March 25, 2010

Family Concert Shows Kids How to Compose Music

The RPO’s upcoming orKIDStra family concert on Sunday, April 11 features Mr. Smith's Composition, which will take you on a hilarious and educational journey into the mind of Mr. Smith as he composes. You’ll hear him consider whether to write a waltz or a march, a fast piece or a slow one, and along the way introduce children to different instruments and different styles of music.

We checked in with Michael Butterman (pictured), the RPO’s Principal Conductor for Education and Outreach, to learn more about the piece. He says that “it’s fairly theatrical and there is a portion, toward the end, where the composer realizes that he hasn't provided an ending to his piece. He then presents three possible options and the audience votes on which one they prefer.”

Michael went on to say, “The other pieces on the program are related in one way or another to the idea of expressing or communicating through music, which is of course what composers do. Bizet’s Children’s Games is a nice opener and I’ll ask the kids what they think the composer was trying to convey and then contrast that with Walker’s Lyric for Strings.

“We’ll hear from a ‘live’ composer in RPO trumpeter Wes Nance. His suite for brass quintet relates to his children and he has promised some stories about the genesis of the two excerpts we're playing. Then, he's going to talk a bit about writing for orchestra, as opposed to a chamber ensemble. We'll hear an excerpt of his Rhumba for brass, and then the whole piece played by the full orchestra, for contrast.

“We’ll also have a little audience-participation segment in which the orchestra plays three well-known melodies and relates the beginning, middle, and ending of those melodies with the head, torso, and tail of an animal. Each melody has its own animal (represented in illustrations on poster boards that will be held by kids). We'll mix them around and see what zaniness results.”

Click here for more information about this concert.

March 19, 2010

This Weekend - ABBA: The Music!

Just days after ABBA was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we’ll have our own tribute to the enduringly popular band. You’ll have the time of your life listening to "Dancing Queen," "Mamma Mia," and more! We’re just a few seats away from a sell-out for both Friday and Saturday nights.

The band features two of the original ABBA band members - Ulf Andersson (saxophone and flute), and Roger Palm (drums). Click here to read an interview with Ulf Andersson in the Messenger Post.

March 11, 2010

Photos from Shawn Concerto Rehearsal

Here are a few photos from this morning's rehearsal, as Christopher Seaman led the RPO in Allen Shawn's new Violin Concerto, with Concertmaster Juliana Athayde as soloist.

The composer himself was in the theatre (blue shirt in photos below), listening intently with the score in his lap. During the breaks between movements, he would come down to the stage with suggestions for fine tuning. Since this work is a world premiere, this week's rehearsals were the first time he's heard the full work performed live. And what a rare thing for Christopher and the orchestra - to be able to ask the composer questions directly on interpretation. (Imagine what it would be like if you could ask Beethoven or Mozart how they wanted a certain phrase played.) Allen Shawn's brother, writer and actor Wallace Shawn, also attended the rehearsal; as well as violinist Bill Preucil - concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Juliana's mentor.

March 10, 2010

RPO Debuts New Violin Concerto by Allen Shawn

New York City-born composer Allen Shawn (pictured at left, photo: Tony Cenicola, New York Times) grew up hearing his brother Wallace play the violin, and first learned to love the instrument by reading through the classical repertoire with him and writing pieces for them to play together. “Although I am a pianist myself, I can’t help thinking of the violin and its repertoire as something close to the very soul of music,” Shawn remarked.

The RPO performs the world premiere of Shawn’s Violin Concerto tomorrow night and Saturday (click here for details). He describes his concerto as “a singing, lyrical piece,” with moments that are suave and dance-like. This new work was commissioned by the RPO for Concertmaster Juliana Athayde, thanks to support from Ron and Donna Fielding. Use this link to read a Democrat and Chronicle interview with Shawn and Athayde.

By the way, Allen Shawn and his brother have collaborated together on other projects since childhood. In 1981, Wallace Shawn co-wrote the film My Dinner with Andre (in which he also starred), and Allen Shawn wrote the score. In 2006, their innovative opera The Music Teacher debuted in New York. Click here to read a feature story about the brothers in the New York Times.

And in case you wonder why you recognize Wallace Shawn – he also played the Sicilian kidnapper Vizzini in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. “Inconceivable!”