Chris Thile's New Mandolin Concerto with Delaware Symphony Orchestra

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Monday March 08, 2010

From Bluegrass to Bach

Musician Chris Thile performs his new mandolin concerto this weekend with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra
By Peter Bothum

Chris Thile knows that as he performs his new mandolin concerto at concert halls around the country, he’s expected to be a Pied Piper for classical music, drawing younger, hipper crowds.

That’s what happens when you go from being a member of the Grammy-winning bluegrass band Nickel Creek, and a guy known for throwing mandolins and fiddles on songs by the White Stripes and Radiohead, into a composer of pieces that recall the best of Bach.

It’s just that Thile — who will perform his new concerto, “Ad astra per alas porci” (“To the Stars on the Wings of a Pig”), tonight and Saturday with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra — really isn’t all that interested in being the twenty-something ambassador for classical music.

He understands the orchestras who’ve hired him consider that possibility a plus.

“But I hope that what actually results is more musically meaningful than that,” Thile, 29, said during a phone interview from a cafe near his Brooklyn, N.Y., home. “Not anything against the integration of all these various demographics, but I really couldn’t care less. I want music fans there. I want people who listen to music, and for whom music is an urgent component of life.”

David Amado, conductor of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, feels the same way. The other orchestras that have commissioned Thile’s concerto (which include the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Winston-Salem Symphony, Portland Symphony Orchestra and Interlochen Center for the Arts) might have brought in the mandolin player as bait for a younger demographic, but Amado says he’s only interested in compelling music.

Read the full article here