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Classic rock staple Kansas to perform orchestral, powerful arrangements with Columbus Symphony

A little bit of Kansas will be coming to Ohio Saturday.

Courtesy of David Carstens and Courtni Meadows

Courtesy of David Carstens and Courtni Meadows

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of its career, classic rock staple Kansas will be performing with the Columbus Symphony July 6 as part of the symphony’s Picnic with the Pops series at Columbus Commons.

Kansas, who released its first, self-titled album in 1974, currently consists of three original members, drummer Phil Ehart, singer and keyboardist Steve Walsh and guitarist Richard Williams, as well as bassist Billy Greer and violinist David Ragsdale. The band boasts three sextuple Platinum albums, one platinum live album and a million-selling Gold single, “Dust in the Wind.”

The band performed with Columbus Symphony once before in 2010, said Rolanda Copley, publicist for the Columbus Association for Performing Arts.

Although it is only the second time Kansas will share the stage with the Columbus Symphony, the band has found a niche performing its repertoire with symphonies across the country, including the Washburn University Symphony Orchestra and the US Army Orchestra. The desire to perform with the accompaniment of violins and timpani was a collective wish of the entire band, Williams explained.

“It’s a really special event for Kansas,” Williams said. “It’s just a different dimension to live performance. We’re a bunch of mutts…it’s just something I wish my parents could see, to see us perform with the symphony…(after) all those hours of rehearsal, all those terrible noises coming out of the basement.”

Acclaimed music director, composer and conductor Larry Baird was instrumental in the band’s transposing of their rock songs into symphonic melodies, Williams said. Baird, who has worked with more than 250 orchestras and the likes of Grammy award winners Al Jarreau and Michael Bolton, according to his website, wrote all the orchestral scores for Kansas’ symphonic accompaniment and serves as the band’s conductor.

When 60 to 70 players are added to Kansas’ five-piece band, Williams said the sound is more natural.

“It’s not a synthesized sound. It’s a very live…acoustic sound. (Kansas) is very big already, we already have a large sound, but with the symphony, it’s gigantic,” Williams said.

Kansas has had a sort of second-revival with the younger generation thanks to popular video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band, TV shows such as “South Park” and films such as “Anchorman.” Because of this, Williams said the face of the crowd has changed.

“The older are getting older and the younger are getting younger,” he said.

The band is expected to play legendary hits, including 1976’s “Carry On Wayward Son” and 1977’s “Point of Know Return,” alongside the Columbus Symphony, and Williams said a duel between Kansas violinist Ragsdale and the first chair violinist of the Columbus Symphony is possible. Although those songs can be crowd-pleasers, Williams said when backed by the orchestra, other Kansas songs are his favorites.

“There’s a couple that really stand out. One’s ‘Nobody’s Home’…the other is ‘Cheyenne Anthem.’ Both of those songs are extremely well set up when adding an orchestra to it. When we play those songs on our own, it’s a different response. With the symphony, it’s a standing ovation type of thing, you know. They’re so powerful,” Williams said.

Kansas will join the Columbus Symphony Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Columbus Bicentennial Pavilion, located at 160 S. High St.

Copley said attendance will be weather dependent, but she’s “hoping for a huge crowd.”

Adult tickets are $23 when purchased on Picnic with the Pop’s website or Ticketmaster or at the CAPA Ticket Center at 39 E. State St. Adult tickets are $25 at the gate.

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