Toledo Symphony salutes America’s majestic parks

Orchestra to salute the 100th anniversary of America’s 59 national parks

Published Thursday, May 11, 2017


They say a pic­ture is worth a thou­sand words, but ne­glect to men­tion that some im­ages can leave you speech­less.

When pan­o­ramic moun­tains, des­ert land­scapes, and ur­ban parks are pro­jected onto screens be­hind sym­phonic mu­si­cians, a more in­trigu­ing ques­tion arises: What range of emo­tions can por­traits of na­ture evoke?

“It should be touch­ing,” said Nicho­las Bar­don­nay, pho­tog­ra­pher, mul­ti­me­dia art­ist, and cre­ative di­rec­tor and CEO of West­wa­ter Arts.

Bar­don­nay will team with the Toledo Sym­phony Orches­tra on Satur­day to sa­lute the 100th an­ni­ver­sary of Amer­ica’s 59 na­tional parks. West­wa­ter Arts is bring­ing along two pho­to­graphic pack­ages: Na­tional Parks Suite, which high­lights the en­dur­ing beauty of those land­scapes, and Rodeo!, which gives the au­di­ence an ac­tion-packed glimpse of an au­then­tic ro­deo.

In 1973, James West­wa­ter started what would come to be known as sym­phonic pho­to­cho­re­og­ra­phy with an ini­tial per­for­mance by the Co­lum­bus Sym­phony Orches­tra. Fast for­ward to 2009 when Bar­don­nay be­came of a part of the com­pany, which by then had ad­vanced the tech­nique of blend­ing vi­sual tech­nol­ogy and live sym­pho­nies.

The com­pany’s vi­sual cho­re­og­ra­phy has been per­formed with more than 180 or­ches­tras across the United States and other coun­tries, and this week­end’s show at the Strana­han Theater con­tin­ues the tra­di­tion with a lo­cal twist: cap­ti­vat­ing por­traits of Toledo’s 14 Metroparks.

Na­tional Parks Suite fea­tures im­ages from Yel­low­stone, Yosem­ite, the Grand Canyon, the Grand Smoky Moun­tains, and doz­ens of other na­tional parks and mon­u­ments in the United States.

Even out in the field shoot­ing these pho­to­graphs, Bar­don­nay said he con­stantly keeps mu­sic in mind to cap­ture the au­then­tic­ity sur­round­ing a land­scape.

“I try to lis­ten to the mood and char­ac­ter and the pac­ing of the mu­sic and see what that in­spires, the emo­tional jour­ney through that,” he said.

Rodeo! in­cludes por­traits of rid­ers get­ting air­borne on horses, chil­dren prac­tic­ing rope tech­niques, and coun­try danc­ing.

“It’s paint­ing a pic­ture of that wide open life­style those peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said, add­ing the im­ages were cap­tured out­side a small town in Ari­zona. “It pro­vides that hu­man el­e­ment and a bit of hu­mor, too.”

The con­cert also prom­ises im­ages from more than 20 lo­cal pho­tog­ra­phers. Of the 1,500 im­ages sub­mit­ted, 120 were cho­sen for the show.

Bar­don­nay said the lo­cal pho­tos cho­sen high­light the best of the Metroparks of the Toledo Area, which he re­ferred to as the “Sa­cred Places” part of the con­cert.

“You have this great park sys­tem in Toledo, and it’s sig­nifi­cant to the res­i­dents who live there,” he said. “[The pho­tos show] you have some­thing right in your back­yard. It’s a mat­ter of shar­ing my per­spec­tive as well as lis­ten­ing to other peo­ple’s per­spec­tives.”

Sara Jobin, res­i­dent con­duc­tor for the or­ches­tra, will con­duct the con­cert. Not ev­ery­thing will be vi­sual, she said; the or­ches­tra will per­form sev­eral pieces by it­self.

Still, “it’s ap­pre­ci­at­ing our na­tional trea­sures,” the mae­stro said. “It’s great that [Toledo] has its own Metroparks, which are in­creas­ing, de­vel­op­ing, and pre­serv­ing, and we want to cel­e­brate that, here, lo­cally.”

Tick­ets cost $26 to $66 and can be pur­chased at to­le­dosym­ The con­cert starts at 8 p.m.

“What we’re do­ing in Toledo takes a lot of man­power and I re­ally en­joy these in­ter­ac­tions we have to­gether,” Nicho­las Bar­don­nay said. “I en­joy in­ter­act­ing with the au­di­ence. It’s a way to in­spire and to share a part of my­self and be­come in­ter­ested in what they’re all about and learn about places they love.

“I’ve never been to Toledo and it’s ex­cit­ing for me to go there and have peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence this.”

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