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posted: 10/12/2012 8:12 AM

DuPage Symphony's season draws inspiration from literature

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  • Naperville North High School graduate Peter Kolkay, a renown bassoonist, will perform as a soloist Saturday with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra.

    Naperville North High School graduate Peter Kolkay, a renown bassoonist, will perform as a soloist Saturday with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra.
    Courtesy of DuPage Symphony Orchestra


The DuPage Symphony Orchestra doesn't typically have a recommended reading list.

This year is a bit different, with a five-concert subscription series focusing on literary greats, starting with Saturday's season opener, "Great Expectations."

"It's music and literature combined together, and it brings a new element to both," said Patricia Fragen, a violinist who serves as the symphony's marketing co-chairwoman.

"You actually have an opportunity to get a book club together that can read the literature, discuss it and go hear the concert together and then discuss it again."

The opening performance -- at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville -- connects with "The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of the Poetic Myth" by Robert Graves, as well as the short poetic play "Manfred" by Lord Byron, which is associated with Tchaikovsky's "Manfred Symphony."

The "British Masters" performance in November honors the poetry of "Songs of Travel" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

In February, the orchestra performs "Shakespeare in Music" with a focus on "Hamlet" and "King Lear."

A "Legends and Literature" performance in March compliments "Petrushka the Russian Carnival Puppet Theater" by Catrion Kelly -- a book about the marionette theater and a Petrushka puppet that comes to life like Pinocchio. The book gave rise to the ballet "Petrushka."

The final subscription series performance, "de la Mancha" in May, highlights "Don Quixote de La Mancha" by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra.

In addition to the literary focus, this season promises a variety of unusual soloists -- including internationally acclaimed bassoon soloist Peter Kolkay, a Naperville North High School graduate.

"It's going to be a phenomenal season," Fragen said.

On Saturday, Kolkay follows a festive intro by Rimsky-Korsakov. He'll solo on John Williams' "Five Sacred Trees," an essay based on Celtic mythology and the poetry of Robert Graves.

"The literary section is a great way to expand music to the arts," Kolkay said. "It shows how arts are connected across the spectrum."

Kolkay's first orchestra performance was with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra when he was 15. He was asked to fill in for a performance. Kolkay now lives in Nashville, Tenn., and teaches bassoon and chamber music at Vanderbilt.

Past seasons have honored ecological issues and tradition. Fragen credits music director Barbara Schubert's creativity for constantly helping the symphony and its audience evolve.

"She is so phenomenal about putting together a season that both recognizes and honors the traditional and challenges the audience," Fragen said. "She's really amazing at putting a season together -- not just a concert, but an entire season."

A special holiday concert outside of the subscription season will feature soloist Ralph Covert of Ralph's World, an internationally recognized children's rock star who lives in Glen Ellyn.

Also new this year is another price range -- $16 for front-row seats.

Combining specials makes an evening with the symphony even less expensive, Fragen said.

"The first two rows are only $16, and if you were to get a group of 10 or more together, you get a 10 percent discount," Fragen said. "You get to come for next to nothing."

Single ticket prices are $30 for adults, $26 for seniors and $12 for students. Subscription prices to the five-concert orchestral subscription series are $110 for adults, $95 for seniors, $60 for front-row specials and $45 for students.

For information about concerts and ticket prices, call (630) 637-7469 or visit

The DuPage Symphony orchestra began as a volunteer ensemble in 1954 with the goal of fostering and developing musical talent in the county, as well as educating the public. It currently has 100 members.

For details about the orchestra, visit

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