What do you get when you mix a 1970s progressive hard rock group with a college orchestra? Volume in terms of loudness is definitely one thing. You also get the rock group, Kansas, with the Heartland Philharmonic, the UNO orchestra last Saturday night at the Holland Performing Arts Center.
Kansas, the band, has joined with D’Addario & Co, a leading company in making musical instruments and accessories, in a project to raise money for the music departments of various colleges and universities throughout the country. So with the assistance of conductor and arranger, Larry Baird, this band is joining college orchestras throughout the country in a concert featuring their music while promoting the study of music.
Playing many of their classics with an orchestra supporting and supplementing their sound was an experience with hearing what you already know but adding to enhance the music into a fresh approach.
Hearing “Dust in the Wind” live from this group was truly phenomenal. Even an updated violin challenge from one of members of the Heartland Philharmonic put a slightly newer and fresher arrangement to this classic. Yes, their hair has definitely grayed, but their voices, musical talents, and passion for making music have not faded. These five men were having a great time doing what they do and love, playing for audiences.
Phil Ehart has been the drummer since the group’s creation. He plays with intensity, expertise, and brilliance. Just watching this phenomenal drummer made every member of the audience realize the level with which he plays. Richard Wiliams is also one of the original members with a truly gifted hand at with various guitars providing those harmonies and strong rhythms which have been such a part of this group’s identity. Steve Walsh plays keyboards and sings the lead vocals. His voice rings as clear and decisive as many years ago with even more passion now for what he enjoys most. Billy Greer was great on guitar and vocals. Dave Ragsdale was energetic with his phenomenal violin and vocals.
The night proved the difference between playing music and making music. These men now are choosing to perform with these orchestras to keep music programs available, too keep their musical skills fresh, and to have the joy of playing music. They also have found the fountain of youth with their energy, expertise, and musical abilities in doing what they love and what the audience was thrilled to hear.