Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: Success out of this world

Response to combination of music, science inspires new plans

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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It turns out science is record-breakingly good for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The VSO broke all previous attendance records for May after joining up with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry for a performance of Gustav Holst's seven-part suite called "The Planets."

As part of the show, Jim Todd, OMSI's planetarium manager, discussed various aspects of the solar system's planets to go along with Holst's music.

About 3,700 people turned up for four performances of the show, the most in any month in the orchestra's 33-year history, said Richard Brase, a former member and part-time spokesman for the VSO.

"All kinds of attendance records were broken," Brase said. "These sorts of records are not strictly kept, but we had about 1,900 people show up for our two public performances of The Planets and 1,800 turn up for our two performances for students."

In general, audience numbers grew with each performance during the 2011-2012 season, which ran from October through May, said Igor Shakhman, orchestra manager.

"It's extremely exciting and encouraging," Shakhman said. "I think it's a combination of everybody's work. The board is doing an amazing job, all the volunteers in the office, at the concert, and of course our amazing orchestra and our world-class conductor (Salvador Brotons)."

Shakhman was also quick to thank the community for its support.

"I just want to make sure that I thank our loyal listeners and supporters," he said.

The success of the joint effort has the orchestra thinking about ways to enhance offerings in the coming 2012-2013 season.

One performance in particular -- a concert of music inspired by William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" -- seems like a great candidate for special treatment, Shakhman said.

"I'm actually in touch with a few people in England developing a concept for that right now," Shakhman said.

The performance could include actors and educational aspects between musical pieces written by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and William Walton.

"It's all very much in the planning stages still," Brase said. "But Igor and I have been talking about how we can do more special things this season."

Tickets for the 2012-2013 season are on sale at http://vancouversymphony.org or 360-735-7278.

Sue Vorenberg: 360-735-4457; http://twitter.com/col_SueVo; sue.vorenberg@columbian.com.