Monday, January 9, 2012

Review - Symphony for Kids on Fire

From Sound and Noise - University of Alberta Students on Music

A Wild Symphonic Ride was the usual cheery melee on Saturday, complete with singers, dancers, and noisy handmade rice-rattles. Led by Lucas Waldin, who is a stand-up comedian as well as the ESO resident conductor during the Symphony for Kids series, the afternoon flew by. Audience participation was a must; the kids accompanied the symphony with shakers and shouts in several of the lively pieces on the program. Various guests from schools around the city added colour, particularly the Knock School of Irish Dance, who were a high quality addition to their symphonic accompaniment.

However, despite the liveliness of the program, the symphony did not have much spunk. The issue seemed to be largely due to a lack of volume. Perhaps it was in deference to tiny ears, but not even “The Ride of the Valkyries” was loud enough. There were exceptions – there is a brilliant tuba solo toward the end of that piece which certainly had flair. But the general effect was not too exciting.

At times this serenity was appropriate. “The Internal Dance” from Stravinsky’s 1919 “Firebird Suite” is a minimalistic piece, and best suited to a withdrawn style of performance. It was an ideal choice to pair with aerial silk, which is a very slow form of acrobatics. The orange-clad aerialist climbed up and down a pair of ribbons, wrapping it around herself so that she could swing hands-free 30 feet in the air. Between each of those thrilling moments was an almost meditative process of preparation, narrated by the simple melodies of the Suite.

It was a daring choice for a finale, rather than the more common race to the end with crashes and bangs. Her final move was synchronized with the orchestra. As the Davis organ rumbled to life, she rolled herself higher and higher up the ribbons, until on the final chord, she let go and plunged down like a diving bird, suspended by fiery ribbons.

—MaryGrace Johnstone

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