Pensacola, Florida
Thursday April 26th 2018


Beethoven’s Mix Tape

By Jennie McKeon

Pensacola Symphony Orchestra’s annual Beethoven & Blue Jeans is a popular night for local music. Whether it’s because of the familiarity of the music or the relaxed, casual atmosphere the event is easily enjoyed by anyone and everyone.

“Beethoven & Blue Jeans is always one of the high points of the symphony season,” said Peter Rubardt, musical director of PSO.

The evening will be a mix tape of classical music, ranging from well-known to unique.

“It is a little bit of a ‘sampler’ concert, with lots of different pieces from different time periods in classical music, history-classic works by Beethoven, as well as works written more recently by composers who are still alive and actively composing,” said Dale Riegle, who plays trumpet in the orchestra.

The array of musical samples is a great way for symphony first-timers to get a taste of classical music.

“What makes this event especially good for a first-timer is the variety of shorter pieces by different composers,” said Sarah Bossa, a violinist with PSO for the past 15 years. “The newcomer can sample new sounds and styles without worrying about losing interest in one long piece. It would be like a tasting event where you try bites from around the world instead of filling up on one large plate of Pasta Bolognese.”

The assortment of music is a great way to showcase the talent of the orchestra.

“The program is a bit of an adventure,” Rubardt said. “Six pieces of covering the range of what an orchestra can do. Every year the audience loves the intriguing mix of familiar war-horses and unexpected surprises.”

Beethoven & Blue Jeans is a musical performance for all ages. The younger audience has already given their stamp of approval. Bossa recounts the symphony’s recent concert for fifth graders.

“The kids applauded enthusiastically for popular movie music, but cheered with a resounding ‘Yes’ when Maestro Rubardt announced a Beethoven piece,” she said. “Young people in our audience appreciate music that is authentic and dynamic in an age when everything seems to be diluted for mass audiences.”

At this year’s Beethoven & Blue Jeans, the symphony will feature soloist, Bridget Kibbey on the harp.

“Two words:  Harp Concerto,” Bossa said referring to her favorite part of the upcoming performance. “In symphonic works, the hard generates beautiful effects to create moments that are delicate and whimsical, ferocious and dramatic, heroic and majestic and everything in between. Yet the harp rarely takes the spotlight in front of the orchestra.”

The concert is composed of the music of Beethoven combined with modern music composers.

Dale Riegle, a longstanding PSO musician who has been with the orchestra for 30 years has been a part of every Blue Jeans & Beethoven performance. He notes that the familiarity of the evening helps keep the attention of the audience.

“Beethoven is one of the greatest composers ever—virtually everyone knows something by Beethoven that they love,” he said. “Also, we usually play shorter pieces that make it very interesting for the audience.”

When you think of a symphony performance—not to mention on the beautiful Saenger stage—you might be surprised by the informal nature of the event.

“The vibe of the event is more relaxed with casual dress both on stage and off,” Riegle said.

“It makes our music accessible to new audiences,” Bossa added. “People who feel intimidated by a night at the symphony may relax with the casual dress code and encounter music they’ve never heard before.”

For those who have been to multiple symphony performances—even multiple Beethoven & Blue Jeans performances—don’t think this event is the same every year. While both Bossa and Riegle enjoy playing Beethoven, the musicians look forward to new musical territory.

“I’m looking forward to the pieces on the program that I’ve never performed before:  ‘Alegria’ by Sierra is a recently composed piece and ‘El Salon Mexico’ is a classic 20th Century piece by Aaron Copland,” Riegle said. “There are lots of great trumpet parts in both pieces and both are lively and dramatic.”

As Riegle said, classic music is everywhere. You may even be enjoying it without even realizing it. Getting to hear it live just heightens the senses.

“It can be both enjoyable and very emotionally moving and satisfying to people including those who don’t think they know or like classical music,” he explained. “They still hear it, enjoy it and are moved by it in movies, TV, on the Internet and even in video games.”

For Bossa, music is a portal to a different world, which makes a symphony ticket one of the cheapest forms of travel.

“In this concert, we can visit the whole world without ever leaving our seats,” she said. “For one splendid evening, it will not be Google navigating our journey, but instead Beethoven, Sierra, Rodrigo, Copland, Borodin and Tchaikovsky. They will take us on a visceral journey around the globe as we enjoy their intricately woven rhythms and harmonies.”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $20-$82
DETAILS: 435-2533 or