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First Concert of the 81st Season

Family Fright Night

Monday, October 28th, 2019
Cordier Auditorium
Scott Humphries, Conductor

  Selections from The Phantom of the Opera Andrew Lloyd Webber
(arr. Custer)
 
       
  A Scary Danny Elfman Suite!    
  This Is Halloween Danny Elfman
(arr. Kazik)
 
  A Danny Elfman Spooktacular Danny Elfman
(arr. Wagner)
 
       
  Danse Macabre, Op. 40 Camille Saint-Saëns  
       
  Funeral March of a Marionette Charles Gounod  
  Costume Parade!  
       
  -Brief Intermission-  
       
  Dream of a Witches' Sabbath from Symphonie fantastique Hector Berlioz
(arr. Monday)
 
       
  A Night on Bald Mountain Modeste Mussorgsky  
       
  Harry Potter Symphonic Suite John Williams
(arr. Brubaker)
 
       
 

The Adams Program Notes

 
       
 
James AdamsProfessor James R.C. Adams (1928-2019) was a brilliant, fascinating, curious, and kind person. His impact continues locally and throughout the world thanks to a life of mentoring thousands of students. We particularly appreciate his love of and promotion of classical music. He wrote MSO's program notes for more than 40 years, and the notes will remain known as "The Adams Program Notes."
 
       
  The program notes for this concert were written by Dr. Robert Lynn.  
       
  Selections from The Phantom of the Opera Andrew Lloyd Webber
(b. 1948)
(arr. Calvin Custer)
 
 

Andrew Lloyd Webber comes from a musical family. His father, William, was a serious composer, and his brother Julian is a cello virtuoso. Andrew first came to prominence with his sensational Jesus Christ Superstar. The musical took an unorthodox look at the life of Christ, and was accused of being blasphemous. Cats was another success in both London and New York, as was Evita. All these are musicals, but Andrew also has written music in a more traditionally classical vein, such as Requiem, and Variations (on a theme of Paganini).

Perhaps Webber's best known work is The Phantom of the Opera, the longest running musical on Broadway. It premiered in 1986 and has since been performed over 10,000 times. Calvin Custer's Selections from Phantom of the Opera includes six songs from the musical: "The Phantom of the Opera," "Think of Me," "Angel of Music," "The Music of the Night," "Masquerade," and "All I Ask of You."

The medley begins with the title song, which can best be described as a 1970s hard rock tune, with a heavy pounding beat and a throbbing bass-led melody. The songs show Webber's skill as a melodist; they are lyrical and memorable. The seriousness of the drama, though, is not forgotten. Dissonance is employed frequently to create anxiety and terror. One notable instance is after "Angel of Music." Underneath some uncommonly happy and innocent-sounding music, there is a tremendous buildup of dissonance that erupts into a brief reprise of the opening "Phantom" theme.

In the film, Forget Paris, during an argument, one of the characters suggests Webber stole the melody for "The Music of the Night" from the old popular song, "School Days" (school days, school days, dear old golden rule days...). While there may be some truth in this claim, Webber makes the melody his own in the second phrase: the theme becomes more emotionally charged, drawing the listener into the world of the characters, feeling their emotional states. It is this skill in writing simple, appealing melodies that pull the audience into the drama that has made him a successful composer for the theater.


 
       
  The Nightmare Before Christmas: This Is Halloween Danny Elfman
(b. 1953)
(arr. James Kazik)
 
  A Danny Elfman Spooktacular (arr. Douglas E. Wagner)  
 

Danny Elfman is a very prolific composer, but he started out composing in a very different genre from his current film music. Elfman began as a rock composer, and was still writing and performing in a rock group known as Oingo Boingo when he attracted the attention of director Tim Burton. Elfman ended up scoring almost all of Burton's films, most notable the Batman series.

Now Elfman writes film scores for large symphonic orchestras. His music is characterized by driving rhythms and much percussion. His admiration for the music of Bernard Herrmann is apparent; Elfman's music is identifiable for its pulsating rhythms and motive-based themes.

Spooktacular includes themes from three film scores by Elfman: "According to Plan" from The Corpse Bride, the introduction to Dark Shadows, and the "Main Title" from Beetlejuice. The music belies the dark qualities of these films. Instead, it finds joy in the ghoulish and creepy.

"This Is Halloween" is one of the main songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The arrangement by Kazik uses only the one song, allowing the listener to hear more of Elfman's techniques as a composer. The listener can easily imagine the opening line of the song (the same as the title) upon hearing the opening rhythm of the melody. The song takes frequent chromatic detours, sometimes mid-phrase. These tonal twists add to the quirky and idiosyncratic nature of the characters singing praises of their special holiday, Halloween. No one is frightened here; just a bunch of happy ghouls.


 
       
  Danse Macabre Camille Saint-Saëns
(1835-1921)
 
 

Danse Macabre was first performed in 1874, to mixed reactions. Its subject was rather off-putting. What motivated Saint-Saëns to choose this subject is, to me at least, unknown. "Macabre Dance" is the obvious translation, though few are satisfied that it catches the intent of the composer. Saint-Saëns intended this to be a song, to the words of Henri Cazalis in a poem referring to a French tradition. The story is that Death appears at midnight, tunes his violin, and begins a waltz. The dead rise from the grave, and dance for him until the cock crows at the crack of dawn, whereupon the skeletons return to their graves. The poem is quoted below:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in a cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack --
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

Two tunes are hears; one is Death playing the violin, with its E string tuned a semi-tone down, and the other is a parody of the medieval Gregorian chant, Dies Irae, sung in Requiem Masses. I have counted no fewer than sixteen concert pieces, and countless film scores using the Dies Irae as an allusion to Death.

In his youth, Saint-Saëns was quite an innovator. He was the first French composer to write symphonic poems, a genre established by his friend and mentor, Franz Liszt. Danse Macabre was one of four he wrote in this new form. Liszt, himself, was attracted to the macabre, writing a piano version of Danse Macabre, and then writing his own death music in his Totentanz (Dance of Death).

Why was Death such an attraction? Perhaps the French tradition has a parallel in Mexico. Mexico has its tradition of celebrating Death once a year, when parties are held to honor the dead. Children eat candy shaped like skeletons and wear death masks. It is not because they like death; it is an affirmation of the concept of life after death. One could almost say it is a mocking of death. It is likely that Saint-Saëns had the same thought as Mexican children when he wrote this piece. Just after a rather scary passage, there is a lilting tune, and that is what makes me think Saint-Saëns was not intending this to be a morbid piece.


 
       
  Funeral March of a Marionette Charles Gounod
(1818-1893)
 
 

Gounod was born in Paris, the son of a painter of considerable talent. His first teacher was his mother, who was a successful concert pianist. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire, Gounod won the Prix de Rome, and while there became enchanted with early church music. He wrote much liturgical music and many songs, but he is best known for his opera Faust. Orchestral excerpts continue to be popular as concert pieces, and parts of the opera have been worked into a ballet. The libretto took so many liberties with Goethe's work that it has no appeal for lovers of Goethe, and the same thing could be said about his Romeo and Juliet, although this time the aggrieved one is Shakespeare. Other popular works are a rather syrupy Ave Maria, based on a Bach prelude in C, and the charming Funeral March of a Marionette.

This was meant to be part of a piano series, Suite Burlesque, which was never finished. It was written in 1872 and orchestrated in 1879. Older members of the audience might remember it as the theme song for a Saturday morning children's radio show called "Let's Pretend," if memory serves. Middle-aged members of the audience will remember it (in modified form) as the theme song for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

The piece is a bit fast for a funeral march. The main theme seems to mock the seriousness of the situation, and the second theme seems to be out having a good time. It is clearly meant to be a jaunty send-up of funerals. There is a story line, or program. Two marionettes have been in a duel, and one of them is killed. His friends carry him to the grave, but part way there they come upon a pub, and decide to rest, recall his virtues, and get a bit drunk. But then, realizing it IS a death, after all, they resume their march to the cemetery. The music is in ternary form, the middle section taking on a more jubilant character before the final section returns to the somber opening theme.


 
       
  Symphonie fantastique: Dream of a Witches' Sabbath Hector Berlioz
(1803-1869)
 
 

Berlioz was the quintessential Romantic. Together with his friends, the painter Eugene Delacroix and the writer Victor Hugo, he defines the genre. He put emotion above all, in music as well as life. He was intended by his father to become a doctor, and was sent to Paris from southern France to study medicine. He was appalled by the dissection rooms, and refused to have anything to do with medicine. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, amid much turmoil, railing at the conservative attitude of the teachers (he failed to analyze the term "conservatory").

With Berlioz, and the other Romantics, we don't know what to expect. Keys are changed, two-minute modulations occur, moods change abruptly ... and not just between movements, as in Mozart, but at any time Berlioz feels the urge. Is there a lack of structure? Perhaps, but there is no lack of excitement, or melody, or rich orchestration.

Berlioz greatly expanded the orchestra. He wrote music for huge orchestras requiring 240 stringed instruments, 30 pianos, 30 harps, and more. Even though his preferences for large forces were never realized, the works which remain in the repertoire still require very large orchestras. He was a great promoter of "program music," that is music which tells a story without words. Like other Romantic composers, his works were often inspired by literary works, particularly those of Shakespeare.

Berlioz was a passionate individual, throwing himself into love affairs one after the other, and thinking up bizarre schemes to dramatize his love. After being refused by the Anglo-Irish actress Harriet Smithson, he contemplated suicide, but wrote Symphonie fantastique instead. Later, upon hearing the symphony, Smithson decided to marry Berlioz; however, their union did not last.

Symphonie fantastique is programmatic, and Berlioz wrote notes describing the scene for each movement. Here is Berlioz's description of the fifth movement which we hear today:

He seems himself at a witches' sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath ... Roar of delight at her arrival ... She joins the diabolical orgy ... The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies Irae, the dance of the witches.

The arrangement heard today by Deborah Baker Monday is for string orchestra. In addition to removing the winds and brass, Monday shortened the work a bit, but most of the main sections are present. The "gathering of shades" can be heard in the opening, as well as the transformed beloved melody, played here by solo violin. After the chiming of the funeral knell, the Dies Irae chant melody is played by the string basses. This is followed by the "burlesque" of the Dies Irae and the Witches Round dance.


 
       
  A Night on Bald Mountain Modeste Mussorgsky
(1839-1881)
 
 

Mussorgsky was a member of the Russian Five (Balakirev, Cui, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov), whose principal trait was the strong promotion of nationalism. Musically, Mussorgsky showed his trait more than any of the others. His most successful work is the opera Boris Godunov, which ran afoul of the czarist censors. It did not achieve its success until later.

Mussorgsky was born into a wealthy family. He went into the military, during which time he worked on an opera. At this time, he had little theoretical knowledge, and soon resigned to study and to devote more time to composition. He became friends with Rimsky-Korsakov, who helped make his music more "presentable." Several of his most famous works were in this way "touched up" by others. His Pictures at an Exhibition was not successful until orchestrated by Ravel.

Mussorgsky was a likeable and enormously talented person, but he was also an alcoholic, a fact which prevented him reaching his full potential, and which cut his life short at forty-two.

A Night on Bald Mountain is the result of several revisions. It began as an orchestral fantasy, was redirected towards being a balletic interlude to an opera, and finally re-orchestrated (by Rimsky-Korsakov) as the programmatic tone-poem we hear today.

It was conceived as a dramatization of a Black Mass held on St. John's Eve (itself, probably a hold-over from the pagan celebration of the summer solstice). The story is vague. The witches dance and carry on, only to be dispersed by the sound of the church bells from the nearby village, heralding the coming of dawn.


 
       
  Harry Potter Symphonic Suite John Williams
(b. 1932)
(arr. Brubaker)
 
 

One might think that film scores are always fitted to the story line, but that is not the case. Some film scores simply set a mood, or even are intended simply to sell recordings. A film might just have rock music as a background. The extreme opposite is "Micky Mousing." That is when the music responds to every visual cue; a person looks at something with surprise, and the music "jumps." John Williams has written both sorts of film scores.

A technique used by Williams in his scores for the Harry Potter films is leitmotif. Leitmotif technique has its origins in the music of Carl Maria von Weber. However, it was Richard Wagner who developed a highly organized use of the method. Leitmotifs are short musical themes, sometimes mere fragments, that are associated with a person, thing, or idea in a story. Part of the genius of the technique is that leitmotifs can be transformed to convey different emotional states, or combined with other leitmotifs in ways that traditional storytelling simply can't imitate. In the Harry Potter Symphonic Suite we hear several leitmotifs that appear throughout the Harry Potter films: "Hedwig's Flight," "Nimbus 2000," "Hogwards," "Diagon Alley," "Voldemort," "Quidditch," "Family Portrait," and "Leaving Hogwarts."

Williams has won more Academy Award nominations than any other composer. He is best known for his richly orchestrated scores for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. His earlier works, though original and well-liked, bear little resemblance to his later works. The score for The Missouri Breaks, for example, can best be described as a blues-western piece, featuring a harmonica. Johnny Williams (as he was known then) wrote a lot of jazz scores.

When George Lucas was making Star Wars, he watched a lot of old Errol Flynn swashbucklers, and shared his enthusiasm with Williams. Consequently, that score and many to follow sound very much like Erich Korngold, the Austrian refugee who scored so many of those early films. Listen to the score for The Sea Hawk, or the title theme for King's Row, and you will think you are hearing John Williams.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin I
Elizabeth Smith, Concertmaster
Pryce Whisenhunt, Student concertmaster +^
Kristin Westover
Pablo Vasquez
Ilona Orban

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Hailey Schneider +
Nailea Ponce +^
Kaitlin Graber +^
Linda Kummernuss

Viola
Liisa Wiljer *
Julie Sadler
Margaret Sklenar
Gabrielle Hochstetler +^

Cello
Robert Lynn *
Monique Hochstetler +^
Daniel Kubischta +^
Wallace Dubach

Bass
Darrel Fiene *
Katie Huddleston

Piccolo/Flute
Kathy Davis *
Jennifer Wagner +^

Oboe
George Donner *
Diane Whitacre

Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Mark Huntington

Bass Clarinet
Mark Huntington
Bassoon
Erich Zummack *

Horn
Matt Weidner *
Tammy Sprunger
Jamie Weidner
Barb Burdge

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Manuel Hernandez +^
Harley Ramsey +^

Trombone
Jon Hartman *
Katrina Murray +^
Alvaro Castillo +^
Kayla Carver +^

Tuba
Mason Kniola +^

Percussion
David Robbins *
Joel Alexander +^
Lydia Kelly +^
Jonah Lechlitner +^
Mason McBride +

Organ/Celeste
Alan Chambers

Piano
Pamela Haynes

Harp
Emily Goins

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MU student
^ Denotes Keister Scholarship recipient
** Denotes assistant principal
       
 
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