Toon In, Turn On

Face it: We're hooked to the grid like nursing calves to their mothers. We order dinner from black metal speakers and get our music from a box it's a bumping, thumping soundtrack to a head-banging existence. So if you need to relax, just unplug an afternoon at the symphony is altogether another udder.

Conductor and music director Gordon J. Johnson and the Mesa Symphony want fresh patrons to know that going to the symphony doesn't have to be somber. They've titled the orchestra's 46th season "We're Just Kidding Around" to prove that modern folks even vid-kids can enjoy the finer arts. "We're not your grandfather's orchestra," notes executive director Kathryn Fellows.

Not unless Gramps was Mel Blanc. This weekend, Mesa Symphony presents "That's All Folks," a 90-minute concert of classic cartoon music. Parents will dig the blast from Saturday mornings past, and kids can practice the art of imagination by picturing scenes in their heads as the music plays. (It's what kids did before Sony cornered the market.)

Just to practice, I gave a listen to the concert selections. Rossini's "Barber of Seville Overture" evoked Bugs and Elmer intrigue, while sneaky mice tiptoed to Strauss' "Pizzicato Polka." And "Ride of the Valkyries" conjured up a 'toon chase à la Gone in 60 Seconds.

Don't wanna dress up? Good news: Satin isn't standard anymore. "Dress comfortably," says Fellows. "This is not a stuffy event."

Just like dinner at Grandma's is better than dinner at Burger King, watching 70 people make music together beats feeding a CD to the Walkman. "Not to sound over the top," Fellows adds, "but the symphony is food for the soul." So grab a kid, related or rental, and let Maestro Johnson and the Mesa Symphony serve up your childhood favorites.

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Kim Toms