Sunday, October 16, 2005
SSO's Symphonic Fright concert is vivid but somewhat a headless horseman
Pop concerts are the key, it seems, to the survival of the orchestra. But venturing into musical theater can be tricky. The SSO's Halloween concert was playful and seemed to please the audience. Artistically, it was a somewhat of a headless horseman.
The most difficult stretch of the evening was the musical theater called Hollow. It is a colorful piece of symphonic music, as far as we could tell. Sadly, the narrators of this piece of musical theater were put in the position of trying to outshout the orchestra. Richard Folmer and Ryan Williams read this version of The Headless Horseman. There were appearances by the young dancers of Louisiana Dance Theater. But the act rambled across the riverfront. Ryan Williams was pleasingly silly as Ichabod, but his choreography was amateurish. Richard Folmer's narration was professional, to be sure, but the script was wordy and competed with the music. Tuba player Mark Wolfe appeared with an additional bit of farce that allowed him to walk out from the orchestra while playing his sonorous instrument. But the audience didn't know whether his turn was a capella or scripted. Wolfe handled it well, but there seemed to be no blocking, nor was his voice amplified. The dancers also seemed to lack a full plan. They were charmingly costumed and brought color and atmosphere to the stage. But their gothic segment was random.
Indeed, a bit of musical theater can broaden the appeal of an orchestra concert. But this musical theater lacked artistic vision. Nor was a director credited by the SSO.
Otherwise I found the SSO's Halloween gambol to be clever. The romantic Overture to Der Vampyre was followed by the Funeral March of the Marionettes, which people of my generation know as the theme to Alfred Hitchcock's TV dramas. The LDT dancers were costumed as skeletons as they accompanied St. Saens' Dance Macabre. They were cute; they brought a lighthearted vibe to the stage. But artistically their dance was not at the SSO level.
The brass section kicked like a Belgian draft in the Mussorgsky piece, Night on Bald Mountain. The hall was filled with glorious orchestral gallop. Bald Mountain gave the SSO an opportunity to say to the audience, "We perform many quiet and subtle things but we can also rock."
Indeed, the SSO is aware that the traditional orchestra concert format is more or less a casket. Fresh approaches are popping. And, to judge from attendance at the first 2 concerts, so is the audience.