Bet you’ll walk out hum­ming The Maple Leaf For­ever

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - LEONARD TURNEVICIUS

As we go through life in this seem­ingly topsy-turvy world, there are a few im­por­tant lessons to keep in mind.

Life Les­son #1: Don’t tug on Su­per­man’s cape.

Life Les­son #2: Don’t spit into the wind.

Life Les­son #3: Don’t mess with suc­cess.

But when it comes to pro­gram­ming a fam­ily con­cert, the most im­por­tant les­son Wil­liam Row­son learned out west, where he’s cur­rently in his first of two sea­sons as as­sis­tant con­duc­tor with the Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Orches­tra, is that you need to “come up with the per­fect themed show where ev­ery piece has mul­ti­ple lev­els of logic and nar­ra­tive, and then just put ‘Star Wars’ in the mid­dle any­way.”

Yup, just slip “Star Wars” or some­thing sim­i­lar in be­tween all that clas­si­cal stuff, and presto, you’ll get the vis­ceral re­ac­tion you’re af­ter. Works ev­ery time. See Life Les­son #3 above.

And Row­son, for­merly the Hamil­ton Phil­har­monic Orches­tra’s li­brar­ian and also res­i­dent con­duc­tor of the 2016 What Next Fes­ti­val where he led, among other works, his camp, one-act cham­ber opera in­spired by 1920s Ger­man cabaret, “The Vir­gin Char­lie,” will be im­ple­ment­ing that les­son when he re­turns to Hamil­ton this Satur­day to lead the HPO’s “Songs and Sto­ries of Canada” fam­ily con­cert at 2 p.m. in Mo­hawk Col­lege’s McIn­tyre Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre.

The Canada-themed con­cert, which will spot­light An­glo, Franco, and First Na­tions el­e­ments in our na­tion’s life story, will open with Rossini’s “Over­ture to The Bar­ber of Seville.”

Now, as clas­si­cal mu­sic afi­ciona­dos well know, there’s no con­nec­tion be­tween this pop­u­lar Rossini over­ture and Canada’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial. But as The Bard wrote, “Though this be mad­ness, there is method in ’t.” Yes, there is a rea­son for the Rossini.

“I’ve learned from my ex­pe­ri­ence con­duct­ing at The Or­pheum (in Van­cou­ver) which has 3,000 seats and when you fill those seats up with Grade 3 kids you sort of need some­thing of Bugs Bunny (Rab­bit of Seville) fame to get them right away,” said Row­son over the line from Van­cou­ver.

The Cana­di­ana be­gins in earnest with the string orches­tra ver­sion of Ernest Macmil­lan’s “A Saint Malo” from his 1927 “Two Sketches for Strings.”

“As the con­cert un­folds, it un­folds a lit­tle bit like a peo­ples’ his­tory of Canada,” said Row­son. “We’re go­ing to have some pro­jec­tions, some pic­tures. And I talk about the voyageurs and how they were cel­e­brated.”

The voyageurs will cede to the story of the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way. That 1881-1885 achieve­ment will be cel­e­brated with Jo­hann Strauss Jr.’s “Plea­sure Train Polka,” a work from 1864 in­spired by the open­ing of the Aus­trian South­ern Rail­way.

If you’re won­der­ing whether there will be an echt-Cana­dian work from 1867 on the bill, look no fur­ther than Alexan­der Muir’s “The Maple Leaf For­ever” dur­ing which a short film on Canada by lo­cal film­mak­ing col­lec­tive Camp 905 Pro­duc­tions will be screened.

Hot on the heels of the Muir will be the 1986 re­orches­tra­tion of Cana­dian com­poser Jean Coulthard’s “Lul­laby for a Snowy Night” from “Canada Mo­saic,” a work orig­i­nally com­mis­sioned some­time around 1973 by the VSO for a planned tour to the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China which even­tu­ally fell through.

Alas, there’ll be no “Star Wars” this time around. Af­ter all, it was played at the HPO’s fam­ily con­cert last Oc­to­ber 30. How­ever, there will be an­other work from John Wil­liams: “Theme from Harry Pot­ter.”

Ed­vard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Moun­tain King” will set up “The Sleep­ing Gi­ant” by the HPO’s Dun­das-based com­poser-in-res­i­dence, Abby Richardson-Schulte. Writ­ten in 2007 on a com­mis­sion from the Toronto Sym­phony Orches­tra for its North­ern Res­i­dency in Thun­der Bay, this pro­gram­matic piece is based on a leg­end about the gi­ant Nan­a­bosho who saved the Ojibwe from the Sioux.

The HPO, in par­tic­u­lar its brass sec­tion, is pumped for Wag­ner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” which will be fol­lowed by Dolores Cla­man’s “The Hockey Theme” ar­ranged by Howard Ca­ble. A sin­ga­long on “O Canada” will bring things to an end.

The day be­gins at 11 a.m. with an hour and a half of ac­tiv­i­ties for kids in­clud­ing a cre­ate-your-own-in­stru­ment sta­tion and an in­stru­ment pet­ting zoo.

Leonard Turnevicius writes on clas­si­cal mu­sic for The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor. leonard­turnevi­cius@gmail.com

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Wil­liam Row­son knows how to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of a re­ally young au­di­ence.

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