The Harriman-Jewell Series’ upcoming season will be a homecoming of sorts for many popular megastars making a return performance and a celebrated debut for others, according to Clark Morris, executive and artistic director for the Series. “It’s our 55th season—and we’re very excited and happy with how this season came together. We have some great stars coming back to renew their relationship with our Kansas City audiences, and plenty of new faces,” he says.
When we asked Morris to name drop, he was so quick with his stellar rundown, we had to ask him to slow down. “A lot of these stars are big gets,” he admits. “For instance, our upcoming Boston Pops performance, which we’ve hosted several times before. [Conductor] Keith Lockhart approaches genres of music with energy and interest. This Pops’ performance features music by John Williams, who’s written music for so many memorable movies that he’s become a part of American culture. It will be a lot of fun.”
Internationally renowned opera singer Joyce DiDonato—who hails from Kansas City—is also coming back to dazzle audiences. “She’s having the greatest opera career that anyone from our region has ever had. She’s like the Mahomes of the opera world,” says Clark. “She’s admired all over the world. When she was a child, her parents brought her to our Series’ concerts. It was formative in her upbringing, and now she’s coming back as the best in the world at what she does.”
Morris—who handpicks each artist alongside his team—is always tickled at the sheer range of performances the Harriman-Jewell Series offers patrons. Who is he most excited to see? “Honestly, I’m always excited about the next one,” he says, laughing.
A quick scan of upcoming performances this season proves there is, indeed, a little something for everyone. Wynton Marsalis will bring his jazz-induced music for a holiday program. And the Mark Morris Dance Group is unleashing Pepperland, “a tribute to The Beatles that has both some original Beatles music and music inspired by The Beatles,” says Morris. “It’s a very cool concept, and it’s going to be a great evening of music, dance and design.”
Is there anyone on Morris’ wishlist? Well, yes and no. Yes, there is. And no, he’s not disclosing a single name. “I’ll never reveal it—because I don’t want to disappoint our guests,” he says. “Just know I’m always scouting people and I always come home with more ideas than we have the time, space, or resources to do. That’s the fun thing about our profession—there sure are a lot of interesting artists in the world.”
If there was one concert that’s creating buzz, it’s for British cellist and wunderkind Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Tickets to his December 15th show are complimentary. (Yes, free, folks.) “He’s part of our Discovery Concerts, so there is no cost for tickets. You just need to make reservations,” says Morris. “He’s a child prodigy who comes from a family of child prodigies, and he recently performed at the royal wedding. Even though it’s a free concert, we’re a little worried that he’s so popular it will be a mad rush to get those reservations. He has a giant social media following.” (Morris says tickets won’t be available until mid-October. Consider yourself warned.)
The uber-popular Discovery Concerts allow the Harriman-Jewell Series team to introduce new performers to Kansas City. “We want to take down any barrier that prevents people from experiencing art in a concert hall. We want people to experience it live and in person,” he says. By taking away the barrier of price, we get new people in our concert hall. We love doing these concerts.”
Harriman-Jewell Series’ biggest discovery, you ask? Anyone ever heard of Luciano Pavarotti? “Richard Harriman, our founder, was famous for that. He debuted Pavarotti in 1973. At that time, Luciano had never done a recital,” says Morris. “Richard invited him and he became a worldwide sensation. People still talk about seeing Pavarotti. It’s magical for us to introduce artists to Kansas City and for people to say, “I was there when …” This season brace yourself for the debut of Broadway’s Kelli O’Hara and soprano Nadine Sierra who is “at the beginning of a great career. It’s appropriate we’re introducing her to Kansas City,” he says.
Most performances are held at well-known venues, such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Folly Theater. The shows often bring “exceptional, world-class talent to Kansas City to make it accessible for our community,” says Morris. “You don’t need arts training to experience or enjoy. Just come down, relax and enjoy. There’s something special about being in the same room with these artists and hearing their music or seeing them dance.”
And don’t even think about leaving a performance until after the encore. Morris says that’s when magic often happens. “We’re always wondering what the encore will be,” he says. “Sometimes the most magical thing that happens in the show, happens in the encore. Why? Because the artist is a little freer and more relaxed, and they save the showstopper for that last song.”
Join the Harriman-Jewell Series for its fabulous 2019-2020 season of performances held at landmark venues in downtown Kansas City. Select your seats at HJSERIES.ORG or call 816-415-5025 for assistance.