Scaffolding and workers have filled the Paramount Theatre’s auditorium this winter in downtown Cedar Rapids, but by fall, the historic 1928 hall will again be filled with the sound of music. Orchestra Iowa will stage its Homecoming concert there Nov. 10, reawakening the facility after a four-year, $34.5 million restoration project. The orchestra will continue its post-flood outreach, performing outdoors at Brucemore and Kirkwood Community College and indoors in Iowa City, Coralville and Davenport venues. (Brian Ray/ SourceMedia Group News)
CEDAR RAPIDS — Orchestra Iowa is poised to blow the roof off the renovated Paramount Theatre with a season of celebration for 2012-2013.
“Rhapsody in Blue” at Brucemore, Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” at the Paramount on Nov. 10, 2012, an “American Gothic” commission from Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty on May 4, 2013, and in between, “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella” collaborations with Ballet Quad Cities, “La Boheme” by the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, and a Valentine’s program embracing Romeo and Juliet in many musical forms.
These are the highlights of the orchestra’s highly anticipated return to a space that will look familiar but feel new to audiences and performers.
The historic theater’s $34.5 million post-flood rehab is on track for an autumn reopening, according to Orchestra Iowa staff, but the “what ifs” did come into play when planning the Homecoming concert, resulting in something a little flashy.
“One of the things we had to worry about was construction timelines,” Maestro Timothy Hankewich told season ticket holders following a concert last weekend in Sinclair Auditorium at Coe College, one of the symphony’s temporary homes. “In spite of the best-laid efforts, it was very difficult to make the decision on whether we should have soloists or not on that opening concert, because if we ever got delayed, that could really set us back. So as a staff, we decided to go all-orchestral.”
The concert will open with local composer Jerry Owen’s “Glee,” commissioned by the orchestra and first performed in 1986. Hankewich can cross the next piece off his “bucket list” — Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier Suite” — followed by two works focusing on art.
“One of the things we want to highlight is the audio-visual capabilities of the Paramount, so with the ‘Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee’ and ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ there is a visual arts component,” he says. “I’ve gotta tell you, for about four years the brass have been hounding me to do ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’”
Prior to that event, a new collaboration will debut at the season-opening Brucemorchestra! concert on the front lawn at Brucemore mansion Sept. 9, 2012. In a casual picnic setting, local audiences will get their first glimpse of Ballet Quad Cities in a pas de deux with Orchestra Iowa, evolving into fully staged productions of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 1 and 2, 2012, and Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” on April 13 and 14, 2013, on the Paramount stage.
“There’s nothing like live music and dance,” says Joedy Cook of Moline, Ill., executive director of Ballet Quad Cities, Iowa’s only resident ballet company, which she founded 16 years ago. Local, auditioned dancers will join her 11 professional dancers onstage.
“This is going to be extraordinarily special,” she says.
Orchestra Iowa also will travel to the company’s home at the Adler Theatre in Davenport to perform the shows there, as well.
Talks about such a collaboration began before the flood, but were shelved after 8 feet of floodwaters rose in the Paramount’s auditorium and Hall of Mirrors in June 2008.
Cook couldn’t be happier about what she’s seeing in the renovations, with the expanded stage area and orchestra pit.
“A lot of times they forget about what is needed backstage — the wing space, the lighting — all of those elements. That’s what brings a first-class production to the community — all the things you don’t see. It’s more than just the seats,” she says, “and I think they have really thought this theater out.
“We can’t wait. We cannot wait to get on that stage,” she says.
The orchestra’s expanded outreach — which includes continuing classical concerts in Iowa City’s West High School and chamber concerts at the Opus Concert Cafe in Cedar Rapids and the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts — is a direct result of the desire to stay viable in the wake of the floods.
The Patriotic Pops tradition is continuing at Kirkwood Community College on July 1, 2012, and the Holiday Spectacular and the Follies are returning to the Paramount.
“With challenge has come opportunity,” says Robert Massey, the orchestra’s executive director. “Although we lost musical equipment, instruments, production gear and our entire office infrastructure, what really hurt the most was losing the Paramount Theatre.
“I think you’ve seen what’s happened the last few years as the result of that,” he says. “It gave us this great opportunity to pause a little and reflect on who we are, what we do and how we do it.
“Through this opportunity grew our critical artistic creations, collaborations and the chance to not only restore the Paramount Theatre but to really enhance this facility,” he says.
“If you drive by First Street and Fourth Avenue, Third Avenue, you’ve seen a lot of activity. They’re well on track to come in on schedule and have this completed in the fall,” he says.
“Many of you may remember there was a time right after the flood when the fate of the Paramount was in question,” he says. “We didn’t know if it would come back.
“The orchestra really led the charge to say yes, Cedar Rapids needs the Paramount Theatre.
“Since then, we’ve been really actively engaged in what that new Paramount Theatre will look like. Three years ago, we asked you, what would you like to see in the Paramount Theatre. What would you like changed, what would you like not changed. We came to the design team with that list and they listened to us,” says Massey, who moved to Cedar Rapids right before the flood.
“So in the fall you’re going to see a Paramount Theatre with more comfortable seats. The seats are going to be wider on the main floor, with more leg room, and improved acoustics. The Paramount Theatre was never designed for a symphony orchestra. About $4 million is going into it to make it an orchestra hall.
“It’s going to have state-of-the-art theatrical sound and lighting, and a fresh look, as the entire theater will be repainted in the colors it was originally painted in the ’20s. It will be much brighter than you remember. … All the seats are new, the fabric’s new, the carpet’s new. It’s just going to look much fresher and brighter. And another great advantage — climate control.”
The season preview met with applause and had patrons buzzing afterward.
“I love it,” says Dr. Percy Harris of Cedar Rapids, who has been coming to symphony concerts for at least 30 years. He and his daughter, Dr. Lileah Harris, are especially excited about the “American Gothic” commission by family friend Michael Daugherty. She’s also excited about the Romeo and Juliet programming and the ballets.
“It all sounded good,” she says. “It really all sounded wonderful.”
Doug Anderson of Cedar Rapids agrees. He’s been attending the concerts for about five years, and remembers when Daugherty taught at Kirkwood, where Anderson was on staff for 26 years.
“I really like Gershwin,” he says. “In fact, I was wishing earlier this week that we could hear Gershwin. I’m really happy with that, and everything else. No losers.”
Fine Arts Series
Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, front lawn at Brucemore, 2160 Linden Dr.SE, Cedar Rapids
Gershwin, “An American in Paris” and “Rhapsody in Blue”; Grofe, “Grand Canyon Suite’ Copland, “The Promise of Living”
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, West High School, 2901 Melrose Ave., Iowa City
Owen, “Glee”; Strauss, “Der Rosenkavalier Suite”; Schuller, “Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee”; Mussorgsky, “Pictures at an Exhibition”
By Tchaikovsky, featuring Ballet Quad Cities
Dec. 1 and 2, 2012, Paramount Theatre
By Puccini, presented by Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre
Jan. 18 and 20, 2013, Paramount Theatre
Feb. 9, 2013, Paramount Theatre
Feb. 10, 2013, West High School
Prokofiev, “Romeo and Juliet”; Tchaikovsky, “Romeo and Juliet”; McIntyre, “Drive By”; Oden, “Romeo and Juliet” — A Beat Poem (Frank Oden, actor); Bernstein, “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story”
March 9, 2013, Paramount Theatre
March 10, 2013, West High School
Elgar, “Enigma Variations”; Weber, “Concertino” (Roger Oyster, euphonium); Brahms, Symphony No. 3
By Prokofiev, featuring Ballet Quad Cities
April 13 and April 14, 2013, Paramount Theatre
May 4, 2013,Paramount Theatre
May 5, 2013, West High School
Willson, “Symphonic Variations on an American Theme”; Daugherty, “American Gothic” (World Premiere, commissioned by Orchestra Iowa); Dvorak, Symphony No. 7
See description above
July 1, 2012, Kirkwood Community College, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids
Dec. 15 and 16, 2012, Paramount Theatre
Sept. 21 to 23, 2012; Oct. 12 to 14, 2012; Jan. 11 to 13; April 5 to 7, 2013
Friday and Saturday performances at Opus Concert Cafe, next to the Paramount Theatre
Sunday performances at Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St.
What: Orchestra Iowa season tickets
When: Renewals on sale now; general public sales begin April 30, 2012, at Orchestra Iowa Ticket Office, 119 Third Ave. SE, (319) 366-8203, 1-(800) 369-8863 or www.orchestraiowa.org
Paramount Theatre Fine Arts Series: $139 to $329
Iowa City/Coralville Series: $79 to $149
Popular Series: $39 to $69
Opus Chamber Series: $79
Anytime Tickets: Six tickets, $199
Compose-You-Own: Four concerts, $79 to $189
Information: (319) 366-8203, 1-(800) 369-8863, www.orchestraiowa.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org