonderful world out there.”

In addition to the student-centric nights, holiday programming and movie features have been added in the hope of making Orchestra Hall a one-stop-shop for date night. 

One night, a couple can catch “Star Wars: A New Hope” in all its magnificence while the orchestra roars John Williams’ classic symphony live — one of many movies in its film “in concert” series.

Not a sci-fi fan? Maybe a concert featuring local queen Dessa is the move.

Do you like jazz? Catch an up-tempo Christmas show featuring Orchestra trumpet player and University professor Charles Lazarus at his “Merry and Bright” spectacle. 

“The Minnesota Orchestra is a traditional ensemble, [but it features] innovative and groundbreaking projects that appeal to a wide breadth of audience,” Lazarus said. “We love to play things that bring family and friends together in a place they may never have been before.”

With a loaded holiday roster, it’s hard not to romanticize the Orchestra’s glow on a wintry weekend night. There’s good music, drinks and a group of like-minded people just wanting a good time. Starting to feel like home, huh?

“Hopefully in the same way students would support a great sports team and feel proud they have a great group of athletes representing their city, … hopefully they will feel the same pride in their hometown orchestra. We try to be ambassadors for our city,” Lazarus said. “The Minnesota Orchestra really is one of the best in the world.”

Touche, en fin.