Pacific Symphony Orchestra Presents PHANTOMS OF THE ORCHESTRA Tonight
Most folks didn't discover the world of classical music through formal concerts. They discovered it through Elmer Fudd singing "Kill the Wabbit!" and by watching Mickey Mouse trying to stop an army of living broomsticks from drowning him. That same spirit of curiosity, discovery, informality and playfulness fills the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall tonight, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., as Pacific Symphony launches its 2015-16 Family Musical Mornings season, sponsored by Farmers & Merchants Bank, with "Phantoms of the Orchestra." This Halloween-themed concert features the orchestra, under the direction of its new assistant conductor, Roger Kalia, joined by the renowned Magic Circle Mime Company (MCMCo). While the Symphony brings the music to life, the story is told by MCMCo, one of the most popular and highly acclaimed family attractions in the nation. The company is consistently praised for its creativity, innovation, and theatricality.
All are encouraged to come in costume and join in the fun at the Musical Carnival taking place at 9 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Season packages are $60-$160; single tickets are $15-40. For more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
Combining music and live theater, the concert tells the story of how the "phantoms of the orchestra" return to haunt the concert hall every Halloween, and the maestro and his terrified assistant must use the power of the baton to control this ghoulish orchestra of the undead and
lead them in concert. Attentive readers are sure to immediately recognize the story of "TheSorcerer's Apprentice." Of course, that miniature musical masterpiece by Paul Dukas is on the program, as are two other works long associated with spooks, ghouls and things that go bump in the night: Bach's haunting Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and Mussorgsky's chilling "Night on Bald Mountain."
While the Symphony brings the music to life, the story is told by the Magic Circle Mime Company, one of the most popular and highly acclaimed family attractions in the nation. Yoking orchestra and visual theater, the company is consistently praised for its creativity, innovation, and theatricality.
This is the first concert for Kalia, who comes to Orange County after completing a successful two-year tenure as assistant conductor of the Charlotte Symphony, and serving for three years as music director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles. He's worked with orchestras across North America and Europe. No surprise, he knows these works well and is looking forward to bringing them to the concert stage.
"'Phantoms of the Orchestra' has music that is both haunting and mysterious to put you in the Halloween spirit," Kalia says. "The pieces on this program capture the spirit of Halloween: the Mussorgsky features screaming witches and monsters played by the woodwinds and brass, and the music depicts a witches' Sabbath on top of a mountain, while the Dukas features a trio of bassoons playing the theme of a spellbound broom. I love conducting these works because all of the different sections of the orchestra are featured. Not only that, the music is highly rhythmic with a variety of sounds and moods, and each piece tells a story."
These works were prominently featured in Walt Disney's landmark 1940 film "Fantasia," but had all been used as shorthand for terror before. Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is a short work based on a poem by Goethe in which the power of magic violently turns against a person untrained to use it. It is Dukas' most famous work, so famous, in fact, that during Dukas' lifetime The Musical Quarterly commented that the world fame of the work not only overshadowed all other compositions by Dukas, but also eclipsed Goethe's original poem.
Inspired by Russian legend, Mussorgsky's work is a "musical picture" on the theme of a witches'Sabbath.
Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor is one of the most famous organ works in music history, and is universally recognized for its ability to conjure up feelings of mystery and horror. Films that have turned to this work in order to maximize the fright quotient include the 1931 Frederic March version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the 1934 film "The Black Cat" starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and the 1962 film adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera" starring Herbert Lom and Michael Gough. Together, these pieces create a concert that promises to be musically enriching and thoroughly entertaining.
"I find that family concerts for younger audiences are the most challenging yet rewarding concerts to program," says Kalia. "They are extremely important because the majority of these youngsters are listening to an orchestra for the very first time. I think that familiarity from a very early age to classical music is vital in order to develop the next generation of classical music audiences. The key word for me when programming these sorts of concerts is engagement, and I always make sure that the repertoire speaks to the audience in some way. I try to make these concerts very interactive and often program works that tell a story and bring the listener on a journey."
For this performance, Kalia not only leads the music but he'll be playing an active role in the theatrical work as well. "'Phantoms of the Orchestra' is an adaption of the story of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' and in addition to conducting the actual music on the concert, my role is that of the sorcerer and my baton becomes that of the sorcerer's wand," he continues. "Likewise, the orchestra is an 'ensemble of the undead' who enter and exit the stage as part of the program. I find this program to be challenging yet exciting in that I not only need to know the music by heart, but I need to internalize the story and know my lines in order to be an effective actor."
The Symphony's 2015-16 Family Musical Morning series continues throughout the year. Other concerts include "Nutcracker for Kids" (Dec. 5), "The Pirates of Penzance: Opera for Kids" (Feb. 6, 2016), "Symphony in Space" featuring NASA footage, Holst's "The Planets, and music from "Star Wars" (March 12, 2016), and "The Firebird: Ballet for Kids" (April 30, 2016).