Posts Tagged ‘Harry Shearer’

Student Orchestra Focuses on Dances & Rhymes

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Music Director Peter Askim congratulates Xiao after the Dec. 12 concert

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last weekend’s Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra concert was without any special guest artist or fanfare, but it was wonderful nonetheless. It featured dances from Platee and Marosszek, and, after intermission, a Mother Goose Suite that showcased Kodaly’s interpretation of five familiar nursery rhymes. This concert comes on the heels of the academy’s last popular concert, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Prokofiev, which was narrated by humorist Harry Shearer.

Music Director Peter Askim brought up Shearer again in his introduction Sunday. He said that next Sunday afternoon (Dec. 19), Shearer will be rebroadcasting the academy’s recording of “Peter and the Wolf” on his radio show called, “Le Show.”

“So if you’re anywhere near a radio or the internet, be sure and catch the broadcast,” Askim said.

He also mentioned that the arts academy orchestra has its Tschakovsky’s 5th Symphony release now on iTunes, which would make a perfect Christmas gift. Later, Askim thanked Gaylord Nichols for funding this and Saturday’s concert.

“Today’s concert features music from many different worlds. They’re almost like perfumes,” Askim explained. “Rameau was the father of modern day harmony, and we’re going to perform it the way it should be done–without a conductor.”

And with that, Askim walked off the podium, joking that he would be at JoAn’s (an Idyllwild restaurant).

For the “Suite of Dances from Platee,” the orchestra took direction from Xiao, a first violin student. Throughout the three movements in the suite, the student orchestra sounded much larger then the 25 strings onstage. They were helped, in part, by college-level and professional musicians, including Mariya Andoniya Andonova, a bass player who now attends The Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles.

Askim returned to the podium for the next piece, “Symphony No. 4 in C Minor,” by Franz Schubert. According to the program notes, Schubert completed this piece in 1816 at age 19, not much older than these students. The symphony is scored for strings, pairs of winds and timpani. It opens in a sober and serious mood, yet builds to show Shubert’s gift for melody.

Charles Schlacks, Jr., one of the many locals who attended the Sunday’s concert, said that the orchestra did a fine job on the Schubert piece “that really doesn’t go anywhere.”

Ai-Ching, who plays viola, said that the first half of the concert was good, but she liked the music in the second half.

“The Mother Goose Suites are worth listening to again,” said David, a music student, who had attended the concert the night before. He liked “The Mother Goose Suite” so much that he pursuaded his mother, who works in Idyllwild, to attend the second half after her shift.

The five suites included “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,”Little Homely, Empress of the Pagodes,” “Conversations of Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Fairy Garden.”

According to the program notes,Ravel was inspired by Perrault’s popular “Mother Goose” book collection and wrote a short suite for a piano duet, that was later expanded into a full ballet score.

“Schubert just took some of our favorite nursery rhymes and set them to music,” David said. “You wouldn’t recognize them from the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes, but you also won’t easily forget them.”

After a three-week Winter Break, the concerts will continue on Monday, Jan 17, with the ever-popular Piano Fest at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall. The next orchestra concert will be held on February 5 & 6. For more details, look to the Idyllwild Arts web site at www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Hilarious Take on “Peter and the Wolf”

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

When Harry Shearer narrates and plays, laughter follows

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When Idyllwild Arts announced that Harry Shearer, the master of comic voices, would be narrating their first orchestra concert of the year, “Peter and the Wolf,” you knew it wouldn’t be ordinary, but hilariously extraordinary. The student orchestra stuck to Prokofiev’s 1936 music script, but Shearer turned the narrating part on its ear.

“That’s not the ‘Peter and the Wolf’ that I grew up with,” some of the music students said before yesterday’s (Saturday, Oct. 16) 4 p.m. concert during Family Weekend. “I don’t even recognize the words anymore.”

Without giving too much away for those who plan to attend today’s 2 p.m. concert, Shearer, who does most of the ‘Simpsons’ voices, turned Prokofiv’s masterpiece into a CNN “The Situation Room” news story. Affable talk show host, Larry King, from “Larry King Live” and tightly-wound newscasters Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper told the story in hindsight.

Peter Askim introducing Shearer and the IA orchestra

Standing at a lit podium next to the conductor dressed in a pinstriped suit and red tennis shoes, Shearer set the stage with the one-liner, “I was going to sing the last piece, but I lost the coin flip.”

He was referring to “The Marriage of Figaro,” aria just sung by Samuel, a barritone at Idyllwild Arts.

After introducing the cast of characters and their instruments, Shearer’s Larry King introduced Wolf Blitzer (no relation to the wolf), who said there were no eyewitnesses to the story that just happened in a meadow.

“A meadow?” Larry King asked.

“Yes, a meadow, Larry,” Wolf replied. “Like a big, green space.”

When Wolf said that the bird was a friend of Peter’s, Larry quipped, “A friend with birds? Peter is a special kind of kid, isn’t he?”

There was perfect synchonicity between Shearer's narrating & Askim's orchestra

The Larry King and Wolf Blitzer back and forth banter from “The Situation Room” had the audience giggling and laughing out loud.

“Here’s where it gets messy, Larry,” Wolf said, retelling the argument between the bird and the duck.

“I always find duck to be messy,” Larry said.

Later on in the show, Shearer introduced another CNN newscaster, Anderson Cooper, who tells them how the grandfather finds Peter in the meadow, brings him back home and locks the gate.

Shearer’s mimicking of these well-known voices is dead-on. No kidding, you swear that you have your TV on during the concert.

When the gray wolf appeared, the duck squawked loudly and got out of the water, Wolf announced.

“Why would she do that?” Larry asked. “A duck is no match in a foot race with a wolf.”

“The lack of any feathers showed that the wolf swallowed the duck whole,” Wolf announced.

“I prefer the breast,” Larry replied, one of Shearer’s many references to Larry King’s high-profile divorces.

Throughout all of this comedic sketches, the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, under the direction of Peter Askim, provided professional-level classical music. Even Shearer said so.

Samuel, a baritone, sang an aria from "The Marriage of Figaro"

“What a thrill it’s been to be playing along with these wonderfully talented musicians,” Shearer said. “I’m not in the same league, or even in the same game.”

After “Peter and the Wolf,” Shearer, who is also a musician, played a bass duet with Marshall Hawkins, head of the Idyllwild Arts Jazz Department.┬áIt was a song from his group, Spinal Tap, that was rearranged for a solo with an upright bass.

Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra’s final concert of “Peter and the Wolf,” with the affable Harry Shearer, will be held at 2 p.m. today (Sunday, Oct. 17) in the Bowman Arts Building on campus. It’s free and open to the public, but you might want to come early to get a seat.

For more information, call Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171 or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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