Listen... the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is playing

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One more

The batteries only lasted so long... 

Another great show!  A whole raft of new bloggers are on tap for tomorrow afternoon - see you then.


The lights are on...

Someone's obviously excited to see the show... they left their car running in the parking lot.  I guess it's one way of getting a shout out from the stage.

Our bloggers for this evening...

Kerri continues her weekend of blogging at

Raffaella is back at theoryofraffaella.
And new to SSUTS live blogging tonight is Isaac at his blog Who's Left and Who's Leaving.


Here comes the sun

It's turned out to be a pretty nice night, although I can almost feel the temperature dropping. Classical Mystery Tour starts in about 35 minutes, and already the hill is filling up.

Just noticed that concertmaster Martin Riseley is sporting a new hairdo - looks good!


He shoots, he scores

On Monday afternoon the ESO will be playing John Estacio's Hockey Night in Canada anthem entry.  CBC has picked up on this - read the article here.  Then come to Hawrelak on Monday afternoon and support our former composer-in-residence!

Rockin' Debussy

Lisa and Linda are twin-sister-kids-entertainers, and they're on right now, entertaining those kids, twins-style. In addition to piano, which they play, they've got a trio with them - a clarinet, a horn and a cello. In between the sing-along songs, they're quite cleverly inserting music of Debussy. A few minutes ago they had a bunch of children bunny-hopping/moshing in front of the stage... and now they're playing Golliwog's Cakewalk.

Melayne and I both agreed we could never be children's entertainers.

Live blogging continued...

I was at a wedding all day, so no posts from me, from Hawrelak Park! But we do have some other lovely bloggers to peruse:

Erin has some great reviews on her blog here.

And the always witty and photo-tastic Raffaella writes about Night at the Movies.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2 Mini-donuts down... hey, they're mini, right?

I think everyone in grass seating on the audience-right side of the stage had a good chuckle when a lady in a red shirt got up in the middle of a piece to throw acorns, or perhaps small pine cones, at a particularly persistant squirrel that was chirping (nearly in time) with the music.

One Fat Frank down

One of my weather widgets says it's raining. So much for the not-so-accurately named AccuWeather. In fact, it's a beautiful night at Hawrelak, and the Liszt is, well... so very Liszt-y. One of the first CDs I owned was a compilation of Liszt piano works given to me by my piano teacher. Of course, you need to be able to hit twelfths with one hand, so I didn't really get into playing much Liszt.

Anyhow, check out our other blogs for the night:

Kerri's writing on and Elizabeth Withey is writing on her Edmonton Journal blog Salad Daze.

Live and in the park

The first SSUTS concert of the weekend is... 1 hour and 22 minutes away. The piano is being tuned, the box office is open, and they'll be opening the gates for seating any minute now. I'm onsite and using wireless - hurrah! That means our live bloggers will be able to post to their heart's content. Watch this space for links to their blogs and posts over the weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Germany? Austria?

Tyler Hamilton, our singer for SSUTS' Night at the Movies show on Saturday night, was a great sport when we asked him to walk around downtown giving away tickets - with a catch.

Watch for yourself:


Monday, August 25, 2008

Opening with an Overture

Our first SSUTS concert is this Friday, and the very first piece of the program (other than Alan Gilliland's lovely arrangement of O Canada) is Brahms' Academic Festival Overture. Brahms wrote the piece in response to receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Breslau. Although the title might bring visions of Pomp and Circumstance to mind (with or without vibrato), Brahms, who never attended university, decided to take inspiration from student drinking songs. By the way, did I mention you can enjoy a selection of beverages (both alcoholic and non) at the concert?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What's Opera, Doc?

Cognitive Daily reports on "what conductors are doing when they wave their hands around -- and what we get out of it."  The research is focused on beat patterns (pretty basic stuff) but what's great about this post is the Bugs Bunny cartoon embedded in the article.  Of course, this led me to spend some time browsing youtube's collection of Loony Tunes.  If it's been awhile, take some time to remind yourself of the importance of classical music in Saturday morning cartoons.  I personally like Long Haired Hare and Rhapsody Rabbit, but there are many to choose from.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ending with an Overture

SSUTS (Sobeys Symphony Under the Sky) traditionally ends on Labour Day with Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. In the last post, conductor Bob Bernhardt talked about conducting the cannons called for in the score, supplied again this year by the Royal Canadian Artillery. The concert is worth going to for many reasons, but if you've never seen orchestra + live cannons, make a point to go - it's something everyone should experience. But what about those bells?

It's sometimes a surprise to people attending their first SSUTS when everyone around them suddenly pulls out bells and noisemakers of all sorts during the 1812 Overture. Just like it calls for cannons, the score calls for a carillon. Since Hawrelak Park doesn't have such a thing (how many times do we have to perform there before they install one for us, I wonder) the audience is responsible for recreating the bells of Moscow. Just think - how many times can you literally say you'll "be there with bells on"?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More SSUTS (Sobeys Symphony Under the Sky) concert previews are coming soon! In the meantime, festival conductor Robert Bernhardt took the time to answer a few questions:

Q. What is different about conducting an outdoor festival concert vs one inside a concert hall?

I've had the great pleasure of conducting outdoor summer concerts for most of my career. In most every case, the outdoor setting is more casual and more relaxed than the regular season inside the concert hall. The programming ranges from 'serious' classics to fantastic pops, and everything in between.

What makes SSUTS so special is that, within 4 days, the ESO plays music in just about every genre we have to offer. This year, for example, we open the Festival with Brahms, Liszt and Wagner, and end it with Gershwin and Charlie Parker! We've also got an exuberant salute to Ballet, with dancers, and a concert devoted to movie scores. On top of all that, our pops concert this year is all Beatles, all the time! For SSUTS, we endeavor to make all of the concerts, including the classical opener, family friendly. I very much enjoy speaking to our audience from the stage, and hopefully our audience's connection with all of us on stage is enhanced to some extent by that contact.

The particular venue can directly effect the programming as well. For example, in Louisville I do a summer outdoor season called ROARCHESTRA! which is played on a lovely field at the Louisville Zoo on Saturday evenings in July. The programs are almost entirely pops, and can be punctuated with fly-overs by geese and walk-throughs by peacocks!

Part of the joy of the outdoor concert experience is the unpredictability of it. Weather, airplanes, fauna - so many things can effect a particular piece of music. Nevertheless, I enjoy it greatly, and it's the kind of setting that allows us to reach more first-time concert goers than any other venue during our year.

Q. What is your favourite memory of conducting SSUTS from previous years?

For me the favorite memory of all was the overall feeling, after my first SSUTS experience, that I enjoyed it so much more than I had hoped. I enjoy virtually all genres of music, and I had never been involved in a festival which, in four days of performances, allowed me to 'do it all' with such wonderful musicians, in such a beautiful performance space, collaborating with such a terrific staff, in a great city... For me, it's been a fantastic match, and I look forward to it each year.

Q. What do you most look forward to at SSUTS this year? Is there one piece during the weekend you’re especially looking forward to?

One of the most profound moments of my musical life as a child was hearing, and seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was already turned on to Bach, was curious about the world of Opera, and was blown away by the four lads from Liverpool. There are so many marvelous compositions I'm looking forward to conducting with the great ESO this summer, but all things being equal, (and they are in my psyche), I'm looking forward to Classical Mystery Tour! I've worked with these Beatles re-creators many times, and every time I'm more excited than the last. If you love the music of the Beatles, you will LOVE this show. Pretty much guaranteed...

Q. How DO you conduct cannons?

Great question, with several answers. I've conducted the 1812 Overture of Tchaikovsky dozens of times. Sometimes, indoors especially, there are no cannons. Sometimes, the percussion section has a synthesized Howitzer sound that they 'play' via keyboard or percussion pad and it blasts its way from a speaker. And on most occasions, it's outdoors with real weaponry. I've done it with pistols being shot into barrels, rifles, cannons, BIG guns...any number of ways.

In those cases which are outdoors, and the guns are in a nearby location, and I can see the 'gun director' and he/she can see me, I simply give the visual cue to begin. (Tchaikovsky is very specific in the score where he wants the blasts to take place.)

If the guns are out of sight, either there is a 2nd conductor there, on location with the guns, to give the cues or if the guns are VERY distant, someone near me is on headset to someone near them! Somehow or other, it all works out. And, pardon the pun, it's a blast.

Q. How many Fat Franks can you eat in one sitting?

I usually have to stand up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"the musical equivalent of dead roses"

The New York Times reports on the Great Vibrato Controversy surrounding Elgar's "Pomp & Circumstance" aka "Land of Hope and Glory" aka "that graduation march song".

Coming up... a short Q&A with Robert Bernhardt about conducting SSUTS this labour day weekend.