While the ASO continues to offer this programming through the Quapaw and Rockefeller quartets, I am pleased they have expanded their repertoire into other forms of outreach. My favorite of these new endeavors is the series of free concerts in the lobby of the Capital Hotel.
It is a gorgeous setting, to be sure. The combination of ceramic tile and marble joins with the architecture to create an acoustically pleasing environment for both musicians and audience. It is also wonderful to be able to enjoy the music while sipping a beverage of your choice. (The aromas in this building are noticeably improved over school cafeteria fare.)
But what I love most is the opportunity for people watching. There are parents who have brought their children and let them scoot-in up close. The kids get to see a real live musician playing instruments just a few feet away (or in some cases, mere inches away for the overly ambitious child)! There are couples on dates, downtown workers catching a quick bit of music before they head home, or longtime friends who have been enjoying each other’s company for years. There are multiple generations of families as well as single people. Hotel guests stumble on to the concert and are amazed. I’ve even see some alter their plans so they can stay to hear more.
The ASO wisely programs these concerts with shorter selections, and the entire concert usually runs 30 to 45 minutes. The pieces span the repertoire from the classics to newer, sometimes cutting-edge (well, cutting-edge in the classical world). The musicians take turns briefly introducing the selections as hotel guests and wait staff weave through the crowd. This commitment to quality and to audience engagement is a hallmark of our Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
In a way, these concerts do not seem like something one should find in Little Rock. The combination of music and the setting would be more likely to be found in a much larger city. But on the other hand, the immediacy and intimacy is more suited to a small town. The chance to enjoy these experiences is part of what makes Little Rock distinctive.
Like a meal made from appetizers, these ASO concerts at the Capital Hotel are satisfying at the moment. But they also create a hunger to want the full experience at a future time. Luckily, with programs such as the Entergy Kids’ Ticket and other special offers, everyone can enjoy the full glory of our ASO in a Pops or Masterworks performance.
But after a long work day, it is hard to beat the music, atmosphere and people watching of an ASO concert in the Capital Hotel lobby.