On Friday, the floor of the New World Center will be transformed into a sea of white, as audience members, freed from their traditional seats in the concert hall, flock to the floor, to peer at the musicians, socialize among each other, and even break out into dance, all while sipping on cocktails in true South Beach fashion.
This can only mean one thing, New World Symphony's Pulse is back. And, for the second time in its history, it’s a “white out,” which means that the audience’s recommended attire for the evening is all white.
The event, entitled “Pulse: Late Night at the New World Symphony,” is the final event of its type this season. It will be held Friday at the New World Center in Miami Beach, which the NWS expects will be likely to be packed, says Craig Hall, vice president of communications.
“Pulse was one of the first events launched at the New World Center that pushed the boundaries of audience interaction and experience, and its popularity has made it one of the signature cultural events in South Florida,” he says.
Pulse premiered in 2011, the same year as the New World Center, and there are certain features that concert goers have come to expect: at Pulse, the concert hall is reconfigured to resemble a dance club and the symphony’s musicians (known as "fellows") perform a mix of classical music, alternating with sets presided over by a DJ spinning vinyl or electronic music. The evening often culminates in dancing, and, as befitting any cool nightclub; the bar offers signature cocktails; Pulse’s will be --not surprisingly -- a white martini.
“Though the format has remained relatively the same since launching in 2011, part of what makes Pulse interesting is that no two Pulse events are the same; whether they feature different local DJs, different themes or different partner organizations, each one is unique and provides audiences with 'surprises,' throughout the evening”says Hall. (Indeed, one '80s themed event featured the descent of a giant disco ball.)
In addition to performances by the 80-member NWS, this edition of Pulse features the return of some familiar faces.
DJ Le Spam, aka Andrew Yeomanson, will be spinning vinyl alongside the NWS fellows. He is the founder of the Spam All-Stars, and he will be bringing along two members of that band; Aaron Lebos on guitar, and Jason Matthews, on the keyboard.
Sam Hyken, a former NWS fellow who now heads his own eclectic chamber music orchestra, the Nu Deco Ensemble, will join Yeomanson in an original composition he has created that blends DJ and classical symphonic music.
The program will feature classic jazz by Duke Ellington, Louis Prima and George Gershwin, music by John Adams and film favorites from “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” and “Star Trek.”
The concert will be followed by “Pulse: Unplugged,” where some of the fellows will perform chamber works, some accompanied by film excerpts.
Pulse ticketholders will also be admitted to an after party at Hyde Beach at the SLS hotel, where they will receive free admission and drink specials from midnight until 2 a.m.
This is Yeomanson’s fifth time performing at Pulse.
“The cool thing about Pulse is that it brings in young audiences. They are thrilled to be there, hearing a live symphony orchestra. Some young people haven’t ever experienced that,” he says.
Playing along with the 80-member symphony a far different experience than his usual gig, he adds.“It’s a very strange sensation. You have 80 musicians on stage, and each one is there to do their part as accurately as possible, I have my head down, and I’m really concentrating, and it’s all flying by so fast. It’s a different way of playing and incredibly exciting,” says Yeomanson.
Hyken, who, over the years, has premiered nine original compositions at Pulse events, especially enjoys collaborating with Yeomanson, he says.
“I call DJ Le Spam ‘the musical shaman of Miami,’” he says of Yeomanson, who specializes in rare and hard-to-find music, and was recently featured in the Miami Herald for his knowledge of musical genres and his extensive vinyl collection.
“When the history books are written about this period in Miami, he’s going to be a very important figure because he created the musical soundtrack for them,’” says Hyken.
Hyken also credits Pulse for carving a new niche in the classical music genre, one that is being emulated by symphonies throughout the country.
“I personally believe that the world has changed and it’s important to present music in a way that is current, relevant, and can bring in new audiences. Otherwise, the audiences continue to grow older and less diverse,” says Hyken.
“Pulse does this by blowing up the format and changing the experience around so you get more of a club-like atmosphere. The audience members can walk around the orchestra, it’s more casual, they can have a drink,” adds Hyken, adding, “Pulse breaks down the barrier between the musicians and the audience. It lifts the veil a bit and lets people in.”
“Pulse: Late Night at the New World Symphony” will be held Friday, Feb. 1 at the New World Center, 500 17th St, Miami Beach, FL. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased by calling (305) 673-3331, or online at www.nws.edu.