Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blossom: The Greatest Generation: Music from the 1940s

Key: The Star Spangled Banner (arr. Toscanini)
Grofe: Mardi Gras from The Mississippi Suite
Ellington: Sophisticated Lady (arr. Gould)
Gershwin: Ambulatory Suite (arr. Riddle)
Goldsmith: The Generals March
Rodgers and Hammerstein: Symphonic Portrat: South Pacific
Sousa: Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Whear: Stars in the Field of Blue [World Premiere]
Williams: Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Gershwin: Strike up the Band*
Porter: It's De Lovely*
Gershwin: Embraceable You*
Gershwin: 'S Wonderful*
Unknown: I'll be Seeing You
Loras John Schissel, conductor; *-with Helen Welch, vocalist.

I had oscillated about attending a concert at Blossom this weekend; I certainly knew an entire program of brass (Saturday) would be stretching my patience and I had feared that this program would be Big Band heavy... along the way I realized that two of my favorite composers, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein were firmly rooted around that decade. In any event, I found my way to Blossom for tonight's concert, the last "regular" offering this season (where has the summer gone?) with only Joffrey left before the Orchestra returns to more convenient Severance Hall.

The concert generally held my interest and was rich in texture, ranging from quiet and soulful to patriotic to festive. Helen Welch, vocalist for the block of songs under the heading Selections from the Great American Soundbook, and indicated with an asterisk above has an amazingly beautiful voice, yet every one of the songs in that block left me completely unmoved; at one point I found myself contemplating trying to use my TiVo remote's 30-second skip button to move things along.

The remainder of the concert was more my speed, I particularly liked the festive Mardi Gras from Groffe's The Mississippi Suite and Goldsmith's powerful The General's March. Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Lady was a little too sentimental and a bit depressing, but was interesting nonetheless, perhaps in part because when you say Duke Ellington, I think jazz...and when you say jazz I don't think of a string orchestra which is what Sophisticated Lady offered.

The Symphonic Portrait from South Pacific really served to remind me how much the music from that show is a part of American pop culture. While I don't think anyone took Mr. Schissel up on his offer to sing along, I found myself mentally filling in many of the blanks ("Some enchanted evening, uh, _______"; "I'm going to wash that ___ right out of my ____"), and it's a shame that there wasn't some kind of cross promotion with PlayhouseSquare's upcoming presentation of the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific, as this concert helped to eek up my interest in seeing a musical that isn't what I would consider my typical type of show.

Likewise, the tail end of the concert offered Symphonic Scenario from Victory at Sea which was as varied in texture as the remainder of the program. It generally held my interest and those parts that I didn't care for--of which there were few--moved swiftly enough to keep my involved. Particularly ear-catching was a solo violin later in the work.

Finally, the world premiere Stars in a Field of Blue by retired Navy member and CWRU alum Paul Whear was quite interesting to hear, and perhaps tied with The Generals' March as my favorite from the evening.


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