Arts groups collaborate on ‘total sensory experience’


The Grand Rapids Symphony is celebrating its 85th anniversary with a multi-stage extravaganza Friday at Van Andel Arena. Courtesy Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids arts community continues to become more collaborative.

Four area arts organizations and hundreds of other artists will join together for LiveArts, a multi-sensory musical experience, Friday at Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Ballet, Opera Grand Rapids and Broadway Grand Rapids have teamed for an event that’s been two years in the planning. The four professional organizations will be joined by the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, two local high school marching bands and more.

Together, the groups will put on a performance unlike any other in the nation, according to Denise Borton, Grand Rapids Symphony vice president for marketing and communications.

Borton said the event was the culmination of a dream to do the “next big thing” for the symphony as this year marks the organization’s 85th anniversary and is longtime conductor David Lockington’s final season. Lockington has been the conductor since 1999.

The biggest event to date, she said, was the symphony’s debut at Carnegie Hall for its 75th anniversary in 2005.

Two years later, the symphony’s album “Invention & Alchemy” was nominated for a Grammy.

“We were asking the question, ‘What do we mean to Grand Rapids?’” Borton said. “Collaboration rose to the top as music is at the core of so much art.”

She said the scores of music used in ballets, operas and movies help make the dancing, acting and words stand out and come together.

This dream has been in the works for nearly two years, but Borton said the actual event came together rather easily because of the supportive arts community.

“Grand Rapids has an incredibly collaborative spirit when it comes to art,” she said, pointing to ArtPrize. “All the organizations represented jumped on the opportunity to be a part of such a great, unique event.”

Partner organizations from across the country that work with the Grand Rapids organizations said they’ve never seen a collaborative, multi-sensory event like this, according to Borton.

“That’s something we’re proud of,” she said. “This event is a showcase that Grand Rapids is a leader in many ways in the arts.”

The performance will center on people’s dreams and aspirations through the actions of one child who falls for the music of a cello and wants to learn to express himself through music.

Borton spoke of her own two children as examples of how youth are constantly dreaming of what they want to do when they grow up and where they want to go, but those dreams often go dormant.

The music throughout the evening will be familiar even to those who don’t follow classical music.

The performance will feature a multi-level stage at Van Andel Arena “like you’ve never seen before” to host the multiple genres. A large screen overhead will show images of the performers and visual stimulation to accompany the music.

There also will be two screens on the sides of the arena to supplement the experience.

Borton said the performance is presented courtesy of dozens of sponsors, with proceeds going toward future Grand Rapids Symphony programming.

Tickets start at $7.50 for students and range from $24.50 to $69.50 for adults, with more than 5,500 tickets already moved and heading out steadily, according to Borton. She said the performances will speak to audiences of all ages.

“You’ll walk out in awe,” Borton said. “It’s a total sensory experience.”

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