A rendition of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” will stack up alongside barn animal sounds as talented musicians perform at one of the more charming locations in Wichita — Prairie Pines. Hoping to entice youngsters whose families buy Christmas trees at Prairie Pines in winter, Chamber Music at the Barn’s first concert features cheerful and sometimes whimsical music.
Contemporary playwright Peter Schickele’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes for Oboe and Piano Quartet” retells the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, but with a twist. Bob Scott, owner of Prairie Pines, will use his animated voice to deliver the narration while the instruments fade in and out.
“The music portrays the story magically,” said Catherine Consiglio, the artistic director of Chamber Music at the Barn. “He’s a brilliant composer.”
Consiglio called this piece “biting reality humor.”
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Oboist Amy Goeser Kolb, who is flying in from Oregon, said “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is difficult to rehearse because it sounds so silly.
“It’s a fun piece for kids, but also for adults,” Goeser Kolb said. “It’s wildly funny and witty.”
Scott also will narrate Camille Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals,” which embodies through music the movements of swans, elephants and kangaroos. One short, light-hearted movement features “those with long ears,” better known as donkeys, and shows off a fun hee-haw quality to demonstrate their voices. “It’s really celebratory and has a very positive outlook on life,” Consiglio said.
The 14 movements by this romantic French composer were adapted by Thomas Grubb to fit in with the instruments played by this chamber group.
“It’s such a creative, masterful and understated piece,” said cellist Andrew Kolb. “It has some very beautiful movements in it.”
Kolb and his wife, Goeser Kolb, have performed in principal roles at the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and the Eugene Symphony in Oregon. Goeser Kolb continues to play principal oboe with the Amarillo Symphony in Texas.
Both Kolbs enjoy working with young people and said they are thrilled to be performing such accessible works. Goeser Kolb launched a youth orchestra program in central Oregon earlier this year, and Kolb began a new career teaching music to middle and high school youth.
Kolb is featured in another work on the docket, Gioachino Rossini’s Duet for Cello and Bass. The duet shows off the versatility of this unusual pairing of string instruments. “It’s a really fun piece of chamber music,” Kolb said. “It has some very lyrical and jovial movements. I hear opera in it.”
To cap off the concert is a difficult and beloved oboe piece by Finnish-born Bernhard Henrik Crusell. Crusell, a virtuoso clarinetist, composed many pieces for his beloved clarinet and other woodwind instruments.
Divertimento for Oboe and String Quartet is a single-movement work that brings in some folk tunes from the composer’s native land.
“It’s buoyant and very tuneful,” Goeser Kolb said. “It’s the perfect piece for a summer concert.”
Because of this concert’s appeal to many ages, Chamber Music at the Barn has underwritten two free concerts in Wichita.
“I believe it’s so important for us to give back to our community,” Consiglio said. “We want to give new ears the opportunity to hear chamber music.”
Although Prairie Barn is close to Wichita, the setting is rural. Audience members can meander down landscaped paths, walk over the stone bridge and around the pond before each concert and during intermission. This year, along with the pre-show buffet, Prairie Pines upgraded its video and sound systems and introduced a cash bar.
“We have had an unusually wonderful spring,” Scott said. “The gardens are worth seeing.”