JWR Articles: Live Event - A Night at the Proms ... and More (Conductor: Daniel Swift) - February 23, 2003

A Night at the Proms ... and More

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Art or noise? It's in the ear of the beholder

It can be stated with confidence that the NSO’s “Night at the Proms” produced some of the cleanest playing yet heard in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre. Local celebrities (including Brock President David Atkinson, who confided to your scribe that the arduous rehearsals improved immeasurably once everyone had located their on switches) watched music director Daniel Swift like a hawk, waiting for their cues in this airy work that was originally commissioned by humourist and tuba virtuoso (the two always go together—just ask Chuck Daellenbach, leader of the Canadian brass—cross-reference below) and, in a publicity stunt ahead of its time, dedicated to President Hoover.

With a carpet that may have been purchased from the clearly worn and dated “In a Persian Market,” I can report that the three Hooverites put in, well, a rugged performance only to be completely upstaged by Walt Lastewka’s far more polished result.

This lively rendition literally set the stage for the annual treat of having some of the participants from the NSO’s highly-successful and important “Composer in the Classroom” project. If sponsors TD Canada Trust, the Ontario Arts Council (Education Program) and the Ontario Trillium Foundation funded nothing else, they could be proud of their efforts. Programs like this are the future of classical music—keep those cheque books open!

Two classes from Woodland Public School took over the stage and the podium to present “Spring” a concerto grosso for all manner of instruments from violins to slides. Its twelve sections were underscored by the orchestra who had been provided with compositional guides by program leader and composer Sasha Weinstangel. In his opening remarks, Weinstangel explained that he had challenged his charges to try and differentiate in their minds between music and noise. The results were not as varied or “tight” as last year’s dynamic presentation but certainly delighted the crowd. However, the idealist in me kept hoping for a complete line or phrase to emerge from the cacophony and push these soundscapes over the edge into artistic truth. Next year, perhaps?

The remainder of the program was as varied as its contents.

Swift seems to enjoy his banter as much as the music and, clearly, the chuckling audience did too. Kicking off with Sullivan’s “Pinafore” overture was just the ticket, allowing Barbara Bolte’s rich oboe tone to touch our heart strings only for the tuttis to become a trifle jagged due to “too many beats.” One-to-the-bar would solve that. “Nimrod” showed a warmth and flow that was most welcome but “Shepherd’s Hey” suffered from ragged ensemble.

And once the lights did go up (never underestimate the power of criticism!) we all had a good sing and discreet flag-wave. Pass the crumpets, there’s a dear.

With the weather deteriorating and the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre’s Disco Ball fundraiser still to attend, I slipped away during the Selections from Oliver!, content in the fact that the capacity house was well down memory lane and awash in the popular tunes that were being served up with flair by one of our region’s finest artistic assets. JWR

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Conductor - Daniel Swift
Oboe - Barbara Bolte
Overture to H.M.S. Pinafore - Arthur S. Sullivan
"Nimrod" from Enigma Variations - Edward Elgar
Pomp and Circumstance No. 1 - Edward Elgar
Shepherd's Hey - Percy Grainger
In A Persian Market - Albert Ketèlbey
Rule Britannia - Thomas Arne
A Grand Grand Overture for Three Vacuums and Floor Polisher - Malcolm Arnold
Selections from British shows and films - Various
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Niagara Symphony Orchestra The Business Link
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