Kinnor Philharmonic

Now in its second year, the Kinnor Philharmonic can attest to their devotion to “tradition.” They are the Kansas City variant on the Vienna Philharmonic’s long standing tradition of a New Year’s concert. Their biannual season also hosts a concert around July 4th, and the ensemble is led by conductor Christopher Kelts.

The program is full of fan favorites and Strauss waltzes, in keeping with Vienna’s legacy of lively and nostalgic selections, and they packed the house at Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park.

The ensemble also serves as the region’s premier Jewish orchestra, though the ranks are made up of Jewish and non-Jewish musicians, to promote Jewish heritage and cultural unity. My husband is part of the percussion section, a welcome chance to flex all those “classical” muscles he developed in college. It is a nice change, I’m sure, from lining up our kid’s variously tuned and timbred xylophones – to say nothing of color scheme – and striking out a rendition of the Porgy and Bess excerpt.

The space for the performance is beautiful, with the orchestra backed by a huge bank of windows looking out into a wood. I caught a flash of brown and peripherally saw a huge bird of prey wing through the branches. Beautiful as the space may be, it was intended for worship, not performance, and the strings were sunk low while the winds, brass and percussion ranged above and behind, level with the pews.

I was impressed with this year’s concert, even though I could only listen with half an ear while I tried to corral said child’s friendly interest in his fellow patrons and his dedicated desire to get on stage and play music, too. The ensemble balance was much better than I remember from last year and individual voices stronger, too.

I was relieved that they programmed Berlioz’ Hungarian March first, because I was planning to leave after intermission (a toddler’s tolerance – and those around him – can only last so long). As a reformed trombone player I was looking forward to it and they did a pretty admirable job, those big brass entrances attracting (and thankfully distracting) the toddler, as well.

We ended up leaving during Kelts’ concert banter, though he was gracious enough to make light of the pitiful squalls (and could always give Sam a hard time about it afterward…) as we skidaddled into the foyer. Kelts has an ease to his manner that follows from conversation to his conducting and rehearsing style: exacting, precise, informed, but good humored and convivial.

With the state of the American symphony orchestra (and for that matter, the global state of the symphony orchestra), it’s a pleasure to witness the emergence of a new group and to speculate their growth and contribution to the region’s cultural environment.

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