There Is An Ambush In This Violin Concerto!

Drew McManus reposted a promotional Facebook video for Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s (WSO) performance of “The Rose of Sonora” violin concerto.  I thought it was a cool little video depicting a 19th century printer creating a Wild West wanted poster. I commented on Drew’s post how I liked the how the movements were listed in the ad like chapters of a story and those titles were interesting and evocative – Escape, Love and Freedom, Ambush, Death and Healing, Vengeance.

But thinking of the post I made yesterday about the way arts marketing promises something exciting in their ads, but doesn’t really deliver on the promises in the experience, I thought it would be wonderful if the orchestra would consider projecting even one image at the start of each chapter to provide a visual connection for the audience.

When I clicked through to the WSO website, I was really pleased to see that the orchestra would be projecting images and video with a Western theme to accompany Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Aaron Copland’s Rodeo

By the time I swung back to Facebook, Drew had posted a link to a page discussing Rose of Sonora composer George S. Clinton’s concept behind titling each movement like a book chapter. Additionally, he provided a link to a set of images and introductory narration meant to be projected and/or read at the beginning of each movement–just like I was hoping they would have.

I have been casually following the development of Rose of Sonora, but never explored the website. I am really impressed by the amount of effort that has gone into making the experience interesting and accessible for audiences and easy for orchestras to decide to do.

While I am aware that The Rose of Sonora was written for violinist Holly Mulcahy, the goal of the content seems to be to get organizations to invite The Rose of Sonora into their programming rather than Holly. Presumably (and hopefully) Holly will be performing it everywhere for a good long time, but they are looking for the composition to have a life of its own long term. So it is great that will arrive accompanied by all these assets.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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