The Philadelphia Orchestra held its annual free college concert in the Orchestra’s usual home, Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 14. The new LiveNote phone app, developed in partnership with Drexel’s ExCITe Center under the direction of Youngmoo Kim, was also unveiled during the concert.
LiveNote, available for iOS and Android phones for free, provides scene-by-scene commentary on the musical program. The app features a simple white-on-black design and includes a glossary of musical terms, infographic slides and a timeline of each piece.
“Easily accessible yet not intrusive” has been the mantra throughout all five years of LiveNote’s development, according to Kim. “The emphasis has always been on being complimentary to the concert performance. People are here to see the Philadelphia Orchestra; they’re not here to play with their phones,” he said.
LiveNote takes a little getting used to, as some audience members found out. The app might not be for everyone — particularly those with trouble multitasking — but for many, it provided much context, understanding and insight to a performance that may otherwise have been perceived with blind appreciation and only a cursory understanding of the content itself.
The college concert was intended to introduce students to the Philadelphia Orchestra and also as a precursor to the “eZseatU” program, which provides college students with unlimited access to concerts all season long for an annual membership fee of $25.
“We want to represent an authentic concert experience,” Katherine Blodgett, vice president of communications and public relations, said regarding the selected music, which consisted of a variety of pieces: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol,” Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,” Jennifer Higdon’s “Blue Cathedral,” symphonic dances from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” and excerpts from Michael Daugherty’s “Reflections on the Mississippi,” with tuba solo by renowned musician Carol Jantsch.
The concert was the first time that newly appointed assistant conductor Lio Kuokman conducted the Orchestra at the Kimmel Center. It was also only his second time conducting the orchestra in concert —the first being during the Navy Yard neighborhood concert at the end of last season. Kuokman, originally from Macau, graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Despite his newness — or perhaps because of it — Kuokman was very passionate and energetic throughout the concert. “I walk on stage and I don’t feel nervous — I would turn that nervousness into excitement,” he said after the concert. His favorite piece to conduct was Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”
After the concert, refreshments were served in the lobby under the accompaniment of more live music. Members of the orchestra, including the conductor himself, came out to mingle with the audience, took silly pictures with sombreros and talked about the music.
Judging by the smiling, elated faces of the audience, the concert was a huge success and a great start to the season.