Spartanburg Philharmonic’s Espresso Series offers a more intimate concert experience
The doors to the Chapman Cultural Center open right at 5:30 pm. Conversations that began in the courtyard follow the growing crowd inside, quickly filling the spacious lobby. Tonight’s program, Espresso No. 1: Serioso, opens the Spartanburg Philharmonic’s 95th season.
“The Espresso Series creates an intimate setting for musicians and audiences to connect through unique musical performances,” says Kathryn Boucher, the Philharmonic’s executive director.
The 500-seat David Reid Theater is one-third the size of Twitchell Auditorium, where the Philharmonic usually performs.
“The lobby at Twitchell is small and the audiences are larger,” says Peter B. Kay, the orchestra’s general manager and composer-in-residence. “That makes it more difficult for people to hang out together before the show or during intermission.”
The difference is, the Espresso Series was designed to include Happy Hour.
“It’s a mixer before the music starts,” says Kay. “People come early and talk to each other before the show, so there’s a group feeling when you go into the hall—a feeling like you’ve just been spending time with your friends. And that brings the audience together in a different way than a larger venue.”
“We rarely have people running in at the last minute and sitting down,” Kay adds, laughing. “Most are here for the full hour ahead of time!”
The modest ticket price includes an hour of pre-concert beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres.
Up Close & Personal
“The Espresso Series is one of the things I find most exciting about the Spartanburg Philharmonic,” says John Young Shik Concklin, who became its 10th music director in the spring of 2023. “Through this stage, we are able to explore music that is not possible in our other series. It offers the audience a chance to get up close and personal to the musicians in the Philharmonic.”
The chamber music format, larger lobby, and smaller venue lend a lighthearted air to the evening while allowing the musicians to collaborate and experiment in new ways.
“Our primary goals are to entertain and educate, of course,” says Kay, who leads the programming and serves as emcee. “But we also want to represent the different parts of the orchestra in different ways. We try to give everyone a chance to be the primary voice on stage for a while. Everybody gets an opportunity. Everyone participates.”
Months of brainstorming and collaboration have led to a series of playful juxtapositions and evocative surprises that delight the musicians and audiences alike.
“Each concert is specifically geared towards the audience’s enjoyment, from the free pre-concert Happy Hour to bringing your drinks into the theater to sip from your seats,” Boucher says. “We curate an experience that will be remembered for the music as well as the enjoyable atmosphere.”
Espresso No. 2 features the jazz trio PROJECT Trio, showcasing selections from the Great American Songbook. Espresso No. 3 (Cafe Celestial, January 26) blends Beethoven, Maslanka, and Holst with contemporary pieces. No. 4, Dark Roast Dance, set for March 15, offers up a spring dance of “fingers and bows” playing classical and contemporary pieces.
“An hour of drinks and socializing,” says Kay. “An hour of music. The Espresso shows are fun and intimate. You’re really up close to those musicians and it feels like they’re playing just for you and your friends.”
You Can Go to the Espresso Series
Espresso No. 2: Jazz Jolt Friday, Nov. 17, 5:30 pm
Espresso No. 3: Cafe Celestial Friday, Jan. 26, 5:30 pm
Espresso No. 4: Dark Roast Dance Friday, March 15, 5:30 pm
Chapman Cultural Center
200 E. St. John St., Spartanburg
Tickets: $25 (adults), $12.50 (youth up to 22)