Pop Rocks: Symphony Orchestra Augusta's taking Beethoven to the streets

Although widely regarded as one of the area’s more successful arts organizations, both creatively and fiscally, Symphony Orchestra Augusta experiences the same struggles as any group tasked with the admirable mission of presenting performances to audiences. It’s a question of engagement.

Although blessed with a relatively large and indisputably enthusiastic core audience, SOA is always looking for new ways to attract fresh faces to its orchestral events. Next week, it’s levying the star power of one of music’s original rock stars, Ludwig Van Beethoven.

There are those, I know, who shudder when I lump Beethoven in with the guitar slingers and flamboyant singers that have populated popular culture for the past 60 years. But the truth is that much of what attracts fans to rock ’n’ roll can be found, and in some cases originated with, Beethoven. There is, after all, a reason Beethoven the man and brand overshadow many of his contemporaries – even his one-time tutor, Mozart.

The most obvious component is the music. Complicated and dynamic without ever becoming inaccessible, it was, when written, truly revolutionary. The melodies stay with the listener while the arrangements and adornment always propel the music forward.

I had a roommate once who routinely floated the conspiracy theory that Beethoven must have visited the Austrian version of the Crossroads. Nobody, he claimed, could write that kind of unexpected and always successful music with little help from the devil.

Though I do not subscribe to that school of thought, I do understand that listening to the man’s music, be it Ode to Joy, the Eroica or the legendary Fifth, means exposing myself to one of history’s great music minds.

I think the folks over at SOA understand the rock ’n’ roll connection as well. It certainly explains the organization’s inspired approach to celebrating the composer, his life and music next week. You see, rather than just playing pieces from Beethoven’s impressive repertoire, SOA is, in true rock fashion, taking it to the streets.

Not only will there be special appearances by the man himself – an impressive feat when we consider he recently celebrated his 242nd birthday – but there will be a series of pop-up concerts around the area as well. The idea, presumably, is to take the music outside its staid concert hall environs and introduce it to audiences in surroundings that are considerably more raw and chaotic.

It’s pretty inspired.

Quite often context affects the way we engage with art and performance. By giving Beethoven an unexpected backdrop, SOA is allowing the music to speak in a new and interesting way. It’s a question of perception, finding fans on the street and helping to grow a diverse audience. That, like Beethoven, would rock.

COMPOSER FEST

For festival details, call (706) 826-4735 or visit soaugusta.org.

BEETHOVEN-FOCUSED LUNCH AND LEARN: 1 p.m., Richmond County Library, 823 Telfair St.; free; bring your lunch
• Feb. 19: Christine Crookall
• Feb. 20: Mieko Di Sano
• Feb. 21: Jim Garvey
• Feb. 22: Tim Marrone

GRU AUGUSTA 2013 SPRING FILM SERIES: Immortal Beloved, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18, 170 University Hall; $3; (706) 729-2416

COLUMBIA COUNTY MUSIC SERIES: Perlman, Quint, Bailey Trio, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, J.S. Hardin Performing Arts Center; $20

RANDOM ACTS QUARTET: SOA musicians perform in community, Feb. 21-22

MILES HOFFMAN AND THE AMERICAN CHAMBER PLAYERS: presented by Harry Jacobs Chamber Music Society, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, GRU Augusta Maxwell Theatre; $25 adults, $7 children; (706) 667-4100

BASICALLY BEETHOVEN: Saturday, Feb. 23, Kroc Center, 1833 Broad St.
• 11-a.m.-2 p.m.: Tim Marrone as Beethoven
• 2 p.m. – Beethoven Lives Upstairs (film); free

SYMPHONY SERIES CONCERT: Deliberately Beethoven – Perlman, Quint, Bailey Trio, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, First Baptist of Augusta; $10-$45

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