Symphony in the Flint Hills

Hannah Copeland / KCUR

About 7,000 volunteers and patrons traveled to a pasture on Saturday, June 11, near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas to listen to the Kansas City Symphony perform at the 11th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills.

As the sun began to set Saturday evening the crowd's attention was diverted to the co-stars of the outdoor concert: cows. Volunteer ranchers on horseback herded brown, white and black cattle across the bright green grassy hill behind the Symphony stage.

Courtesy Wabaunsee County Historical Society

It's a familiar sight around rural Kansas: Some old, falling-down building, obviously abandoned long ago.

One of those buildings was in Volland, which can’t be even be considered a town — it's just four houses (three of which are empty), a boarded-up white building and an old brick store about an hour and a half west of Kansas City, just beyond the town of Alma (population 800).

Matt Kleinmann / Matt Kleinmann Photography

In years past, Bill and Julia McBride turned to their tallgrass prairie backyard in Matfield Green, Kan., to hear the Kansas City Symphony echoing across the Flint Hills.

But this year, the McBrides made a two-hour trek north to Fort Riley, the northeastern Kansas Army base where Civil War figure Maj. Gen. George Custer once lived. The base hosted this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual performance – now in its eighth year – that brings one of the city’s premiere arts organizations to the middle of Kansas.