January is usually a light month for musicians. We tend to spend that glorious time recuperating from countless Nutcrackers, Messiahs, Strauss waltzes and polkas and a plethora of other Holiday extravaganzas that many colleagues rely on for a large portion of their annual income. Like retailers, musicians count on the Holiday Season's musical embrace to help them survive a somewhat lean winter.
But for me, January has been anything but restful! I have enjoyed a reunion with Bill Allen and his troupe, Cirque de la Symphonie, as well as a trip to the Tulsa Ballet for my final visit this season, a staging of Val Caniparoli's Lady of the Camellias.
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra presented Cirque on their pops subscription series, and I believe it was the third visit by the group to the Ohio Theater. I have had the pleasure of conducting each of these performances, and have shared the artists with my Springfield Symphony audience as well. If you are unfamiliar with Cirque de la Symphonie, the event combines acrobatic European circus style performers with the greatest warhorses of orchestral repertoire. Jugglers, contortionists, aerial artitsts, even a magic trick involving the conductor (no, I don't know how she gets out of the knotted ropes so quickly) and a humorously annoying clown amaze the audience while the Orchestra performs music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Khatchaturian, Berlioz, Saint-Saens, among others, and even takes the spotlight for several pieces during the course of the night. Synchronization with the acrobats is less difficult than it appears, as they plan their performances around blocks of time, and as long as the orchestra is in the general time frame, the collaboration appears meticulously rehearsed. I do recall one show I did with them where we had our timings a little askew. The strong men (two fellows, one of whom, at one point, balances himself above the other with his only his hand on his partner's forehead) experienced a flight delay and missed the rehearsal. Evidently our Bach Toccata and Fugue in d minor was a little quick for them. The Orchestra and I ended well before they did and some quick improvisation on their part had to take place. Probably not wise to have the strong men mad at you!
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