Good day, ma'am and/or sir.

Can we interest you in sampling some of our EnCue by Octava?

No, you don't spritz it behind your ear to make a better social impression.

But you can download a dab or two onto your smart phone at next week's Illinois Symphony Orchestra concert in the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Try it, you'll like it.

Despite its fragrance-leaning name, EnCue by Octava is actually the odorless new smart phone app that is starting to take the concert world by storm.

It is making its Central Illinois debut via the ISO's pair of "Two Titans" concerts, in Bloomington at 7:30 p.m. Friday and, same time Saturday, Springfield.

In an era when we're constantly being told to ditch our smart phones at concerts, movies and theatrical events, here's a pitch to keep them fired up and ready to enhance.

As in: the concert experience, via a running, real-time text commentary on the music piece being performed.

EnCue by Octava, says ISO marketing director Beth Wakefield, is being tested on one of the key pieces at next weekend's concert: Leonard Bernstein's "Serenade After Plato's 'Symposium'," under the baton of new maestro Ken Lam and featuring guest artist Adele Anthony, the acclaimed Australian violinist (she'll be profiled in this week's Thursday GO! section, so stay tuned).

Here's how it works:

  • Go to the App Store or Google Play, search for EnCue, download it to your phone the evening before the performance.
  • During the performance, turn off the ringer or place it in disturb-free mode, all the better to receive the EnCue feed sans audio interference with the music coming from the stage.
  • Open the EnCue app.
  • You can a) sign in via email or Facebook if you want to create an account and save slides for later viewing or sharing; or b) select "skip"
  • Select "Explore Performances" and Bloomington (Jan. 26) or Springfield (Jan. 27) from the available cities list.
  • Open the app on the day of the concert at the start of the aforementioned Bernstein piece and press start. it will begin with the first note.

"This is kind of a test run," says Wakefield. "We're going to introduce it at this concert and get audience feedback to see if it's something we'll to continue to offer in the future."

"Hopefully, it will help guide the listener through the piece in a new way, whether you be a young listener or a person who has heard the piece numerous times," adds the ISO's executive director, Trevor Orthmann.

"It will give you entry points and guide you through the piece with information on things you haven't heard or known before."

The use of smart phone apps in a live orchestra situation is a new frontier still being explored, both Orthmann and Wakefield agree.

Whether it becomes the norm for the ISO will be be determined how patrons responded to this one-piece test run (you'll be on your on with the other big offering on the "Two Titans" bill, Mahler's almighty First Symphony).

The app was discovered by ISO board member Elaine Cousins, also a member of the League of American Orchestras, where EnCue is being touted as a latest trend in live performances.

The goal of the trend is to, above all, "engage the audience on a whole new level," says Wakeman, as well as communicating with younger patrons via a medium integrated in many other areas of their lives."

For those who have misgivings about an audience wielding smart phones in a darkened concert hall, EnCue, says Orthmann "is very unobtrusive ... usually, the comments are fairly short — just two or three sentences —  and the color of the screen is very muted, and dims further after 30 seconds."

"This has been created not to affect anyone around you," says Wakefield.

If EnCue by Octava is a hit next weekend and returns for future appearances, it will likely be as part of the 2018-19 season say Orthmann and Wakefield.

For more information on this new concert-going frontier, head to www.encuebyoctava.com.

The week in arts ahead

Going for baroque: Illinois State University faculty violinist Sarah Gentry and pianist Tuyen Tonnu team at 8 p.m. Monday for a free "Evening of Baroque Music" in Kemp Recital Hall. Along those lines, IWU's music faculty is celebrating German art music with a free "Liederabend" (the word for German art music) recital at 3 p.m. today (Sunday) in Westbrook Auditorium.

Sneak peek: Heartland Theatre Company gives us a preview of its forthcoming production of "For the Loyal" in a free presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Normal Public Library. It's part of HTC's ongoing "An Inside Look" series.

We have lift-off: You haven't lived until you've beheld a slinky young Katharine Hepburn in her bizarre party costume as a human moth in metallic silver lame, compete with antennae. The spectacle is part of 1933's "Christopher Strong," which convenes the spring edition of the Normal Theater's free Six-Week Film School at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Kate is a female aviatrix in this pioneering feminist melodrama from Hollywood's lone woman director of the Golden Era, Dorothy Arzner. Hence the "Wonder Women Directors" theme of this semester's session.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com 

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