Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blossom Festival Orchestra: Disney Live In Concert: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

The Original Feature Film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl with live underscoring by The Blossom Festival Orchestra with the Men of the Blossom Festival Chorus, prepared by Lisa Yozviak
Richard Kaufman, conductor.

It is true that I'm not a fan of the Pirates franchise -- perhaps it's tied to my fear of the Disney ride of the same name that (now inexplicably) permeated my early childhood -- I think it was a fire thing. Anyway, when I found out a friend was playing tonight's show at Blossom, I decided I'd give tonight's concert a spin. Visiting the Severance Hall Box Office yesterday afternoon to buy my ticket, the sounds of a rehearsal wafted out through the lobby I was hooked -- and looking forward to tonight's concert.

I'm a sucker for film music's drama and emotion; John Williams and Thomas Newman rank among my favorite composers.

Arriving at Blossom slightly over an hour before the 9PM concert, I was impressed to see cars out in the grass lots; once inside the gates the number of families spread across Blossom's expansive lawn easily rivaled the crowd that had assembled for the Fourth of July concert. Audience members and ushers alike got into the Arr of the moment with their pirate swag. Settling in to my pavilion seat just before the concert started an unmistakable whiff of the smell of buttered popcorn hit our section, with several--yours truly--left craving popcorn.

As the film and concert started the pre-recorded dialogue and sound effects seemed overly loud and quite boomy in the pavilion, however within a few minutes either this had been corrected or my ears had adjusted and the sound was reasonably balanced and intelligible, though I would have preferred if the orchestra was a bit louder in relationship, but that's more an exercises in hair splitting.

The music in films draws out emotion in romance, drama in action scenes and is just generally that extra seasoning that a lot of people may not consciously notice, but if absent it is conspicuously absent. Having the orchestra provide that seasoning live was a great touch and really highlighted the impact of the music. In the case of Pirates that music is generally soaring and dramatic.

Mr. Kaufman -- who was seen last year at Blossom conducting The Magical Music Of Disney and previously at Severance Hall for a Salute to John Williams in 2009 -- certainly drew that emotion out of the musicians, ranging from the lyrical romantic moments to the swashbuckling . The Men of the Blossom Festival Chorus, interestingly, were pretty much relegated to grunting, with no what-you-or-I-would-consider traditionally sung lyrics.

While the concert was musically satisfying, I was hugely disappointed by the technical quality: The lip sync between video and audio was horrendously off with audio leading video by about a half second*, which wound up giving me a headache. Compounding that frustration, at Intermission when I attempted to locate the House Manager to express my concerns not one of the half dozen ushers I asked had any idea if there even was a house manager, let alone who or where that person would be. As I worked my way back into the center of the pavilion I overheard countless patrons asking ushers "Is there a problem with..." and "Will they fix...", with the ushers generally brushing off the concerns, and as far as I could tell not relaying them to anyone.

(As an update, an acquaintance pointed out after the concert that if you were far enough up the hill the natrual delay of sound reaching your ear would minimize or eliminate the effect of the lip sync issue present in the pavillion and lower lawn)

*- By my very rough approximation. Also surprising, since based on my day job knowledge, this isn't a difficult problem to solve, especially compared to the opposite version of this problem. The technical issue is that each step of processing that happens to an audio or video signal adds delay. Assuming video and audio are in sync when they enter "the system", if one chain has more processing involved, and the other chain doesn't have enough artificial delay added, the two will no longer be in sync. And you'll give audience members headaches.

No comments:

Post a Comment