CASPER, Wyo. — Acoustic stringed instruments are nothing new to Wyoming musician John Kirlin, who has been making a blend of Americana and roots music with his band High Plains Drifters for more than a decade now.
This Saturday, those string instruments will grow from a few to dozens when he and the band will be supported by the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra during the annual Pops in the Park concert at Washington Park.
“I am super excited about having songs [that] I wrote, orchestrated and transformed into pieces that will be performed by the WSO,” Kirlin told Oil City News in an email this week. “I grew up watching my mom play in the symphony, and I’ve always had a great love and appreciation for orchestral music.”
For this year’s Pops show, two professional orchestrators in Colorado took songs that John picked and wrote arrangements for orchestral accompaniment.
“John [Kirlin] picked out 15 songs, and then we sent them to two orchestrators in Colorado, who then changed them to include the symphony,” said WSO Executive Director Rebecca Hebert in a recent interview. “So it’s John and the band and the symphony playing all the songs.”
Kirlin said he and the band have been rehearsing to software-generated recordings of the finished arrangements leading up to this weekend’s concert.
“I get chills as I go through the scores and play along to software-generated recordings,” he said. “I have always had a spaghetti-western score in mind when I wrote several of the songs chosen for this concert. [Orchestrators] Tom and Cameron did a fantastic job of expanding upon the antihero, outlaw theme that several of my writings are based upon.”
This weekend’s show will also feature Casper business owner and Councilmember Amber Pollock, who won the “Pursuit of the Podium” fundraiser contest earlier this year. She will step in for Music Director Christopher Dragon on two pieces, “Cowboy Joe” and a piece by American composer Aaron Copland.
“I’m really looking forward, but also anxious about playing in this type of setting,” Kirlin said. “We often play in bars and breweries where the music is sometime more of background ambiance, whereas in a performance like this we are center stage.”
The Wyoming Symphony Orchestra Pops in the Park performance takes place on Saturday, Aug. 26 in Washington Park. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and music starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 each, with family passes available. Children ages 10 and under are free. More information and ticketing options can be found here.
An earlier version of this story had the wrong date. It has been corrected.