Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cascade Winds Symphonic

You know that feeling you get when you are in a remote wilderness that is so beautiful you wish you could experience it with your good friends? Or when you are in a touristy city and find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the best food you have ever had? You feel like you have stumbled into a gold mine and just can't wait to talk about it. That's how I feel each time I see the Cascade Winds Symphonic perform.

I don't remember my first experience seeing them, but it was about 4 years ago. They perform 3 times a year, during the "school year" and I have missed only a couple performances since then. What I still can't believe is that there are any open seats. Unlike the Central Oregon Symphony, which performs three performances at the Bend High auditorium to a consistently packed house (based on the Sunday afternoon performances I attend), the Cascade Winds Symphonic performs at the smaller, yet more comfortable, Summit High theater for one performance only. And the crowd is about 70% capacity, regardless of the weather.

The kicker is that these performances are absolutely free. Donations are, of course, welcomed and definitely needed, but you can walk in the door, have a seat and enjoy the music free of charge if you like. (The donations are used to help the performers defray the cost *to them* to participate. Can you believe they would have to pay to entertain us?) The quality of the concerts is comparable to anything you would see in a symphony hall in a big city. These musicians are energetic, personable, and out there socializing with the audience during the intermission snack breaks (which are also free, but donation-based). The people of Bend don't know what a treasure we have in these symphony opportunities.

I am not a musician, but I enjoy learning about music. When I was a child, I had a record album called "Children's Introduction to Good Music" which walked through the entire symphony and told the difference between all the instruments and what they sounded like. When my daughter got to the age where she could sit through a performance, I was determined to expose her to the symphony. The Bend symphonies made that possible. Granted, she still falls asleep during them once in a while, but I can tell it is opening her eyes to music, composers, instruments; teaching her not to clap between movements of a piece; and causing her to ask why there are percussion instruments in a wind symphony. I encourage anyone with children to attend these performances. For the most part, the audience is tolerant of children who might be restless, kids love the snack time, and you can always get up and leave knowing you aren't out a pocket-full of dollars for the limited experience.

As a starter, I recommend the Cascade Winds Symphonic over the Central Oregon Symphony for the following reasons: the Summit theater chairs are more comfortable, the venue is smaller and easier to navigate with kids (more leg room), the music is generally more upbeat (keeps kids attention), and there are no tickets required. (The Central Oregon Symphony requires tickets, but they are free at many locations.)

Check out the websites for more information and upcoming concerts. You'll be glad you did, and amazed that this caliber of performance has been here all along, just waiting to be experienced.