WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Separated into three groups and led by the musical programming of the Winston-Salem Symphony, the green, pink, and blue groups ventured through each floor of the Kaleideum for a multisensory artistic experience. A mashup of the words “kaleidoscope” and “museum,” the Kaleideum officially opened in 2017 after the merging of The Children’s Museum and SciWorks of Winston-Salem. Featuring hands-on-learning exhibits, each group let out their inner kid as we explored each floor of the Kaleideum building. Music Director for Winston-Salem Symphony and host for the evening, Michelle Merrill, said that during her first visit to the Kaleideum, she knew it would be the perfect performance venue. Combining sound, sight, touch, and taste, “Mysterium at Kaleideum” was an enriching and stimulating performance inspired by Alexander Scriabin’s unfinished work, Mysterium.

Lumina – Sight
In the spirit of highlighting each sense that the concert engaged, I think it makes the most sense to walk through each. Appealing to both our sight and touch, the Kaleideum featured a wide array of exhibits for the participants to enjoy alongside the performances. In the design workshop, we played with building blocks, assembled furniture models, and drew our own tattoos. With the percussion ensemble, all eyes were on the ceiling, watching digital planetarium above us depict our solar system and interstellar constellations. And funny enough on the third floor, a miniature stage with costumes, storybooks, and nooks and crannies for private reading and listening were all in service of the different elements of storytelling.

Savoria – Taste
Walking between exhibits, you could smell the different hors d’oeuvres being prepared by the caterers. No quick snack at intermission, each performance featured a complimentary bite to eat and a craft cocktails/mocktails. Participating with the green group, it felt like we got a full meal with an order of crudities, savory small bites, and dessert on the top floor.
After my second-floor cocktail, I’m definitely game to revisit Kaleideum for their 21+ After Dark series on the second Saturday of each month.

Harmonia – Sound
Most importantly, on each floor was a musical performance representing a distinct style. Of course there was a classic string quartet, programmed with Ravel and Shostakovich, the building-blocks of what the Winston-Salem Symphony does in the concert hall. But classics aren’t the only thing WSS has to offer. A percussion ensemble led by composer and percussionist, Wiley Sykes, gave a very technical explanation on the intricacies of the South Indian tabla drums before playing a contemporary, improvisation-driven piece of his own. But what had the audience most excited was the jazz combo on the third floor, playing tunes from the Great American Songbook. Between Monk and Ellington, bandleader and saxophonist Ron Rudkin hit a good point that as a working musician, you often need to be able to switch musical hats for each piece, each ensemble, and each instrument. Just like the varied musical selections of the evening, the experience of musicians is totally kaleidoscopic as we develop different tastes, explore different areas of sound, and develop a musical language unique to our style.

As enjoyable as the evening was, this was a first-time venture for the WSS and naturally, had some room for improvement. One critical part missing from the event was Scriabin! A Russian composer who lived from 1872-1915, Scriabin famously described himself as a synesthete – someone who sees color associated with sounds – and the whole event was with his synesthesia in mind. And Mysterium, the namesake for the event, is an unfinished work that Scriabin envisioned towards the end of his life. He foresaw the work as a weeklong piece of music and dance, meant to take place at the foothills of the Himalayas, augmented by every physical and spiritual sense of the body. The massive scale of this work and the multisensory nature of it was perfect for this event and unfortunately, I don’t think it was mentioned anywhere besides the program handout.

The evening culminated at the rooftop playground right in time for sunset on the longest day of the year. Climbing up the rock wall after a couple glasses of rosé with a horn quartet playing polka in the background was not on my bucket list for this year, but I’d be happy to do it with WSS again next year! Ultimately, I think Winston-Salem Symphony succeeded in three areas for this performance. 1) It showcased a community partner that is well deserving of attention both for their educational and entertainment offerings, 2) it demonstrated the wide variety of musical tastes the Winston-Salem Symphony offers, and 3) created an all-around enjoyable performance for a diverse group of attendees.

It seems to be a trend as orchestras big and small are working to maintain relevance with audiences, that these multisensory, immersive type concerts have become a popular go-to. And with good reason! I think those who attended this Symphony Unbound concert are extremely likely to come back and enjoy another night with Winston-Salem Symphony in the future. “Mysterium at Kaleideum” was certainly a success and a worthwhile pursuit for the organization in the future.