It’s easy to for­get that John Wil­liams, the com­poser who did the mu­sic for Star Wars, also scored Home Alone.

Con­duc­tor Ju­lian Pel­li­cano joins the VSO to high­light John Wil­liams’s es­sen­tial movie score Mike Usinger

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - by The VSO at the Movies brings Home Alone to the Or­pheum on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day (De­cem­ber 14 and 15).

Thanks partly to his be­ing an in-de­mand con­duc­tor, and partly to his be­ing a fa­ther of two small chil­dren, Ju­lian Pel­li­cano fig­ures that he’s seen Home Alone some­where in the neigh­bour­hood of 40 times. His love for the John Hughes–penned hol­i­day sea­son clas­sic—which dates back to his own child­hood—is as a re­sult mul­ti­fac­eted.

“I was 10 years old when it came out, so I thought it was hi­lar­i­ous and amaz­ing,” Pel­li­cano says, on the line from his home base of Win­nipeg. “I now have two kids my­self—my old­est daugh­ter is eight and she thinks it’s just the fun­ni­est thing. This will be my third time do­ing a run of con­certs with his movie as a mat­ter of learn­ing it and con­duct­ing per­for­mances, and I’m cer­tainly not sick of watch­ing it.”

And a big rea­son for that is the mu­sic. While most of us tend to as­so­ciate the film with Ma­caulay Culkin’s fa­mous af­ter­shave scene or his shoot­ing Joe Pesci in the nutty bud­dies with a pel­let gun, for Pel­li­cano the work of le­gendary com­poser John Wil­liams is as es­sen­tial to the movie as the slap­stick hu­mour. He’ll be lead­ing the Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Or­ches­tra in recre­at­ing Wil­liams’s score when Home Alone screens as part of the up­com­ing VSO at the Movies se­ries.

“I don’t know if peo­ple re­ally think of the mu­sic from Home Alone in the same way that some of the other John Wil­liams scores—the mu­sic from Star Wars or E.t.—are so iconic,” says Pel­li­cano, the res­i­dent con­duc­tor at the Win­nipeg Sym­phony Or­ches­tra. “But what he brings to this film, which is kind of a cute Christ­mas movie, is the same level of skill and artistry that he brings to his more fa­mous works. You’ll hear that in the score. It’s re­ally in­ge­nious in the way that it’s con­structed—the orches­tra­tion is spec­tac­u­lar. That it’s such great, high­qual­ity mu­sic is one of the rea­sons why or­ches­tras love do­ing this movie.”

Af­ter get­ting his start play­ing ev­ery­thing from grass­roots world mu­sic to punk rock as a per­cus­sion­ist, Pel­li­cano went on to study at schools in­clud­ing the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic in Stock­holm and the Yale School of Mu­sic. His ca­reer tra­jec­tory has seen him per­form around the globe, lead work­shops for young clas­si­cal stu­dents in Canada and the U.S., over­see op­eras like The Mar­riage of Fi­garo, and col­lab­o­rate with the worl­drenowned Royal Win­nipeg Bal­let.

He is also no stranger to turn­ing well-loved movies into live­mu­sic spec­ta­cles, hav­ing led or­ches­tras to clas­sics rang­ing from Char­lie Chap­lin’s City Lights to The Wizard of Oz to E.T. the Ex­trater­res­trial. For those un­fa­mil­iar with how the per­for­mances work, films are screened in ver­sions with the or­ches­tra tracks re­moved. Those parts are then filled back in by live per­form­ers.

“So the whole idea is to try and get a good bal­ance be­tween the or­ches­tra and the di­a­logue,” Pel­li­cano ex­plains. “If we do it right, you kind of end up re­ally fo­cus­ing on the film. When they are mar­ried to­gether it be­comes a re­ally great ex­pe­ri­ence—you aren’t nec­es­sar­ily dis­tracted from the film. Ob­vi­ously, there’s an or­ches­tra on-stage, but I hear from au­di­ence mem­bers who say ‘I was so en­grossed in watch­ing the film, and then I no­ticed that there were 80 mu­si­cians on-stage and they sounded amaz­ing.’

“Some­times you end up go­ing back and forth be­tween the film and the or­ches­tra,” he con­tin­ues. “With these per­for­mances you kind of be­come aware of what it takes to have all this mu­sic in a movie. What I al­ways hope and what I’m try­ing to do is have an au­di­ence be aware of how much the mu­sic re­ally adds to a film. Cin­ema is one of the main places where peo­ple hear or­ches­tras reg­u­larly. These shows re­ally raise an aware­ness that what you hear is mu­sic be­ing made by live mu­si­cians, not by some ma­chine.”

What he brings to this film is the same level of skill and artistry that he brings to his more fa­mous work. – Ju­lian Pel­li­cano

We can’t quite ex­plain what you’re go­ing to see if you go to Telep­res­ence, an ad­ven­tur­ous vir­tual-re­al­ity un­der­tak­ing at the Western Front next week, but we can prom­ise you this: it won’t be like any­thing you’ve seen be­fore. The brain­child of me­dia artists Ki­ran Bhum­ber and Nancy Lee, with as­sis­tance from trum­peter JP Carter and as­sorted coders and pro­gram­mers, it aims to up­end the con­ven­tions of the tra­di­tional con­cert in at least a cou­ple of in­no­va­tive ways— in­clud­ing break­ing down the bar­rier be­tween stage and seat­ing.

“In gen­eral, the way con­tem­po­rary mu­sic is per­formed, or jazz or elec­tronic mu­sic, is very staid and per­former-sep­a­rated,” Bhum­ber ex­plains, in a con­fer­ence call with Lee and the Ge­or­gia Straight. “You’re in your role as a per­former or as an au­di­ence mem­ber. And what Telep­res­ence does is it al­lows a new space [in which] to ex­pe­ri­ence a mu­si­cal per­for­mance. And the way that hap­pens is by us­ing VR, but also by hav­ing the live per­former and the au­di­ence mem­bers in the same stage area.”

“Vir­tual re­al­ity is kind of a new medium, but con­ven­tion­ally it’s used in a very vis­ually cen­tred way,” Lee adds. “In gam­ing or in cin­ema, it’s re­ally fo­cused on the vis­ual el­e­ment. So we re­ally want to re­v­erse that hi­er­ar­chy be­tween the au­dio and the vis­ual, cen­tre the fo­cus and the at­ten­tion around sound and mu­sic, and cre­ate a vis­ual el­e­ment in the vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment that will evoke a deeper lis­ten­ing.”

At the Front, Carter, his elec­tron­i­cally aug­mented trum­pet, and his lis­ten­ers will find them­selves ringed by a mul­ti­chan­nel sound sys­tem; given the mu­si­cian’s highly cre­ative use of loop­ing, re­verb, and ex­tended tech­niques, that should be enough to en­sure an im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment. Be­yond that, each lis­tener will be given a vir­tual-re­al­ity head­set that places them, vis­ually, in an ab­stract, in­ter­ac­tive land­scape that in some ways mir­rors the mu­sic. There’ll be an ab­stract three-di­men­sional rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the mu­si­cian and gen­er­a­tive im­ages that pre­sum­ably will have some sort of synaes­thetic com­po­nent, plus an un­spec­i­fied “game ob­ject” el­e­ment—and au­di­ence mem­bers will have a mea­sure of con­trol over at least some of these.

“Some el­e­ments of the vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment will be sound-re­ac­tive to JP’S per­for­mance,” Lee ex­plains. “In terms of the re­ac­tiv­ity of that, that de­pends on the po­si­tion of the au­di­ence mem­ber’s head and how far it is away from JP’S trum­pet—so there are small in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments that are vis­ual, and that will be live.”

Mean­while Carter will be “con­duct­ing” the lis­ten­ing and view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, in a way. “We kind of have a few dif­fer­ent chore­o­graphic el­e­ments with him,” Bhum­ber says, “but it is more on the im­pro­vi­sa­tional side. He re­ally does play to how peo­ple are mov­ing in the space, and what we’ve seen in some in­stances of his per­for­mance is that he will play a cer­tain tim­bre, and that will change the au­di­ence’s po­si­tion—how their body is po­si­tioned, and also how their gaze is po­si­tioned.”

And there’s an­other way in which the usual con­cert hi­er­ar­chy is up­ended: although other ap­pli­ca­tions of vir­tual-re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy can feel alien­at­ing, the idea here is that ev­ery­one’s cocre­at­ing the event.

“What we find re­ally in­ter­est­ing is how peo­ple are able to con­nect with each other be­fore the per­for­mance, and how peo­ple can de­brief with each other af­ter the per­for­mance, too,” Lee says. “Be­ing able to see how this sys­tem that we’ve built for the col­lec­tive VR ex­pe­ri­ence can fa­cil­i­tate this kind of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, that’s an area that we’re def­i­nitely ob­serv­ing.”

FROM THE first rose-petal fall to the joy­ous fi­nale, the Arts Club’s pro­duc­tion of Dis­ney’s Beauty and the Beast glows with the story’s mes­sage of love and for­give­ness, in­fused with fresh el­e­ments. Orig­i­nally staged in 2005 by di­rec­tor Bill Millerd, this pro­duc­tion has evolved to stay rel­e­vant.

The show fea­tures a strong, feisty Belle, played by Michelle Bar­dach, who’s ini­tially rough around the edges, specif­i­cally in her stub­born­ness and rash de­ci­sions. She’s fear­less in her re­sponses to the Beast, ag­gres­sively shut­ting him down in his din­ner in­vi­ta­tions and mak­ing it clear she has no in­ten­tion of play­ing nice. She grad­u­ally de­vel­ops through­out the show, grow­ing just as much as the Beast in her com­pas­sion and ma­tu­rity. When Bar­dach sings “A Change in Me”, she all but blows the roof off with her tremen­dous so­prano belt, but it’s her char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment that brings sin­cer­ity to the song.

As the Beast, Jonathan Winsby has a hu­man ten­der­ness un­der­neath his an­i­mal sur­face. He ca­resses the soft phrases near the be­gin­ning of “If I Can’t Love Her”, with gen­tle­ness and heart­felt emo­tion, be­fore he builds into his phe­nom­e­nal tenor voice, mak­ing this song both poignant and ex­hil­a­rat­ing. And the ini­tial re­la­tion­ship be­tween Winsby and Bar­dach is so heated it verges on sex­ual chem­istry—which makes their even­tual ro­mance all the more be­liev­able.

As the ar­ro­gant hunter Gas­ton, the hys­ter­i­cal Kam­yar Pazan­deh is con­fi­dent in his sex­u­al­ity, tak­ing plea­sure mov­ing his hips, strut­ting across the stage, and flex­ing his mus­cles. The twist here: his side­kick, Le­fou, played by Ali Wat­son, is a fe­male. And she’s no car­i­ca­ture of the an­i­mated film. Wat­son has spunk and con­fi­dence; she’s not a com­plete door­mat for Gas­ton. An­other change: the teacup Chip, played by en­er­getic young­ster Eliz­a­beth Ford, is a girl. And why not?

Scott Au­gus­tine’s up­dates on Va­lerie Eas­ton’s orig­i­nal chore­og­ra­phy are also re­fresh­ing. The at­tack of the wolves has an ex­cit­ing con­tem­po­rary feel to it. But Au­gus­tine keeps the feel-good mo­ments, such as the fun “cup chore­og­ra­phy” se­quence in “Gas­ton”, and the Broad­way piz­zazz of “Be Our Guest”, com­plete with kick lines and pirou­ettes.

Bar­bara Clay­den’s French-aris­toc­racy-in­spired cos­tume de­signs are su­perb, from the Beast’s royal-blue over­coat adorned with jewels, to the fine de­tails such as the se­quins on Belle’s yel­low ball gown. The one let­down is the set de­sign, which fea­tures a very crowded cas­tle. Two large pro­trud­ing sets—the Beast’s West Wing and Belle’s room—awk­wardly com­pete for real es­tate. When the Beast gives Belle her tour, he has to walk around in a cir­cle, as there’s nowhere else to go.

Still, this pro­duc­tion of Dis­ney’s Beauty and the Beast keeps alive the cher­ished story, char­ac­ters, and songs, but with re­newed en­ergy and at­ti­tude—some­thing that both chil­dren and adults will en­joy.

Vince Kana­soot

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Win­nipeg con­duc­tor Ju­lian Pel­li­cano (left) fig­ures he’s seen the clas­sic Christ­mas com­edy Home Alone (star­ring Ma­caulay Culkin, right) more than 40 times.

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