Saturday, January 30, 2010

Culture Cat: CSO's "Oz with Orchestra"

Tonight the CSO, as part of their Pops series, combined two of my favorite things: Music and movies. And not just any music and movies--the score to my favorite movie of all time--The Wizard of Oz. 
Here's how it worked--the movie was shown on a large screen suspended from the stage. The dialogue track was kept in, but the music track was removed, so the orchestra could provide it live. And instead of just playing the original score, music that was written for the movie, but eventually excised, was also included. (I caught this in three places: When the Wicked Witch of the West first appears; when the Witch appears after "If I Only Had A Heart", and after Dorothy melts the Witch)
The pops series, in general, has a more populist appeal, and this concert brought out lots of families. I saw a girl dressed in head-to-toe Dorothy costume during the interval, and I also saw kids as young as 14 months old! I think events like this are perfect ways to introduce kids to orchestra--they're seeing something with which they're familiar, and even the music is familiar, but it's played by real people, right in front of them!
The orchestra was conducted by Maestro Constantine Kitsopolos, who has directed orchestral, classical, Broadway and national theater. He was a perfect fit for this event and did a great job at the helm. His experience in theater was greatly useful here since there were times the orchestra wasn't playing, and the cues were more musical theater like (as in, enter when someone says this line), as opposed to the scriptedness of a symphony. 
Even though I have been watching this movie for 27 1/2 years (really, I have been watching it since I was about a year old, Remind me to write about that sometime.), I picked up a lot of musical nuance by watching. The low strings--cello and double bass--have a lot to do, with some beautiful melody lines. The harp and timpani have an absolute ball. I bet the timpanist was thrilled to have so much to do. There was also a piano. The brass also had big parts. These are things you don't really notice when you're just listening, but if you're watching it's pretty apparent. Another difference was the use of violins instead of fiddles in certain areas (like when Dorothy leaves Munchkinland), which gave the sound a different texture. 
This was a one -night only event, but if you ever get the chance to see and hear this sort of thing, go! Take your kids. There was an intermission (right after they reach the Emerald City gates, but before they go in), so there was bathroom/snack break (the Ohio Theater sells refreshments at intermission). 
I had a great time, and I think the audience and the orchestra did, too. Some of the instrumentalists smiled or laughed at certain parts, even while they were playing. And the pathos of hearing "Over the Rainbow" with a real orchestra is pretty incredible. It doesn't matter how many times you've heard the song (and you've probably heard it many, many times): with real instruments backing up Judy Garland, the effect is goose-bump inducing; an excellent way to spend a Saturday night. 
The next two CSO concerts are classical ones; the Pops series resumes in late February with an appearance by the Chieftains at Veterans Memorial. 

No comments: