A Stimulating Season for Music Lovers

Works by Women are on the Rise, and Spring Brings “Stonewall 50,” a New Work by Heartland Men’s Chorus Commemorating the Inception of the Gay Rights Movement

Rest well, classical music fans. You will need your strength to get through this eclectic season provided by Kansas City’s cultural organizations. Fortunately, there is plenty of stimulation in the community’s vibrant offerings.

First off, we noticed an uptick in representation of women throughout the year. Concerts devoted to the works of women pepper the season, but more importantly, works by women are integrated in the programming, accounting for fewer token, and more sustainable, appearances.

And, though centuries-old works from dead white men dominate, there’s a concerted effort to bring more voices into the mix, representing and blending classical traditions beyond a Euro-centric heritage.

Additionally, accessibility plays out with free admission or reduced prices for a number of events, as well as a healthy number of organizations that take their music out of the concert hall and into the community.

Let’s take a look at a season that bodes positive progress, along with some — let’s face it — fantastic works from the traditional DWM canon.


Grammy Award-winning Kansas City Chorale collaborates with Bang on a Can All Stars for a performance of
Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio “Anthracite Fields” Sept. 13, part of Open Spaces. Kansas City Symphony, conducted by music director Michael Stern, begins its season Sept. 14 – 16 (see page 44). This month, they also welcome guest artists Leslie Odom Jr. (Sept. 22), Ben Folds (Sept. 25, his third KCS appearance) and Andrew Bird (Sept. 29). Harriman-Jewell Series opens its season with a free Discovery Concert, featuring soprano Alyson Cambridge Sept. 22.

Celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents his iconic “West Side Story” Sept. 22, 23, 26, 28 and 30. Johnson County Community College’s Ruel Joyce Recital and Jazz Series begins Sept. 17, the 30th season of free noontime concerts. The Harriman-Jewell Series welcomes the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, at the Kauffman Center Sept. 26 and the Mariinsky Orchestra, conducted by Valery Gergiev, Oct. 29. newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble performs all over town this season, starting with an Open Spaces performance in Swope Park Sept. 9 and “Our Ancient Past” at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church Sept. 28.

Are you tired yet? Fortunately, Kansas City Symphony presents the first of four “Sounds Relaxing” performances this season, blending chamber music and guided meditation Oct. 3.

The Kauffman Center Presents brings Black Violin back to the Kauffman Oct. 3 (see page 81) and welcomes Chanticleer on its 40th anniversary tour Oct. 24. The Park International Center for Music performance series at the 1900 Building presents violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi Oct. 11. Midwest Chamber Ensemble celebrates the music of Kansas City-native Emma Lou Diemer Oct. 6 and 7. Soprano Victoria Botero and Ensemble present “Morena,” women’s songs from Sephardic, Arabic and Armenian traditions, together with Owen/Cox Dance Group Oct. 20 and 21 at Polsky Theatre. Singer Patti Austen and pianist Kenny Broberg join Kansas City Symphony to celebrate George Gershwin October 25 – 27.

New York-based string quartet ETHEL presents “Documerica” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Oct. 7; Ukrainian folk music quartet DakhaBrahka performs in Open Spaces’ “The Village” in Swope Park Oct. 14; chamber ensemble eighth blackbird performs at the Folly Theater Oct. 17; and locally based Kansas City Composed performs in “The Village” Oct. 28, all part of Open Spaces.

Friends of Chamber Music begins its season with Pacifica Quartet at the 1900 Building Oct. 12, master pianist series with Icelandic Víkingur Ólafsson at the Folly Theater Nov. 2 and presents Orpheus Chamber Ensemble for “Stars Aligned,” featuring the music from film composers who immigrated to the United States, at the Kauffman Center Nov. 7.

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City performs Madama Butterfly Nov. 3, 7, 9 and 11. Kansas City Symphony presents its three-part Classics Uncorked Series, conducted by Jason Seber and celebrating “Wine, Women and Song,” starting Nov. 8. Carlsen Center Presents at Johnson County Community College hosts the Soweto Gospel Choir celebrating the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth in Yardley Hall Nov. 9.

Marilyn Maye is a national treasure, celebrating “90 at Last” at Yardley Hall Nov. 11. Lyric Opera’s Explorations Series showcases radio operas Nov. 17. Kansas City Symphony and Chorus performs Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 Nov. 16 – 19, and principal trumpet Julian Kaplan is soloist for Hadyn’s Trumpet Concerto, conducted by Bernard Ladabie, Nov. 23 – 25.


Bach Aria Soloists team up with Heart of America Shakespeare Festival performers for “A Winter’s Tale in Words and Song” in JCCC’s Polsky Hall Dec. 7, with a free, abbreviated version at the Kansas City Public Library-Central Dec. 8. Conductor Aram Demirjian returns to Kansas City for the Kansas City Symphony’s annual “The Messiah” Dec. 7 and 8 in Helzberg Hall. Joyce DiDonato performs in recital with Yannick Nézet-Séguin for the Harriman-Jewell Series Dec. 13 in the Folly Theater. Ensemble Ibérica performs the music of Northern Spain Dec. 14. Friends of Chamber Music welcomes back Stile Antico, performing “A Spanish Nativity” Dec. 18 at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.


Kinnor Philharmonic rings in the New Year Jan. 1 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Violinist Maria Ioudenitch, daughter of pianist Stanislav Ioudenitch, returns to Kansas City to perform as soloist with the Kansas City Symphony Jan. 11 – 13. The ensemble features violist Christine Grossman during its “Grammy Greats” Classics Uncorked concert Jan. 17, and welcomes back pianist Alon Goldstein, now professor at UMKC, to the classical series Jan. 25 – 27.

Pianist Behzod Adburaimov performs at the 1900 Building as part of Park University’s International Center for Music Distinguished Alumni Series Jan. 19. Also at the 1900 Building, Victoria Botero and Ensemble present “The Music of Susan Kander” with a world premiere song cycle based on the works of the late Kansas City poet Michelle Boisseau and the Kansas City premiere of “Driving While Black” Jan. 25, featuring soprano and librettist Roberta Gumbel.

Bach Aria Soloists celebrates women composers at the 1900 Building Feb. 1.

Kansas City Symphony presents an exciting American program with George Gershwin; an arrangement of Pat Metheny’s “Imaginary Days” for percussion duo; and Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony” Feb. 8 – 10. Friends of Chamber Music welcomes pianist Jonathan Biss playing Beethoven Sonatas 30-32 Feb. 16. newEar performs “The Beauty and Anguish of Love” at Diastole Scholar’s Center Feb. 16 and “Spiritual Perspectives” at Pilgrim Chapel March 23.

Kansas City Symphony performs John Williams’ iconic score to “Star Wars – A New Hope” with the film, conducted by Jason Seber, Jan. 31 – Feb. 3, and then honors two beloved American performers, channeling Michael Jackson with James Delisco (Feb. 22 and 23) and Whitney Houston with Rashida Scott (March 23), conducted by Brent Havens.


Harriman-Jewell Series presents the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with pianist Jeremy Denk (March 2) and a recital by pianist Emanuel Ax (March 16) at the Folly Theater. Carlsen Center Presents hosts Iranian/American ensemble Niyaz at the Polsky Center March 8. On March 10, Friends of Chamber Music presents pianist Alexander Melnikov in an historically informed performance of music by Dmitri Shostakovich, and flutist Sir James Galway performs in Yardley Hall. Sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar performs at the Kauffman Center March 13.

Lyric Opera performs “Così fan tutte” March 16, 20, 22 and 24. In his final tour with the San Francisco Symphony, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas performs at the Kauffman Center, presented by Harriman-Jewell Series, on March 21. March 23 and 24, Heartland Men’s Chorus performs the new work “Stonewall 50” in Folly Theater.

Kansas City Symphony performs Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and works by American composers Sarah Kirkland Snider and Augusta Read Thomas with guest conductor Ryan McAdams March 29 – 31. March 30 and 31, Lyric Opera’s Explorations Series presents Sarah Kirkland Snider’s song cycle “Penelope.”

Friends of Chamber Music presents Atalante, led by lirone player Erin Headley, at Grace and Holy Cathedral April 5. Harriman-Jewell presents all-female Norwegian brass quintet TenThing April 7. Van Cliburn silver medalist and Park University student Kenny Broberg performs at the Lied Center in Lawrence, Kansas, on April 10. Friends of Chamber Music hosts pianist Richard Goode at the Folly Theater April 12. Pianist Olga Kern performs with the Dalí Quartet at Yardley Hall April 12.

Lyric Opera presents “The Pearl Fishers” April 27 and May 1, 3 and 5 in Kauffman Theatre. May 3 is the third annual Kansas City Chamber Music Festival, organized by newEar, First Friday in the Bauer Building. Friends of Chamber Music presents “Transfigured Nights” May 10, exploring sonically supernatural repertoire for piano trio and percussion. Harriman-Jewell Series presents “An Evening with Itzak Perlman” in Helzberg Hall May 11.

Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Michael Stern, performs Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 May 17 – 19. May 26 is the annual Memorial Day blast Celebration at the Station. Then, May 31 – June 2, KCS reduces forces for an intimate performance of Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1, arranged by Arnold Schoenberg; Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, performed with Stefan Jackiw; and Anna Clyne’s “Within Her Arms.”

Kinnor Philharmonic performs its summer concert June 2. KCS performs with pianist Yefim Bronfman June 7 – 9, presents the final Classics Uncorked of the season, conducted by Seber, June 13, and concludes the season June 21 – 23 with a performance featuring pianist Benjamin Grosvenor and Mussorgsky/Ravel’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”


And that’s not all. Some organizations’ seasons were not available at press time, so save some space in your schedule for Spire Chamber Ensemble, Opera 180, Kansas City Chorale, Te Deum, William Baker Festival Singers, NAVO, Ensemble Ibérica, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra and Kansas City Civic Orchestra, which celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Libby Hanssen

Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She maintains the culture blog, “Proust Eats a Sandwich,” and writes poetry and children’s books. She holds a master’s degree in trombone performance from UMKC Conservatory and currently works at UMKC’s Music/Media Library.

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