Design by AMPM
Review by Jeremy Benson

At some point, the bar scene grows old. Weekend in and weekend out: the same bars, the same lite beers, the same smoky air clinging to your same hipster clothes. Or maybe you're a homebody on a Saturday night, settling for microwave popcorn and sports highlights or a Lifetime original; your partner sighing once again, we never go out anymore.

But one fantastic thing about living in Mid-Michigan is that the blues of boredom are easily soothed. One such prescription: a night in the Temple Theater as the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra takes the stage. And Saturday February 13, in particular, was an exemplary evening to enjoy an evening on the town with the SBSO.

The symphony, under the direction of candidate conductor Brett Mitchell, filled the theater first with the militant and cautious overture to The Sicilian Vespers, an opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi set in 1282, as Sicily revolted against the French occupation. They followed with Siegfried Idyll, a Valentine's tune composed by Richard Wagner and presented to his wife on Christmas morning, and the David Diamond composition Rounds for String Orchestra, which was commissioned to be a happy piece in the middle of the otherwise dreary musical landscape during the Second World War. The concert concluded — after an intermission of wine in the lobby — with Beethoven's Symphony, No. 5, that begins with what is easily one of the most recognizable themes of Western culture, known to both the theater-going socialite and the uncouth masses alike. The three short chords and one long (B flat, B flat, B flat, E flat) were likened to fate knocking at the door, and they can still make listeners feel that way.

Only a small portion of the population might call themselves connoisseurs of classical music, with an ear and a background enabling them to hold intelligent critical discussions following such a performance. The experience, for the rest of us, is limited to intuition and our gut reactions to the music itself. Ignorance is bliss: without a concentration on the mechanics of a classical performance, the audience participation becomes meditative and reflective: things clear up and we breathe a little smoother. All the while  we are engaging in "high society," stepping off our couches and from our bar stools as we watch Brett Mitchell leading the violin section into the 5th's last great crescendo.

This season marks the orchestra's 74th year of performance. In the last ten years, the symphony and its partners have made impressive strides to overcome a budget deficit, increase sales of both season tickets and individual tickets, and ensure funding for many seasons to come. For more information, visit

© Jeremy Benson, 2010