A birthday party with lots of surprises


Callum’s review of the Canton Symphony Orchestra’s 75th Anniversary concert on February 16, 2013:

The Canton Symphony Orchestra’s 75th Anniversary concert was completely awesome. It was actually my favorite concert yet. I know I’ve probably said that about other Canton Symphony concerts, but their concerts just seem to get better all the time. I can’t wait to tell you all about it, but first I want to talk a little bit about the rehearsals we went to.

They had their first rehearsal on the Wednesday before the concert, and my dad and I went. They started out by playing all of Scheherazade (by Rimsky-Korsakov). It sounded good, but you could tell that some parts were really difficult to play, so they would have to work really hard in rehearsal. But as always, I knew that Mr. Zimmermann would know exactly how to get them ready for the concert.

During the break in rehearsal, one of the percussionists made a video of the percussion section that was really interesting and fun and sort of funny. (You can click HERE to watch it.) Then right after that, Mrs. Mullaly (the orchestra’s executive director) gave us the camera, and I made a short video about the music they were going to play. It’s so amazing and so nice that Mrs. Mullaly would give me a chance to try something like that. I was really nervous making it, but now I’m glad that I did it. It was a great experience.


Then on Saturday afternoon we went to the last rehearsal before the concert, and there was such a huge difference between how they had played Scheherazade on Wednesday, and how they were playing it by the end of the rehearsal on Saturday. It was just amazing. They played it so well that we even wondered how they could play it any better in the concert. But, somehow they did.

So that night we went to the concert. They were going to play basically the same pieces that were on the very first Canton Symphony concert on the same date 75 years ago, which I thought was really cool. They were playing Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Haydn’s Symphony #94, and then Scheherazade. And before the concert, the pre-concert lecture was by Rachel Waddell, their assistant conductor. It was really good. I learned a lot of things, like about the three periods of Beethoven’s life. And she said that Haydn told someone that the real surprise in his symphony was not where everyone thinks it is (in the second movement), that it’s later, when the timpani comes in real loud.

Before the concert, right before it started, I was wondering what was going on, because none of the musicians were on stage. Then I saw the man who plays the timpani walk through one of the side doors back by the balcony, and then every other musician came in behind him. They all walked down the aisles and then up onto the stage while everyone clapped. I thought that was a really good idea to do it that way, especially for an important concert like this one.

The first piece they played was Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. I really loved this piece. It was written for a play, which was about a hero who stood for liberty and freedom. When they played it, it sounded very heroic and powerful. This overture is one of his most famous overtures. One time when we were listening to it at home a few days before the concert, I thought my dad was whistling at the end. But he wasn’t, it was the piccolo. I heard a lot of piccolo at the end of the concert, too, but that was part of a different kind of surprise.

The next piece that they played was Haydn’s 94th symphony, which is also known as the “Surprise” symphony. But before they played it, Mr. Zimmermann talked to us about it being the 75th anniversary concert. A couple really funny things he said were that the orchestra doesn’t look a day over 25, and that he was there for their 50th anniversary, too, but that he is going to let someone else do their 100th anniversary!

The Haydn symphony even had an extra surprise at the very beginning, but it wasn’t part of the music. There was a really loud sort of screech through the speakers after Mr. Zimmermann was done talking, (my dad said it was probably feedback), and it scared everybody and sort of hurt our ears. So then somebody in the audience way in the back yelled “surprise!” and the whole audience laughed. But then Mr. Zimmermann said something even funnier, because he turned around and said “I make the jokes around here.” Everyone thought that was so funny.

So then they played the Haydn symphony, and they played it amazingly well. The real famous surprise is in the second movement. I think it’s cool that Haydn takes the main theme and then later in the movement, makes variations on it. Like he takes the main theme and turns it minor and then back to major and back and forth, so it was kind of hard for me to tell which it was. And the other movements were completely different, too. I really loved the whole symphony. And they just sounded amazing playing it, especially all the really fast parts.

Then after intermission they played Scheherazade. I was so excited to hear them play it in the concert. And like I said, they somehow played it even better than in rehearsal. The concertmaster, Lauren Roth, played it perfectly, and so beautifully. It was like it was meant for her to play. I remember thinking the same thing when she played the Menotti violin concerto at the first concert, and that just goes to show what a great violinist she is.

This piece is so powerful and beautiful. Rimsky-Korsakov tells the basic story of what is going on really well with his music. But he doesn’t exactly explain the stories in the music, just the legend in general. Like in the first movement, called The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, you can sort of hear in the music what is happening. He makes it so obvious what the waves are, and the violin is Scheherazade and the loud, mean, minor, royal sounding part is the sultan. The music sounded to me like after every story, the sultan’s heart would soften and he would get more excited to hear the stories that Scheherazade told. I thought I could even hear him trying to interrupt her, to ask questions or to get her to hurry up and finish. I think maybe that’s why, in the very beginning of the fourth movement, he sounds very excited, because he can’t wait until the next one. It really shows the genius of Rimsky-Korsakov. (Until I saw the program, I always thought his first name was Rimsky).

I can’t get over how awesome and beautiful this piece is. It’s just amazing. I love it. I think it’s just pure genius. I have to say, this is now probably my favorite classical piece I have ever heard. There are also a lot of really great trombone parts in it, so that’s another reason I love it. And the third movement has some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. That was actually the only movement they played on the first concert 75 years ago. I think that was a good idea, because it is so beautiful that people who came I’m sure really loved it, and so then decided to come to their next concert.

We all loved the whole piece at this concert, too, especially the way they played it, and the orchestra, Ms. Roth, and Mr. Zimmermann got a huge standing ovation at the end. And they definitely deserved it. Then the next surprise came, because Mr. Zimmermann told the audience that they were going to play Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave, too, and everyone applauded. The Canton Symphony played that piece at the end of the first concert in 1938, but no one expected them to play it now because they were playing all of Scheherazade, and it wasn’t in the program. So that was a really nice surprise. (We knew from rehearsal, so we couldn’t tell anyone.) Before Mr. Zimmermann made that announcement, something else funny happened, too. There was another sound problem, because his microphone wasn’t working, so he dropped it on the stage and then said “I have an old computer I’d like to do that to.”

I really liked the Tchaikovsky piece. To me it sort of had an Arabian sound to it, too. And then kind of in the middle, it has the Russian national anthem. It also has really great trombone parts. There’s also a part at the end with the piccolo that is so high pitched and loud, that it sort of hurt my ears. It’s really amazing how you could hear the piccolo over the whole orchestra. They got another standing ovation after the encore, too.

The Canton Symphony Orchestra did an amazing job, again. I can’t imagine what it would be like without this orchestra. And, as usual, I can’t wait until their next concert. If you didn’t get a chance to go to this concert, or if you did and you want to hear it again, you can listen to it on WKSU on March 17th at 3:30!

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