Amarillo Symphony's Bairos hopes March concerts will take audiences 'to another realm'

Last Updated by Chip Chandler on
Amarillo Symphony's "La Mer" concerts are Friday and Saturday.

By Chip Chandler — Producer

Amarillo Symphony will take audiences on a sea cruise with its March concerts.

The orchestra's La Mer concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Buchanan St.

As the title suggests, the concerts' centerpiece will be Claude Debussy's La Mer (The Sea), an impressionistic portrait of the ocean. Also featured will be Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes from his opera Peter Grimes and Jean Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D Minor, featuring violin soloist Alexi Kenney.

Music director Jacomo Bairos discussed the upcoming concerts with me in an email Q&A; the responses have been edited slightly for style and clarity.


Q: There’s an obvious thematic tie between Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and Debussy’s La Mer (The Sea), but tell me more about how they connect.

A: These composers connect in that they wish to express, through their own nationalistic lens, the mighty, powerful, and tumultuous ocean. Debussy’s version, La Mer, uses colors, transparency and compositional techniques that are incredible creative, fresh and, for me, very French — creating an impressionistic feel of what the ocean and its diversity is, through his unique and unbounded imagination. Likewise, the magnificent and genius way he uses tempo and tempo relationships to create the feel of an oncoming storm, or a serene morning, or a powerful ending, were concepts and styles that had yet (to be) developed. La Mer is truly a masterpiece of beauty, creativity and color unlike any orchestral work of his previous. Britten’s version, while pulled from his opera Peter Grimes, is more reflective of the Suffolk region of the U.K. and Alderbugh in particular which, due to its placement on the East coast, has a very treacherous terrain. While the emotional layers are different, using the poor fisherman from Peter Grimes as the protagonist, Britten inevitably captures the elemental aspects of the ocean through a very British lens. Strong and taut, focused melodies and a very economy-of-means orchestration, Britten sends the listener on a journey that could not sound any different than his French counterpoint, yet reflect the incredible vastness the ocean offers. 


Q: Why program them with the Sibelius violin concerto?

A: Sibelius' concerto is a work that I have been fascinated with since I began my career conducting. It is an altogether different landscape, and that juxtaposition for me is why this work fits so nicely — as if we are stepping into a new section of the museum. The Finnish landscapes and barren atmosphere conjure different moods and feelings that will allow our audience to go to another realm of their imaginations. In essence, we spend half our time in the ocean, the other half on land in Finland. Plus, Alexi Kenney is such a dynamic and incredible artist. This work is such a tour de force for the soloist that we wished to make sure his virtuosity and flare are able to shine through. 


Q: Tell me more about Kenney.

A: Alexi is a remarkable, young rising star in the world of classical music. I fell in love with his playing watching his YouTube and video links as he is as a diverse an artist as they come. He, on one hand, performs new music with gusto and bravura and truly is a composer's friend. Yet, he also plays the music of Piazzola and Latin composers with flair and excitement that sound wholly authentic. Then, he can turn on a dime and play the most sublime Bach and Mozart as if this is his specialty. For me, this is what was remarkable about him. His ability to seamlessness flow between incredible divergent styles and time periods, create unusually authentic performances, and have the maturity to make them all sound so unique. His virtuosity knows no bounds, and I'm so thrilled he is joining us this coming week!


Q: Overall, what do you hope the audience comes away with after these concerts?

A: I hope the audiences come away with the idea that our orchestra can perform any style — whether French, British (or) Finnish — and create a sound world that is as authentic and true to these composers' wishes. This is an incredible virtuosic program that will stretch our musicians and challenge them to spark their best. I'm so honored to lead an orchestra that perform this music so passionately, but create an environment that takes our audiences on a journey beyond the world they imagined.


Tickets are $15 to $54, plus fees. Call 806-376-8782.


Chip Chandler is a producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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