For “Edwin’s Orchestra Follies”, we were promised the wacky side of the KW Symphony, and they delivered on that!
The premise was that due to the symphony’s financial challenges, they had to try some new approaches. Like, striking a deal with new sponsor, Power Goop. Like offering a new Siri-like app, that seemed to be hearing-challenged. Like having a mascot: a big guy in a cat suit.
Some jokes worked better than others. They were throwing a lot of stuff at the wall, and only some of it stuck, if you will. By as my friend, who isn’t a typical Symphony attendee, remarked: “At least I’m not bored!”
Oh, and they did play music too. One surprisingly great piece was Leroy Anderson’s “Typewriter”, that did, in fact, feature a manual typewriter as one of the “instruments”. It was “played” by one of the members of the Youth Orchestra, who had to have been a novice on that device, given his age.
Several pieces were by P.D.Q. Bach, “the oddest of Bach’s 20-odd children.” Outwater commented that while father Bach’s pieces required great musicianship, “any idiot could play P.D.Q. Bach”, then invited an audience on stage to prove it. We got a young woman from Colorado (what?) who seemed slightly mortified by the whole thing, but nevertheless did a fine job of rising and hitting cymbals together when so directed by the conductor, earning an angry glare from the cat mascot, every time. This was during the Hindenburg Concerto, featuring balloon releases at various points during the piece.
The first half ended with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony. Outwater pointed out before starting that everyone had partaken of Power Goop before the concert. Throughout the piece—it’s written this way—various members of the orchestra leave, until no one is left playing. Only the way it was acted out, they were each leaving due to some sort of intestinal distress!
You had to be there, but it actually was pretty funny.
And the second half began with a response in the form of P.D.Q Bach’s Howdy Symphony. It starts with a “conductor solo”—that’s right, just Edwin Outwater flailing away in the face of no music, no musicians. “Ssh,” he said, as the audience took a few minutes to settle down. “This is my solo. You don’t get a conductor solo very often!”
And then all the musicians gradually ambled back in, one by one, and started playing.
Edwin’s supposed even greater intake of Power Goop felled him on the third piece in, and he collapsed on the couch (which was on the stage for the cat mascot, of course). “Get that girl!” he managed to wheeze, and our Colorado visitor got a turn at the baton, for “Flight of the Bumblebee”.
Probably the funniest piece was the final one, P.D.Q Bach’s “Ipheigenia in Brooklyn”, featuring the pictured countertenor. It’s a mockery of the aria form, with the singer having to take rather absurd leaps in vocal range, while singing even more absurd lyrics about “dead fishes… Dead, but still smelling of fish” and “running, running, running, noses”. The singer played it all very straight, which was perfect. The piece was nuts and I was in stitches.
And for some completely different, last night we went to see Travis Wall’s “Shaping Sound” dance troupe. He is a dancer and choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, and the troupe featured a number of other dancers from that show and Dancing with the Stars.
I won’t get into big description. It was some amazing, upbeat group numbers set off by angsty and sometimes sexy contemporary pieces. I quite enjoyed it. Their take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” especially stood out.