A HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR!
Friday, October 30, 2015, 9:15 a.m. &
10:40 a.m. Lakeview High School Auditorium By
Susan Davenny Wyner, Music
High jinks, moods, fantastic musical stories Join the fun as great composers serve up tricksand treats: A dancing bear, circus acrobats, ferocious warriors, a Spanish fandango A playfulclock and Happy by Pharrell Williams
Welcome to the Warren Philharmonic's special Halloween School Concerts! Our orchestra has over 50 players, and each player has a different instrument to play. The instruments, large and small, are made of metal and brass and wood and hair from a horse's tail and gut and all kinds of interesting materials. We will show you how each one of these instruments sounds alone, and then what happens when they all play together.
You will meet the amazing String instruments, which go from the violin, which is small enough to fit under your chin, to the double bass, which is so monstrously large that four small children could fit inside its "belly"! You will meet the Woodwinds, from the tiny piccolo, which is the size of a fat straw, to the tall, skinny bassoon. You will meet the Brass family: the trumpets, slide trombones, huge tuba and the 20-foot-long French horns, which are all curled up so they can fit into the players' arms. And you will hear from the Percussion family: cymbals, snare drum, xylophone, kettledrums and big bass drum, which are the loudest of all.
Now let me tell you about the music...
Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884) Dance of the Comedians from The Bartered Bride [Demo CD no.1]
Hooray, we begin our Halloween fun at the circus! Bedřich Smetana was a Czech composer who wanted to capture his country's folk dance rhythms and folk songs in the music he wrote for the orchestra. This piece comes from his opera called The Bartered Bride and here's the story:
We are in a small country town and there is great excitement because a traveling circus has come to town. The comedians are running around trying to get people to come to their show by introducing the other performers. There are acrobats and clowns and a beautiful dancer named Esmeralda all dressed in fancy costumes, and -- watch out -- here comes a ferocious dancing bear! The music is a fast leaping Slavic dance called a skocna (pronounced 'scotch-nab') and it uses all the instruments of the orchestra: strings, woodwinds, trumpet solos and drums especially. Listen to how Smetana creates different musical sections for the acrobats, for the beautiful ballerinas, for the clowns, and even some for the bear, I think.
Here's what happens after this circus music stops. (But, shh, it's a secret...) Suddenly the bear gets loose!! Everyone screams and runs for cover. But the bear doesn't chase them. Instead it reaches up and takes off its head! Surprise...it is "Vashek," a shy young village boy, who has put on the bear costume because he wants to run away and join the circus!
Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) Fandango (Dance of the Miller's Wife) from The Three-Cornered Hat[Demo CD no.2]
Now we go to Spain, land of bullfighters and flamenco dancing. Our composer, Manuel de Falla, wrote this music for a story that is set in the 1700s. It is about an old miller, his beautiful young wife, and a pompous town governor. The governor is so proud of his huge three-cornered hat and so puffed up with his own importance that he is sure he can steal away the miller's wife... but she loves her husband. To teach the governor a lesson, she dances a fiery fandango for him. He chases her back and forth, around and around, until he falls flat on his back -- his fancy clothes and prize hat in the dirt, his fat legs kicking up into the air. All the townspeople laugh as he stomps off in fury. A fandango is an exuberant courtship dance from Spain. The feet move quickly with accented rhythmic stomps, the back very straight, chest up, head back. Women wear special costume dresses, tight on top, many ruffles on the skirt. Men wear short jackets (boleros) and tight pants. The dancers take turns and tease one another, usually to sounds of snapping fingers, castanets (a small instrument that is worn on the fingers and quickly tappedtogether to produce a clicking sound) and accompanying guitars. Listen to how colorful de Falla makes the orchestra sound here, sometimes imitating guitar strums with quickly repeated chords, sometimes using solo woodwinds and thetrumpets, sometimes the timpani, sometimes just strings.
Interesting fact: De Falla wrote The Three-Cornered Hat for Serge Diaghilev of the famous Ballets Russes. Pablo Picasso provided the costumes and scenery. It debuted in London in 1919 and for several years was the most popular ballet in Diaghlev's repertoire.
Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor[Demo CD no.3-7]
Our magic Halloween carpet now takes us to Russia for Borodin's popular Polovtsian Dances from an opera called Prince Igor. Alexander Borodin, our composer, was both a scientist and a musician; he was a professor of chemistry and taught medical courses, wrote music, played flute, cello and piano. It's hard to believe that these exotic, wild dances came from a hardworking professional chemist who only wrote music in his spare time!
The dances take their name from a tribe of nomads on the Eurasian steppes during the Middle Ages. The Polovstsian men were fierce warriors and great horsemen who fought with bows and arrows and wore pointed hats, tunics and high boots with straps that hooked to their belts. The women, reported to be very beautiful, wore fancy headdresses, dangling jewelry, bright colored clothes, veils and long hair in braids. They lived in colorful tents, which could be rolled up and carried with them as they traveled.
Here is the story: It is night. The Polovtsian warriors have just captured a Russian Prince, Igor. But the warrior leader decides not to kill the prince. Instead he orders his people to dance for him around the fire. We can imagine the dancers weaving in and out, creating strange shadows in the flickering firelight.
The dances are in five sections:
The women appear first, softly, slowly, with a gentle, swaying Gliding Dance featuring the harp and flute, oboe and strings. [Demo CD no.3]
Then the men jump in with a Wild Dance of fast spinning and leaping acrobatics. They are accompanied by whirling clarinets, tambourines, plucked strings, brass and finger cymbals. [Demo CD no.4]
Suddenly the kettledrums pound out fierce rhythms and the whole orchestra joins in. We hear big cymbals crashing as all the ferocious warriors draw everyone into a General Dance that ends quietly and fades out. [Demo CD no.5]
Young boys appear, quick and agile, accompanied by soft jagged rhythms and plucked strings. Before long the men reappear, pouncing and fierce, repeating their acrobatics. [Demo CD no.6]
Finally, everyone joins together in a final dance that gathers more and more speed. Listen to the Kaleidoscope of instruments, rhythms, tunes, repeating fragments, that all spin together to create a sense of wild frenzy. [Demo CD no.7]
Interesting fact: Nealy all of the music of the Polovtsian Dances, not just the Stranger in Paradise theme, is familiar today, partly because of its use in the 1953 Broadway hit Kismet. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Gliding Dance of the Maidens theme opened the games as a flying girl swept through a winter dreamscape.
Leroy Anderson (1908-1975 ) The Syncopated Clock [Demo CD no.8]
This is a piece about an old-fashioned wind-up clock that "tick-tocks," has a face and hands, and an alarm bell on top. But this isn't just an ordinary clock -- our clock magically comes to life and wants to play! How do we know? We hear it! The music starts with the clock in a perfectly steady tick-tick rhythm (one two, one two) like all good clocks, but suddenly it stops and puts a little "kick, hop skip" into its step. Then it goes right back t normal as if nothing ever happened. Listen to how it tries to surprise and trick us with those stop, tick-tick syncopations. Sometimes we expect them, sometimes we don't. In the middle it uses the alarm bell.
You might enjoy knowing that the music of this piece is organized in what is called an ABA form (or three part form). See if you can hear it.
The A section, first section, is the "itck-tock" clock.
The B section, second section, is strings plus the alarm bell.
The A section, first section, comes back as "tick-tock" again.
Then there is a little Coda ending (coda means tail in Italian!): surprise syncopation with a slide whistle.
Interesting fact: Anderson was an American composer who wrote lots of fun, short pieces for the orchestra. He loved to disguise the instruments and trick you into thinking they are something else. He wrote this piece in 1945 when he was in the U.S. Army and working as an intelligence officer at the Pentagon.
Pharrell Williams (b. 1973) Happyarranged for instruments [Demo CD no.9]
Happy is a song written, produced and performed by American singer and producer Pharrell Williams. With a cheerful beat and exuberant vocal line, it invites a dance and sing-along response: "Because I'm happy, clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth." Happy was the best-selling song of 2014 and one of the best-selling singles of all time. It won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. Our version features the woodwind, brass and string brass instruments.