Sunday, June 15, 2008

Symphony in the Flint Hills

Blue Wild Indigo.

Symphony in the Flint Hills, a link to a video from the Kansas City Star

June 15, 2008. Cowboys herd a river of cattle on a hillside as the Kansas City Symphony plays "The Great Westerns Suite," a medley of powerful music from four western movies. It's hot, humid, sunny. When the cattle arrive, pouring over the hill, it's more than halfway through the concert. The setting sun brushes everyone and everything with gold. My eyes tear up as the theme to How the West Was Won fills the valley. I loved that movie as a kid. I still love it. (Spoiler alert) I cry over Jimmy Stewart's death yet again. "Oh, Linus," I hear Carroll Baker say. Also featured is music from The Magnificent Seven, Silverado and Dances With Wolves. I'm a sucker for every western archetype.

Earlier works in the program include "Pastoral" by Beethoven and Aaron Copland's suite from "The Tender Land." One of the guys says that the classical music reminds him of the cartoons from his childhood. This is a nostalgia trip for everybody. (We thought the cartoons were classy, but the cartoonists were just avoiding paying royalties.)

The sound is huge, but you can still hear the chirp of crickets and appreciate the rolling hills and the rhythm of the cattle as they flow across the land. It makes you think of corny phrases like "The hills are alive with music." Everything is grand. The music, the view, the history. The real tear-jerker is the last song on the program, Ashokan Farewell, the theme from the PBS miniseries, The Civil War.

Old friends invited us to join them at this concert, doing the hard work of dialing for the tickets, which were sold out within an hour long before we even thought of coming. We arrived early enough to sit close, but they knew that the higher you sat, the better to enjoy the sweeping vista. They were right! We walked a mile from the parking lot, hauling our chairs, soft coolers, food, drink, hats, sunblock, bug spray. The patrons are seated in front on hard chairs, but the cheap seats are the best

Before the concert, experts in tents gave talks on several Flint Hills topics, such as Kansas birds, ranching, geology and the prairie grass and wildflowers. You learned something, and you got out of the sun.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was the honorary chair for this third annual Symphony in the Flint Hills, held this year at the North Lakeview Pasture just south of Council Grove in Morris County.