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A&E: Icarus rises after ISO program

July 14, 2008

This week, a visit to Symphony on the Prairie yields an unexpected treat. Plus, tips for making the most of your evening on the lawn.

The crowd was already thick when I arrived a good hour before show time for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's "Glorious Fourth" concert at Conner Prairie. And so rather than squeeze my blanket onto one of the small patches of available space, I opted to sacrifice sight-lines, staking a claim instead at the upper fringe. There, I figured, I could soak up the atmosphere, groove on the fireworks (a truly outstanding display, by the way) and otherwise treat the evening as a primarily recreational, rather than musical, event.

That's no slight to the ISO, which offered a brisk program of crowdpleasers, starting with a rousing "Star Spangled Banner," an energetic playing of Aaron Copland's "Rodeo," a side trip to Broadway for "Seventy-six Trombones" and Leonard Bernstein's overture to "West Side Story." The first part of the show also included some less familiar but location-appropriate film music from "The Patriot" and "Gettysburg."

Back from intermission, the ISO zipped through some Duke Ellington, Motown, John Williams and more, ending with the requisite canon-enhanced "1812 Overture."

But then the show ended and an announcement was made that a combo of ISO musicians-going by the name Icarus Ensemble-would entertain for a while, the better to ease the rush out of the parking lot.

A nice, practical gesture, I thought as I trekked to the car. But when I saw the lines to get out, I decided to take the ISO up on the bonus offer and returned to the amphitheatre.

It proved to be my best decision of the night. As chairs were stacked and tables folded and patrons decided whether there was enough wine left in the bottle to take home, the five piece jazz combo did much more then help regulate traffic. It provided a lively end to an already satisfying evening, its spontaneity balancing nicely against the rigid programming of the ISO. They kept the music going until after 11 for an appreciative crowd.

The parking lot exit, by the way, was a breeze.

I'm told that the after-show performances will be offered when audiences of more than 7,000 are expected. Here's hoping for big crowds for such upcoming programs as sports movie music on July 18-19, James Bond tunes on July 25-26, and Beethoven on Aug. 1-2. For more details, visit www.indianapolissymphony.orgor call 639-4300.
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