‘The Composer is Dead’ & the BMF Orchestra is implicated
Special guests Chris Willard of the Backstage Theatre and 16-year-old piano sensation Joseph Eisele join the BMF Orchestra at 6 tonight for the first-ever Family Festival Concert, a show guaranteed to keep children glued to rather than squirming in their seats while at the same time engendering, as bestselling author Lemony Snicket put it, “a life-long addiction to classical music.” Tonight’s three-part performance starts off with “The Composer is Dead,” a narrated musical murder mystery with words by the unusual Lemony Snicket and score by (living) composer Nathaniel Stookey. “I like to think of ‘The Composer is Dead’ as a gateway drug that will lead to a life-long addiction to classical music,” Snicket said, the quote itself a clue to the kind of humor you can expect at tonight’s show. “For me it was Beethoven’s Third Symphony, “The Eroica,” that kind of broke it wide open,” Snicket added. “You know, I couldn’t stop listening to it and it’s like any other addiction, before I knew it, I was listening to it alone, I was listening to it in the morning, and then slowly I went from Beethoven to Bach; I went from Bach to Mahler; I went from Mahler to Shostakovich. That’s something wrong there and I hope that that wrong will spread like a virus.””The Composer is Dead” features the inspector, played by the Backstage Theatre’s award-winning artistic director, Chris Willard, interrogating sections of the orchestra one by one about the composer’s death. “Where were you last night, Woodwinds?” the inspector accuses. “Speak up, speak up!” Willard is well suited to the narrator role, such is his talent playing sinister characters. While the interrogation itself is both humorous and spellbinding, it also serves to introduce children to the sounds and sections of a symphony orchestra, a la Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” or Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” “We were doing bird imitations,” the flutes reply by way of alibi to the inspector’s query. Any time bird sounds are required, we learn, the flutes rise to the occasion. “The Composer is Dead” was first performed by the San Francisco Symphony and narrated by Snicket, a CD recording of which will be sold packaged with the storybook (illustrated by Carson Ellis) at tonight’s performance. While there is no escaping the theme of death – in fact, the instruments chime in for what Stookey and Snicket call an “incredibly menacing … growling, thundering, low-brow, fanfare of doom” each time the narrator says the word “dead” – the show is funny, engaging and informative for both adults and children alike. It is definitely a must-see, must-hear performance for any orchestra-lover or would-be-orchestra lover who is also a kid at heart. “Lemony Snicket is an unapologetic champion of classical music,” The Washington Post raved, “and with Stookey … he has created perhaps the best response to the tiresome trope of the death of classical music.”In addition to “The Composer is Dead,” the BMF orchestra will play Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” under the direction of Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann. Joseph Eisele, a 16-year-old honors student from Cherry Creek High School in Centennial, closes out the show with an inspiring piano performance of “Allegro scherzando” from Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” Eisele is the winner of the recent Schmitt Music Yamaha Piano Competition. Aside from classical music, he plays drums in a band with school friends and enjoys taekwondo, skiing and reading. The Family Festival Concert is sponsored by Mary Jane and Hans Wurster and LIFT106.Studies have shown that classical music is beneficial to children’s development, BMF spokesperson Olivia Grover explained, and children are more likely to attend classical concerts as adults if they are introduced as children. “We want to introduce children and re-introduce adults to great music – and most of all give them the opportunity to spend quality time together and have fun doing it.”
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