sharing the bill with Bernstein, Barber and Williams

Here's a review of a concert by the Green Bay Civic Symphony from yesterday. The orchestra's final concert of the season was comprised of movie music by Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, and John Williams. Oh yeah, and me. They performed my orchestral score to Charlie Chaplin's The Adventurer (score was originally commissioned in 2000 by Masanobu Ikemiya and the New York Ragtime Orchestra, then revised for the Boise Philharmonic in 2006). This is the third of four performances of orchestral scores of mine I've licensed this year (so far). Next one is in June, when a high school in Milford CT will be presenting the world premiere of my concert band arrangement of my Adventurer score.

*****

Civic Symphony has merry, moving time with movies
By Warren Gerds
wgerds@greenbaypressgazette.com
April 20, 2008

Concert review
Green Bay Civic Symphony Orchestra
4 stars out of 4


Comedy and laughter are not all that common at a symphonic concert, but the Green Bay Civic Symphony Orchestra supplied that in abundance in a movie-themed, variety-filled program Sunday afternoon at the Meyer Theatre. The orchestra normally has a steady supply of wit from its droll narrator/host, Stuart Smith. He was up to his usual Sunday, dropping quips to introduce selections.

But the concert had an added layer of humor from the presence of Charlie Chaplin in two 20-minute films accompanied by live music. As the films rolled, laughter often burst at the sight of Chaplin’s wacky stunts, abundant pratfalls, hustle-bustle action and sight gags.

The fascination started when organist Frank Rippl of Appleton offered a pre-concert talk about the theater’s canary-yellow Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

A retired schoolteacher, Rippl has a nice way of getting his information across. He’s also an adept organist. The combination made his presentation a treat.

Rippl put the Meyer Wurlitzer in perspective. Of 7,000 theater organs built during the heyday of 1915 to 1935, 40 remain in their original locations. One is the Meyer’s.

“It’s a beauty, it really is,” he said.

Along with demonstration the organ’s musical effects, Rippl played samples from its “toy counter” – castanets, snare drums, tympani, bass drum, crash cymbal, Chinese wood block, glockenspiel and more.

They’re all real instruments located in a room with the organ’s pipes to the side of the stage, he said.

Rippl employed many such effects when playing along with Chaplin’s “The Rink,” a tale of mayhem in a restaurant and a roller-skating rink.

Rippl wrote the score. It’s playful and fits the moods. Rippl’s playing seamlessly kept pace with the screen action. He did what he said he would do in his pre-concert talk, “underline moments with music” rather than have the music dominate the action.

Later in the program, conductor Seong-Kyung Graham led the 75-member orchestra in music Ben Model scored for Chaplin’s “The Adventurer.”

This time, Chaplin is on the edge of panic all the way through as an escapee from prison who, among other things, rescues a beauty, her mother and a lout from drowning.

The orchestra tuned in on Model’s recurring themes – jaunty, gliding and rapid (for all the chases) – in perhaps its smoothest segment of the afternoon.

Hearing an orchestra play live to film action is a rarity in Green Bay, and Graham and the orchestra made the occasion special.

The orchestra also took on two works with the assistance of the 58-voice Ripon College Choral Union, which Graham also conducts, and the 28-voice Civic Symphony Chorus, organized and prepared by Kent Paulsen.

John Williams’ “The Phantom Menace: Star Wars for Orchestra and Chorus” at its most spectacular featured the orchestra and choirs combined in the robust, fiery, all-out energy of “Duel of the Fates.”

The choirs then stayed on to sing alone Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei,” which was heard in instrumental form in the movie “Platoon.” Graham and the choirs captured the works slow, flowing melancholy. It’s a work of somber beauty.

To close, the orchestra performed Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Waterfront Symphonic Suite.” The work made up of snippets of elegance, violence, angst, romance and power, and the orchestra had many strong moments.

At the conclusion, during bows, Graham made a point of calling attention to the brass players. Their part of the score is extremely difficult and their playing was “magnificent,” she said.

The Civic Symphony will return to the Meyer in fall for its 14th season. Its concert dates are Oct. 18, Nov. 15, Feb. 6 and April 19.

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