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Floyd, Lemony snicket, and a brass quintet

Just wanted to give an update on some of the more interesting events we’ve been to at Centre in the Square…

First up: Lemony Snicket – The Composer is Dead. Part of the KW Symphony’s Pops series, this sold-out performance featured the actual composer, Nathanial Stookey, who is not dead, but who did want to reflect on the fact that only dead composers seem to be celebrated. The first half of the concert featured a number of “spooky” pieces, including “Danse Macabre”, best known as the Alfred Hitchcock theme, then introduced Stookey. He and conductor Edwin Outwater gave a detailed explanation and preview of the major piece from the second half, a piece in which Stookey had assembled bits from multiple composers, all on “mortal” themes, into a coherent whole—without changing any of the original keys. If you know anything about reading music, you can understand how that’s astonishing. If you didn’t, Outwater and Stookey did a good job of explaining why you should be impressed.

The second half, which included this piece, was all narrated by “Lemony Snicket“, investigating the mysterious death of the composer. All members of the symphony were suspects and had to come up with alibis. The Concert Master was busy showing off. The violas were feeling sorry for themselves (because everyone forgets about them). The brass instruments were partying. The French horn players were busy with their croissant. You get the idea, but not how funny it actually all was, thanks to the talent of the narrator.

Next up: A little KW Symphony event we got invited to—not sure why—but that proved very enjoyable. It began with a tour of Centre in the Square, part of which we missed because we were late, but still caught enough of to be reminded how amazing the hall is, given its size and its acoustical integrity. We’d toured it before, but learned some new stuff this time, such as the reason that acoustics were paramount was the Raffi Armenian, KW Symphony Music Director, had final say. When costs overran, he wouldn’t compromise there. Instead, lobbies were shrunk, restaurants removed. We also caught that this was the second largest stage in North America, but have been wondering since if that’s really true (though it certainly is big). The official history page says only that it’s “one of the biggest” in North America.

We were then seated on this big stage, facing the “audience”, in much the same configuration the symphony is normally arranged in. The symphony’s brass quintet—two horns, a trombone, tube, and French horn—then proceeded to play a small concert for us, concluding with the Theme from the Simpson’s! They then answered some questions—yes, they have to buy their own instruments; what they do to protect their hearing; how a woman ended up a tuba player (the only way into the band); and so on. And there was also wine and cheese.

So all quite nice.

Finally, the Floyd. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon was the Electric Thursdays concert I was most looking forward to this year, and it did not disappoint. The first half featured songs of the era, including Roxy Music’s “Avalon”, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, and Supertramp’s “Crime of the Century”, along with Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall”. The second half was all Dark Side of the Moon (except “Any Colour You Like”), uninterrupted. They had video accompaniment to this part that worked very well; it enhanced this music’s ability to really draw you in to a particular mindspace, even if you’re not stoned! (And the wine from dinner had pretty much worn off by now.) The photo montage of current and past war photos during “Us and Them” was particular affecting.