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Concert will showcase French compositions

The spirit and romance of Paris and some of the best-known French compositions will color the latest performance by the Fort Smith Symphony this month.

Led by music director John Jeter, the symphony will perform its “Bonjour Paris” concert at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at the Arkansas Best Corporation Performing Arts Center, 55 S. Seventh St. in Fort Smith. The event will feature guest artists Christina Baldwin (vocals), Robb Askloff (vocals), Patrick Harrison (accordion) and Robert Bell (guitar) and will be a welcomed “departure” for the symphony, said Jeter.

“This will be a really unique program that will have cafe music, as well as music from French films from the 1960s,” he said. “The title of the concert comes from the music of ‘Funny Face,’ which takes place in Paris.”

Described by Jeter as a “pop program that’s really eclectic,” the concert will include the symphony’s versions of “Indifference,” “Love is Blue,” “I Will Wait For You” from “Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “Nuages,” “A Man and a Woman,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Jalousie,” “April in Paris,” “Come What May” from “Moulin Rouge’” and “Clair de Lune,” among other compositions.

“It’s exciting because this is a very different, yet very interesting program for the symphony,” Jeter said.

Music made famous by singers Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker, composer Michel Legrand and singer-songwriters Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg will be among the highlights for the evening, he said.

“We are doing what I would call some great, early French jazz,” Jeter said. “It’s music that was written by Django Reinhardt, a famous jazz guitarist who had a unique sound.”

The symphony will be large in numbers and will perform a sound that will have “various components” to entertain audience members, he said.

“If you like jazz and you like music from the 1960s, and you’re a fan of foreign films, this is the sound world you will really like,” Jeter said. “This is music that really epitomizes this era in film.

“And even though this is a different concert for us, people will still enjoy it,” he added. “The music is well-known, even though people might not recognize the songs simply by the name of each piece. This is music that people will recognize when they hear it.”

Jeter predicted that the material will comprise an “eye-opening” experience for many symphony subscribers.

“I think a lot of people are going to say, ‘This is a whole genre of music that usually doesn’t get a lot of play,’” he said. “It’s an interesting concert, with that added artistic component.”

Like the symphony musicians, the guest artists will be impressive during the event, Jeter said.

“All four of the soloists are excited to be coming here to perform for this concert,” he said. “There will be lots of color in this program, and people will hear great music designed for the full orchestra and designed to highlight soloists.”

Symphony members also will perform their annual “Earquake!” concert for participating schools at 10 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. April 28. The event was rescheduled from February because of inclement weather.

“After those, we’ll be back with our big Wagner closer (on May 17),” Jeter said. “That will be a huge deal, and we’re excited about it and the ‘Bonjour Paris’ concert.”

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