a night to remember with the kansas city symphony orchestra

This weekend was one of those weekends that I will remember for as long as I live.  Thanks to my mother and fifteen years of ballet, I have come to have a deep love for classical music.  And of all the composers, Sergei Rachmaninoff is one of my favorites, especially his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  This piece of music is one of the most romantic and beloved compositions ever, and was made famous to the non-classical music lovers thanks to the movie Somewhere in Time with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeves.

The concert was held at the impressive Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City.  In the year that I have lived here I have not had the opportunity yet to fully explore everything Kansas City has to offer, so I was thrilled to finally be able to visit this amazing example of architecture.  I have driven by it and it always reminds me of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbour Australia.  And wow!  It was a beauty in the outside as it was on the inside.

Not many things impress me in life but that is one word to describe the Kauffman-- impressive.  The building was built to bring the outdoors in, thanks to the modern design of the glass ceiling and windows which offer a stunning view of the downtown area.  The concert was held at the Helzberg Hall and I am not sure what I was expecting but this was not it.  This oval shape concert hall is enormous and in a very modern style which should make it feel cold.  However the designer of this space is a genius creating an intimate and immersive space that is exceptional to the concert experience.  The acoustics in this hall are amazing and you get this feeling of connection, like you are in  cocoon. 

The centerpiece of this hall is the beautiful Julia Kauffman Casavant Organ, designed in a French Romantic tradition and one of the finest concert hall organs in the country.  I cannot wait to experience a chamber music concert here.  I am sure it will be amazing.  This is a clip of the initial testing of the Casavant Organ.  A must watch.

I do have to share a quick funny story.  I am afraid of heights so imagine my surprise when I realized that my seat was in the upper grand tier (think of a balcony) which is at the top on the right.  And let's just say that if you are sitting in the middle of the row, it was pretty scary getting to your seat because the railing was really low.  Add to that 33" high heels and it made for quite a balancing act.  I kept praying that there would not be an earthquake because that would be a big fall.  But once the music started all my thoughts of impending doom went away.
photo courtesy of the

The program for the night was amazing and I think I am in love with music director Michael Stern.  He is brilliant and you can see that this man lives and breaths music as he conducted the orchestra.  Plus he loves Kansas City and the symphony so much as he spoke to the audience. 

But back to the program.  The first part included an original composition premiered this weekend by 25-year old phenom composer Chris Rogerson titled "A Single Candle" inspired by this quote from Anne Frank's diary: "Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness".  This work of art was stunning, complex and haunting.  If you have read the diary of Anne Frank this composition proved that you do not need words to tell a story.  It was the most beautiful eleven minutes of exquisite music.  At the end I realized that I had been holding my breath because it moved me so much.

Following this composition, the amazing pianist Joyce Yang delighted the audience by playing Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, OP. 43".  I have to stop here for a moment to say something.  This is the first time that I experienced this particular piece of music in a live concert and NOTHING could have prepared me for how insanely amazing this was.  Joyce Yang's command of the piano left me in awe and because of the seat I had, I was able to see her face as she played.  This was something I have never forget either because she was just immersed in the moment.  My expectations were exceeded by a million and through the entire play I was on the verge of tears, people!  She was that amazing with the piano.  And the fabulous Kansas City Orchestra did an fantastic job accompanying her.  Just an exquisite performance.  But before Ms. Yang finished, she delighted everyone by playing an encore of Rachmaninoff's "Dreams" a famous arrangement by Earl Wild which is thoroughly romantic and moving.  A beautiful way to close her performance.

The night's program ended with the orchestra playing Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, OP. 47.  This was my first time listening to this composition which was written during the Stalin regime and it is both a piece that manages to glorify the regime while appealing to the international audience.  Two words describe this work: apotheosis and grandiosity.  It starts with charming romantic elements and ends in this big climax that had everyone on their feet when it ended.  It was simply amazing (yes, I am running out of adjectives because it was that good).

this photo via

This was the most amazing thing I have ever listened to and I am so looking forward to the coming season which starts in September.  It as indeed a magical night that was such not only because I got to dress up (which I rarely do these days) and met other classic music lovers, but because it was a complete indulgence for the senses. And that does not happen very often.  Yes, it was a magical night indeed.
What did you do this weekend?  Have you been to the symphony?  Any favorites?


  1. Thanks for the tour in Siney Famous' Opera : I had no idea what it looks inside, and I find it perfect for its goal.

    1. 'Tsuki. This is actually the Kauffman Center in Kansas City. But funny you mention the Sydney Opera House because this building reminded me of that when I first saw it. It is a beautiful work of architecture that hopefully I will get to experience again.

  • Oh, you are talking about my world. I danced too, and my father played the piano and taught. I have Chopin, Debussey and other greats in my blood, as well as FLAMENCO in my soul. I too am afraid of heights and often when I have to sit up so high in a theatre, I get vertigo! But as soon and the music and dance begin, all is forgotten and fear rushes out.

    You look stunning!

    1. Anita, thank you for the complement. It was great to dress up and wear heels (which I rarely do and next day my feet were killing Oh, what an amazing upbringing to be surrounded by music and art. I used to fuss with my mom growing up but now I am so thankful that she surrounded us with art and music. And hello flamenco lover here! Probably because of my Spanish roots!