Wichita Symphony creates an air of magic

Magic was in the air in the Century II Concert Hall on Friday night as the Wichita Symphony presented its 15th annual Blue Jeans Concert, "Magic at the Symphony," to a packed auditorium.

Led by music director Daniel Hege, the orchestra was joined by magician and illusionist Lyn Dillies. In keeping with tradition, KSN meteorologist Dave Freeman served as master of ceremonies for the evening, providing information and commentary on the pieces performed on the first half of the concert and chatting with Hege.

This was a wonderful opportunity for the audience to get to know the new music director a little better and understand his passion for music.

Each of the pieces in the first half of the concert depicted aspects of magic and the supernatural, starting with Manuel de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance from "El Amor Brujo." Most notable among the many well-played passages in this piece was oboist Andrea Banke's exquisite solo playing. Banke's style and execution were impeccable.

For the next portrayal of the supernatural, the orchestra performed Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," a piece made famous in Disney's "Fantasia." While the tuning wasn't always rock solid in the woodwinds, there was some excellent sharing of lines between the clarinet, oboe, flute and harp, and the piece definitely came to life.

In two selections from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," the orchestra demonstrated its lushest, most passionate sound. Here the brass faltered somewhat, but not to the detriment of the audience's enjoyment of the score, which included another artfully rendered oboe moment. The orchestra concluded the first half with a strong performance of music from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

In the second half of the program, Dillies presented an array of tricks and illusions choreographed with precision and grace to some of the best-known pieces in the orchestral repertoire.

The personable Dillies performed with polish and flair as she combined elements of drama and comedy. She has obvious dedication to her art and the ability to share it on a very personal level — from telling the audience, to the strains of "Simple Gifts," about her early small-town start in magic, to her feats of illusion performed to Mussorgsky.

A magic show provides an interesting context to hear staples of the literature, and Dillies succeeds in her goal of showing audiences the music in magic and the magic in music.

There is one additional performance of "Magic at the Symphony" at 3 p.m. today.