As Scott Terrell conducted the Lexington Philharmonic through rehearsals early this week, he occasionally saw the light go on in the faces of the musicians.
They were going through the music for Beyond the Score: Scheherazade, a program by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that gives viewers, and in this case some of the musicians, a deeper perspective of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic poem based on One Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights, as they are also known.
“It breaks it down in a way that makes it easy to understand the piece so much better,” Terrell says. “What it sets up is very engaged listening.”
Lexington actor Margo Buchanan, who will narrate the piece and voice several roles including Scheherazade, says, “You can only do so much with program notes. This really brings those notes to life.”
And that is the aim of the Beyond the Score series, which Terrell says now features more than 20 works from the standard orchestral repertoire. The pieces are designed to give the viewer a greater understanding of the work musically and historically through a combination of drama, multimedia and other elements. The first half of the performance is the Beyond the Score program, which lasts about 50 minutes. After intermission, the orchestra will play the work.
Music the orchestra plays in the first half includes excerpts from the featured work as well as parts of other works that were influencing the composer. Terrell saw the light bulbs go on as musicians saw the musical connections between Rimsky-Korsakov and other composers such as Mikhail Glinka and other Russian contemporaries.
Lexington actor Carmen Geraci, who is also an occasional contributing music critic for the Herald-Leader, will play the composer in the first half of the show, interacting with the music, Buchanan and the video screen. The Chicago Symphony sent a stage manager specifically to work with Geraci and Buchanan on their parts in the show.
Even for Terrell, the Beyond the Score program has extended his knowledge of Scheherazade, and it is a type of programming he would like to do more.
“We are looking at more ideas of how we might integrate other elements, including multimedia, into the concert hall experience,” he says.
Like he noted, there were a number of Beyond the Score programs the Philharmonic could have presented. Terrell said he chose this particular one because of the time of year — Valentine’s Day is near and Scheherazade is a romantic work — and with the continued growth of the orchestra, he says the musicians are ready to do it justice.
“Scheherazade is a virtuoso orchestral work that is very difficult to play, and we have to play it well,” Terrell says.
The program has appeal to experienced concertgoers and newcomers, Terrell and Buchanan agree.
“Anybody who’s on the fence about going to the Philharmonic, this is the show to go to,” Buchanan says. “I can’t help but think it will increase their audience.”
If You Go
‘Beyond the Score: Scheherazade’
What: Multi-media program from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra about Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and a performance of the work.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5
Where: Singletary Center for the Arts, 405 Rose St.