Wagner & Stravinsky with Callum & Bugs… and Brünnhilde


After 100 years, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps still has the power to shock, and even to divide audiences. As Callum mentions below, a few folks made a run for the exits halfway through the piece, and others hadn’t even stayed around to hear the first note. I had to chuckle a bit to myself when, near the end of intermission, I overheard a man in the row behind us say to his neighbor “I’m so glad I read the program notes. Now that I know what it’s about, I like this song even less.” (This may have been the first time in its hundred year history that The Rite of Spring has been called a “song”… but then again, probably not.) And that’s when he and most of his row abruptly stood and marched out. Those that stayed till the end (the vast majority in well-filled Umstattd Hall) gave the orchestra and its music director a long, enthusiastic standing ovation, no doubt partly in appreciation for the season as a whole.


Now for Callum’s comments (more brief than usual since his school’s standardized testing begins in the morning and his mom enforced an extra early bedtime). 😉

My dad and I went to the last Canton Symphony Orchestra concert of the season and it was awesome. We also went to the rehearsals on Thursday and Saturday before the concert. On Thursday, my friend Oliver Dhyanchand and his sister and parents came too, and we really liked sitting with them. The orchestra was rehearsing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring that night. I noticed a lot of musicians on the stage and I remembered there would be 111 musicians for that piece. Oliver said it was almost as loud as the rock concert we went to. I’ll talk about that concert at the end of this.

I can understand why the Rite of Spring started a riot, because it’s really different than what you would usually hear, even though it’s 100 years old. And it’s very chaotic sometimes, but that’s how it was written, and it’s awesome. I love it. I was glad there was no dancing in this concert, because I watched a DVD about this piece that was a reenactment of the world premiere and showed the dancing, and it was really weird. I talked a little bit about that in this video:

[Note from Dad: Brünnhilde’s commentary won’t show up on tablet or mobile, so it’s best to view this on “conventional” computer in expanded or full-screen mode]


And here’s a really good video about the concert by Kevin Martinez, the bassist for the Speedbumps:


Then we went to Saturday’s rehearsal, and at that one we saw them rehearse the three pieces by Wagner that they were going to play on the concert. As soon as we walked in they were playing the famous chord from Tristan und Isolde that I talked about in my video, and that Mr. Martinez explained in his. Two of the three pieces were with a singer. Her name is Amy Yekel, and she was amazing. I noticed some musicians sitting in the audience seats because they were only needed to play the Rite of Spring or the last Wagner piece. After Tristan und Isolde (the Prelude and Liebestod), they played the Ride of the Valkyries, which is one of my favorite pieces they played. It’s very famous and probably everybody knows it. It’s really powerful and awesome, especially with all the loud, strong brass, and the orchestra’s brass section sounded amazing as usual. Some of this piece sounds like movie music, and it’s been used that way. It’s even used in Bugs Bunny. Here’s the video, and it’s really funny: What’s Opera, Doc?


Then they rehearsed the last Wagner piece they were going to play [Dad: Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung]. Like I said before, Ms. Yekel’s singing was amazing, and I think it’s amazing that you can hear her really loudly over the whole orchestra, and without a microphone. It must be really hard to memorize all the words, especially since it was in German. She also had to sing really high a lot of the time. I also think that the Wagner tuba, that Wagner invented, is really interesting. Four of the horn players played them during this piece. Two of them played them in the Rite of Spring, too. There was also a bass trumpet playing in the Wagner, and at first I wondered what it was, because it just looked like a huge trumpet. The story of Wagner’s Ring cycle is so much like the Lord of the Rings, and I think it’s really cool that every music theme Wagner wrote had a meaning. The music is intense and really epic.

Then Saturday night, we went to the concert, and of course it was awesome. I just want to say that I think it’s sad that I was the only kid my age there, at least that I could see. There was a narrator who talked before almost every piece, and he also did a pre-concert lecture. His name was Thomson Smillie. He said a few times that this orchestra is amazing, and that the rehearsals were overwhelming because of how great they are. He said he has traveled all over the world and heard many different orchestras, and he just couldn’t believe that a small city like Canton could have such a great orchestra.


They had a small screen above the orchestra where they translated the words that Ms. Yekel was singing in German, and they also used it for the names of the different sections of the Rite of Spring. It’s amazing that the Rite of Spring still sounds really modern, but was really written 100 years ago. Some people even left in the middle of it because they didn’t like it. Even after 100 years of it being performed, some people still don’t like it. Almost the whole row behind us left before they even started playing it. Near the end of the first half of the piece, it came to a point that it seemed to be almost just chaos. The percussion section was using washboards in this part, and I thought that was cool. I loved this concert and it was awesome.

Now about that rock concert that I said I was going to talk about later. Oliver and I and our dads went to a concert near Cleveland about a week ago, at a place called the Winchester. The band is called Going for the One, and they play music by the band Yes, which I love. My piano teacher, Matt Riddle, plays in it, and a lot of other bands, too. Jon Anderson was the lead singer for Yes, and on one of their recordings I used to listen to all the time, he sings the beginning of the Rite of Spring, right before one of their songs. Also, before their concerts, Yes usually plays a recording of the end of Stravinsky’s Firebird. So they obviously love Stravinsky’s music. My teacher Matt said that they were even influenced by Stravinsky in some of the music they wrote. He also went to this Canton Symphony concert, and he thought it was awesome. He loved it.

Here’s one of the videos my dad took at the concert last week:


I’m really sad that this is the last concert of the season, but there will be another casual concert to look forward to, so that’s good. I’m so excited for next season. Every concert is going to be full of awesome new experiences, and I can’t wait.

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