Country meets classical Saturday night (9/17), as Orchestra Iowa kicks up its heels to kick off its new season with Brucemorchestra.

Audiences of 4,000 or more typically turn the front lawn of Brucemore mansion into a patchwork quilt of blankets stretching as far as the eye can see. The gates open at 5:30 p.m. to allow plenty of time for picnics plain to fancy, washed down with everything from water to wine.

It’s an informal evening with a formal flair onstage, designed for all ages and musical tastes, from novices to sophisticates, Maestro Timothy Hankewich said.

In honor of Grant Wood’s 125th birthday, Hankewich built the program around “American Gothic,” by Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty. The orchestra commissioned and recorded the work, which premiered at the Paramount Theatre in 2013.

“It’s gratifying to reprise a piece that the orchestra worked so hard to bring into existence,” Hankewich said.

The rest of the program was designed to complement that 20-minute homage to Eastern Iowa’s most famous artist, as well as blur the lines between genres.

“I decided to embrace my wilder side,” Hankewich said.

Leroy Anderson’s “Chicken Reel” injects a country flavor at the start of the show, and will be instantly recognizable to baby boomer fans of Saturday morning cartoons. A suite from Aaron Copland’s “Billy the Kid” will follow, leading into “American Gothic.”

“Unbeknownst to many (people), many composers incorporate folk songs into their music. It’s a way of bringing a nationalistic DNA into their music. For American composers it’s a way for them to achieve a musical sound that is distinctly American. Michael Daugherty does this in his piece,” Hankewich said, as did Copland.

Mike Maas & Friends will join the orchestra throughout the concert, to demonstrate the ways folk songs are worked into classical pieces. The local ensemble, which Hankewich described as “a bona fide, twangy country band,” also will perform during intermission and join the orchestra for an encore Hankewich wrote, featuring a medley of “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke” themes.

But before the encore comes Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at the Exhibition,” orchestrated by Maurice Ravel. Pictures of Wood and his works will displayed throughout the performance of this musical masterwork.

“That visual element really adds a lot to the audience experience,” Hankewich said.

“This program is a lot of fun, but incredibly sophisticated,” he said, “because, in no setting other than Brucemore, can you have a titanic orchestral work like ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ next to new music written by a local composer, next to a classic American piece in ‘Billy the Kid,’ and a pops piece like Leroy Anderson’s ‘Chicken Reel.’


WHAT: Orchestra Iowa presents Brucemorchestra
WHERE: Brucemore estate, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday (9/17); gates open at 5:30 p.m.
RAIN DATE: Sunday (9/18), Brucemore; if inclement weather persists, concert will move to the Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE
TICKETS: $15 to $30, Orchestra Iowa Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or 
RECEPTION: Opening night reception, $125 patron, $80 reception only, includes reserved chair for concert and other amenities
EXTRAS: Bring picnics, lawn chairs, blankets; refreshments available for purchase on-site
PROGRAM: “Chicken Reel,” Anderson; Suite from “Billy the Kid,” Copland; “American Gothic,” Daugherty; “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Mussorgsky