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At SMU Concert, Audience Picks the Program
by Stephen Becker 7 Apr 2010

SMU Friday night will host a classical music concert with a twist – the audience picks the music. KERA’s Stephen Becker explains:


SMU Friday night will host a classical music concert with a twist – the audience picks the music. KERA’s Stephen Becker explains:

  • KERA radio story:
  • Online version:

When he walks into Caruth Auditorium on Friday night, Jack Delaney won’t know which pieces of music that he’ll conduct.

That’s because when concertgoers enter the hall, they will be handed a ballot and asked to narrow down a field of eight well-known classical pieces down to four. In the four matchups, they will chose piece A or piece B and text their picks to a device that tallies the votes.

Among the matchups are Bernstein’s Overture to Candide vs. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture

It’s the first time the Meadows Wind Ensemble has tried programming by proxy. Delaney, the ensemble’s director, isn’t even 100 percent sure that it will work.

DELANEY: “My graduate assistants are sworn to secrecy.  If the technology fails us, they are to stand up and proudly announce that the Shostakovich Festive Overture received 57 percent of the audience vote, and that’s what we play. And they are to take that secret to their grave. I’m not even to know it doesn’t work.”

The format is part of the ensemble’s continuing effort to reach out to new classical music fans. In the fall, the group played an all-Elvis program.

DELANEY: “You know, we can stay in the ivory tower and be snobs and say that all those people that don’t come to our shows don’t get it. That’s arrogant and stupid. The presenters have a responsibility to meet people where they are. And where they are is really, really sophisticated, really, really, bright, technologically savvy and looking for a relevant experience. They’re not looking for the same kind of concert experience that their parents and grandparents went to.”

But be prepared. You may hear a couple of cellphone rings if you go.

If you’re planning on attending, here’s a look at the choices you’ll have to make:

  • Festive Overture, op. 96, Dmitri Shostakovich vs. Overture to Candide, Leonard Bernstein
  • Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin, Richard Wagner vs. Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier, Richard Strauss
  • Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, John Phillip Sousa vs. Florentiner March–Grande Marcia Italiana, op. 214, Julius Fučìk
  • Emblems, Aaron Copland vs. Suite No. 1 in E-flat, op. 28A, Gustav Holst