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Music and food

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The KW Symphony’s latest Intersections concert, Bon appétit, was on the theme of music and food. It was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve ever been to.

Held at the small Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts instead of Centre in the Square, acoustics were sacrified but intimacy was gained. It proved a good trade-off.

Principle conductor Edwin Outwater introduced the evening by outlining a fact he’d only recently learned, which is that symphonies first came together as a way of accompanying large feasts in the 15th century. Then he read some of the items served at these feasts (didn’t sound too bad), along with the instruments combined to accompany each course.

Then the Symphony played their first number, Raymond Scott’s “Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals.” (Not the KW Symphony, but here’s a YouTube link.) A lot of Raymond Scott’s music is used in cartoons; this was one lively and fun work.

Up next, Natalie Benninger of Nick and Nate’s Uptown 21 restaurant was introduced, as Edwin explained there would actually be food as part of this concert. (We were also allowed to bring wine to our seats.) She introduced the next piece, the lyrical “Pastorale” from the film Babette’s Feast, the soundtrack to the big meal in the film. It was lovely, but I have to admit to being distracted by the appetizer being distributed while it was being played. And to the fact that Jean and I didn’t get any.  It was apparently a salad of endive and blue cheese from the film, and quite delicious. (I suppose I should add that it wasn’t only Jean and I who didn’t get any. For whatever reason, there seemed to be enough for only about half the audience.)

At some point—maybe here—we also did a video link up to Nick, toiling away back at the restaurant. In his first appearance, he talked about the type of restaurant it was, and the focus on local foods and changing menus. And then the next piece played was Shostakovich’s “Tea for Two”, a variation on that tune that he wrote on a dare. It was a lot of fun. (Look, you can hear that one on YouTube also.)

Nick appeared again, commenting that he was more of a Rolling Stones guy than a classical music fan, but he did appreciate this particular concert. Then he asked Edwin about food, to which Edwin expressed appreciation for Italian and Japanese cuisine, and his sense that chicken was a highly overrated food item.

The final piece of the first half was by a living Canadian composer, John Estacio. It was one movement from the Farmer’s Symphony, called “The Harvest.” It was quite grand, and was served with an appetizer of cornmeal in a honey sauce. (For everyone, this time.)

Before we broke for intermission, John from Art Bar spoke about the wine he’d been drinking during the performance, which was a red blend from Southbrook Winery, and how different characteristics of the wine came to the forefront with the different styles of music. Edwin then asked concertmaster Stephen Sitarski what music would best accompany Pinot Noir. He thought a relaxing smooth jazz, whereas a Bordeaux would require something more intellectual.

At intermission, I bought a glass of the Southbrook red. (I’m highly suggestible.) It was quite nice.

Part 2 led off with Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “March Past of the Kitchen Utensils”, which somewhat sounded as titled. The next number, which featured mezzo soprano Megan Latham, was an orchestral version of the Cole Porter tune “The Tale of the Oyster,” arranged by Edwin Outwater himself. This was a hilarious little number about an oyster who longs for the high life—and finds it on a silver platter. (YouTube) And Latham has a beautiful voice and a very expressive manner.

Nick then introduced a video of a competition between himself and Latham, as to who could make the best version of Julia Child’s Gateau au Chocolat. Quite amusing (and no winner declared). We then moved into Lee Holby’s Bon Appetit, which is an episode of Julia Child’s program, in which she makes that Gateau, set to music. You can definitely picture Child as the piece proceeds. And most happily, we didn’t have to imagine how the gateau tasted, because we all got a piece. It was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.

And, they gave us the recipe in the concert program. I think I might try it. Heck, it’s only 6 oz butter. Practically diet food, for Julia Child.

Anyway. The last piece was a real change of pace, an adaptation of 60’s band Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints.” Though orchestral, it was very much in tune with the psychedelic original, complete with phase-shifting vocal (in technical terms, Latham used this gizmo to make her voice echo and layer). One the last verse, Edwin joined in the singing as well. And then he thanked us for “coming out for something we’ve never done before, and that I’ve never even heard of before.”

Though the joke was that the near-capacity crowd would then all head to the 54-seat Nick and Nate’s for a nightcap, we just headed home at that point. But we were smiling all the way.

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