Arts + Culture

Southwest Florida Symphony to Team Up with Glen Phillips

BY May 5, 2016

Classical music. Indie rock.

Those are words you don’t often see side by side. Nor, of course, do you see orchestral musicians and pop singers sharing the same stage in performance, either.

But you will May 6 at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers, when the Southwest Florida Symphony appears with Glen Phillips, lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket, in a first-of-its-kind collaboration for the regional orchestra.

Amy Ginsburg, the symphony executive director and longtime Toad fan, had met Phillips at one of his concerts some years ago—well before she had joined the symphony staff. The two stayed in touch (hooray for Facebook!), and once in the directorship she messaged him “on a whim” to see whether he’d consider a joint appearance.

He would—and so would Nir Kabaretti, the symphony’s music director. Thus began a collaboration that also includes well-known arranger Tim Berens, who specializes in symphonic arrangements. (He once transformed a Black Sabbath song for the Cincinnati Pops.)

“My mission is to maintain the relevance of classical music through the generations,” Ginsburg told us recently for this profile of the symphony. “I really feel like this is a way to introduce something that is largely unfamiliar to this generation—if these people like sophisticated, independent rock and roll, they will appreciate classical music. They just don’t know it.”

The end-of-season timing was intentional—this show is for the locals, including the younger folks who may not otherwise buy tickets for a classical concert.

Ginsburg spent part of her Thursday afternoon with Phillips, Berens and Kabaretti preparing for Friday’s show. She’s excited by what’s been created. Lots of pop songs have been translated into orchestral arrangements (think Beatles hits and the like), she says, but to have the actual rock star appearing with a 39-piece classical orchestra is unique.

“It’s really cool – the integrity of those hits have been maintained,” she says. At the same time, though, “There are some really creative surprises in familiar music.”

The program includes All I Want, Walk on the Ocean, Good Intentions and Something’s Always Wrong (see below).

Berens likened the process of blending rock and classical as taking French and English and “creating a new language” or in putting a new culinary spin on a familiar dish.

“They can expect to hear music that will sound at once familiar and again exotic. It’s like their favorite food cooked by a chef of completely different training,” he says.

The experience will likely take musicians from both disciplines outside of their comfort zones, but it’s one that celebrates both traditions.

“I had a great time,” Berens says of the collaboration. “Glen is a very open-minded fellow and he wanted an adventure. We gave him an adventure.”

There are still tickets available for the concert, which starts at 8 p.m. at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers. Click here for the box office.


Related Images: