Symphomaniacs

Callen Clarke and Kyle Dillingham

Beauty can be born from the darkest places.

Such is that case for the Life Symphony, premiering Sunday in Oklahoma City as as the grand finale of the OK Mozart Festival’s second annual OKC series.

In 2007, Edmond composer Callen Clarke was just a day away from premiering his first symphony when word broke of a young man randomly opening fire in an Omaha, Neb. shopping mall, killing eight people and then himself: a scary proposition for an expectant father.

“I had just found out my wife was pregnant with our third daughter, and I was shocked,” Clarke said. “There was this anxiety and fear. Someone needed to do something.”

Wrapping his mind around the concept of humanity and the fragility of life, he turned his lofty ideas into a sweeping, seven-movement symphony.

“I thought that I could write a piece of music that could make somebody want to live instead of want to die,” he said. “It came from outside of myself. It’s the best motive to write music, to show the value of the human experience.”

Enlisting the help of longtime collaborator, violinist Kyle Dillingham — who will perform Life Symphony alongside the Amici New York Orchestra — to chip away at this massive undertaking.

“It gave me this feeling
inside that this music was something extraordinarily special,”
Dillingham said. “I’m looking most forward to how the audience is going
to enter in and respond to the music.”

After nearly half a decade of work, Clarke and Dillingham are equal parts anxious and excited.

“This
is the biggest demand we’ve ever made of an audience: an hour-long
symphony. It’s huge, and honestly, a huge risk. We could fall flat on
our faces with the biggest flop of our entire careers or our greatest
success,” Clarke said. “I happen to think it’s going to be the latter.”


Classical approach

Life Symphony is
just another piece in the greater picture of what Clarke and Dillingham
consider a revolution of sorts. While classical music and symphonies
long have been viewed as the pastime of the stodgy rich, quietly
slipping the minds of each passing generation, the two aim to bring the
art form to a wider audience, not only in Oklahoma, but the world.

“Symphonic music can
be reinvented and revived and made more powerful than it ever was, right
here in Oklahoma,” Dillingham said. “We are striving not to create pop
music, but to make symphonic music popular. It’s not about depleting it
of its depth or meaning, but tapping into what made it meaningful in the first place.”

To do just that, they founded Symphonic Revival in 2008. Obstacles stand in the way, but the duo thinks they are manageable.

“We
both believe that if symphonic music is going to thrive and go into the
future, it must also be entertainment,” Dillingham said.

Added
Clarke, “The idea that art and entertainment are mutually exclusive is
moronic. It’s like owning a car and not being able to drive it.”

The two certainly have done their part, debuting crowd-pleasing symphonies like Wiley Post, a tribute to the famed Oklahoma aviator, at last year’s OK Mozart, and The Mary Rose, which
saw Prince Charles send delegates to its premiere at the Enid Symphony
Center. With their hard work and diligence matched by numerous,
like-minded others, they hope the Sooner State will go down in the
history books for restoring the art of the symphony to its former glory.

“We
want it to start here. We want Oklahoma to get the credit for embracing
and supporting symphonic music,” Dillingham said. “This isn’t called
the State of Creativity for nothing.”

Joshua Boydston

This material falls under the archives category because it was imported from our previous website. It will eventually be filtered into the proper category as time allows.

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