The Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra helped by the Roaring Twenties

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 188 views 

The musicians are frozen on stage, with two stranded violinists standing in front. One turns her back to the audience, lifts her bow and inhales quickly. As her bow strikes, it does so with the force of cellos behind it.

The Roaring Twenties Gala took place Friday evening at Teatro Scarpino to benefit the operations of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra.

“This is a hardworking group,” said Holly Smardo, of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra. “We’re a bunch of musicians working out of our cars,” she said jokingly in reference to the communal effort to help advertise and manage the public communications of the orchestra.

Smardo felt that Teatro Scarpino was the perfect venue for an APO benefit. There, guests-donned in their twenties’ best were able to enjoy a hearty meal by Coco’s Lebanese Cafe, a fashion show of period pieces, a Charlie Chaplin silent film, and a preview of the upcoming Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra season.

Proceeds benefiting APO were gathered from entrance fees: the Capone ticket package and the more expensive Gatsby ticket package, sponsorships and silent auction items. The silent auction contained items donated from businesses in the Northwest Arkansas area. Some items were relevant to the Roaring Twenties theme, such as one collection of vintage board games.

Frank Shy donated a projector to the event so that the audience could enjoy the Charlie Chaplin silent film “The Masquerader,” which came out in 1914 and was later paired with a soundtrack by George Gershwin. Shy gave a brief history of silent films and explained the precedence of music in the pre-talkies movies. Since there was no speaking in the films, theaters would hire musicians to play live music during the film and “they would compete with each other for the best music,” he said.

Kyle Kellams, the host for the evening’s festivities, brought to light what a good start the film was to the evening.

“How good is the APO that their openers are (Charlie Chaplin) and (George) Gershwin?”

After the meal of heavy hors d'oeuvres and light tapas, the audience got a sneak peek of the season to come in a performance by a small portion of orchestra members. The group played selections from Johannes Brahms and Astor Piazolla, among others.

Leona Mitchell is the guest (celebrity) musician this season and played for the Roaring Twenties crowd. Mitchell has performed all around the world and appeared in three DVDs with the Three Tenors.

“It’s so neat to be able to use our own musicians to benefit the orchestra,” Smardo said.

Mildred Taylor, President of the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, was there to support her crew and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

“We pride ourselves on offering a variety of music at these events,” she said. Other acts of the evening included a flute concerto, a jazz band and dancing. “Music tends to soothe people. If you’ll notice, there’s always music at benefits. I don’t know what kind of week you had, but…”after the typical work week, good live music is just what Taylor prescribes.

Taylor focuses on providing sponsorships for her musicians and special, extra little features for audience members, such as conductor chats, which are pre-concert public conversations that allow the audience to connect with the conductor and come away feeling as if he is approachable.

The 2013 APO season begins Sept. 29.