Filed Under (rural life, rural living) by admin on 11-04-2008

If your school district can nab The Dallas Brass for a day, give yourselves time to promote the performance and sell tickets. For a show this good, you should have more people attending than just the parents of kids in the school band.

The music directors of the Lewisburg school district intercepted a musical ensemble that was traveling through our area. This group, The Dallas Brass, offers an unusual package: They schedule a day with the school system that includes several hours of rehearsals with the school band(s), and then an evening concert that includes the school bands for a small portion of the program.

The cynic in me expected a hack group of musicians who couldn’t cut it without obligating parents to pay to see their kid’s token participation. In part because of my cynicism, that’s how the show seemed to start. The performers were very capable and entertaining—they offered up some campy humor and impressive trumpet pieces. But I’ve heard a lot of good trumpet (just last year, one of the school band directors performed an awesome number), so they weren’t pumping me up toward a standing ovation. Things changed, however, partway through the performance when the group’s percussionist delivered a xylophone solo.

I don’t know virtuoso from hack when it comes to xylophone players. Heck, I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve heard a xylophone featured in a performance. So, if The Dallas Brass percussionist had been just good, the novelty of the experience might have made him great. But as I sat in the high school auditorium, I was sincerely impressed. Later, the ensemble featured a tuba solo that involved novel and clever technique. It had the audience laughing and excited, and again I was sincerely impressed.

Audience response drew an encore for which The Dallas Brass had planned. They played a medley of familiar songs that it’s unlikely anyone would have spliced together. It was a great finish.

So, I left the show feeling quite differently from how I’d felt going in: The Dallas Brass had won me over. My only regret was that the event had not been well-promoted: the auditorium had had empty seats. It’s a shame that a show of that caliber hadn’t sold out… but then who would have expected it to be so entertaining?

Members of The Dallas Brass obviously had a great time performing. They explained that part of their mission is to try to turn kids on to music. They’re succeeding. After the show, my child who plays trumpet reported: “I know what I want to do for a living some day. I want to play in a group like that.”

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Filed Under (rural life, rural living) by admin on 14-03-2008

There are so many unsung heroes of High School musicals: Stage hands? They may at least get a curtain call. Members of the pit orchestra get a nod during curtain calls, but with backs to the stage, they have no idea when the audience is applauding them. Least acknowledged of all are the parents who shuttle kids back-and-forth, help with costumes and set-building, and deal with logistics of feeding cast and crew and managing the post-production party. In a small town like Lewisburg, it’s a wonder there’s anyone left to make an audience, let alone five audiences.

The Lewisburg Area High School’s production of The Sound Of Music was terrific. But that opinion is a little premature because there are three more performances till the final curtain call. The crew performed for a select audience on Wednesday afternoon, and offered their first fully public performance last night. They’ll go again tonight, and twice tomorrow.

I’d not seen a stage production of The Sound Of Music, but, like many Americans, I’ve seen the movie several times. And, as much as I’ve enjoyed the story and the music, the most intense emotional moment I remember from the movie was tension and outrage toward the Nazi imposition into the lives of the Von Traps.

So, I was kind of surprised to find myself getting choked up several times during last night’s performance. It seems as I’ve gotten older and correspondingly more cynical, that I’ve become more vulnerable to the idea of wholesomeness; scenes that depicted people generally caring for each other and expressing it openly almost brought me to tears.

To hear my kids tell it, the show was nearly a disaster. My son the actor was aware of missed lines, bollixed entrances, missed marks on stage, and a few difficult moments back stage. My son the cellist was aware of several mistakes made by the pit orchestra. (It’s odd to think this collection of musicians will attend every performance, yet never see the play.)

From where I sat, the voices were smooth and sweet, the sets and scene changes were solid, the pit orchestra was balanced and clean, and the stage management and choreography were tight (though I did notice some nuns bowing a little early during the curtain calls).

After the show, we exited down a hallway lined by the performers and some of the crew. It was weird to see so many of the characters suddenly become friends of my kids, siblings of my kids’ friends, or kids I’ve coached on soccer teams and their siblings. That made the theatre experience even more special. It’s possible there has never been a better performance of The Sound Of Music on any stage.

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Filed Under (rural life, rural living) by admin on 12-03-2008

I watched my classmates perform South Pacific when I was in 8th grade. The production was astounding. More than thirty years later, I’m excited to have tickets to Lewisburg Area High School’s performance of The Sound Of Music. It’s gonna be a great show.

It seems that every high school in The Valley is performing a musical in mid-to-late March. Lewisburg High School is producing that Rogers & Hammerstein classic, The Sound Of Music.

We’ve attended Lewisburg High School’s musicals the past several years, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I’m especially looking forward to this year’s because one of my kids is in the cast, and another is playing in the pit orchestra.

With the commotion of getting kids to and from evening and weekend rehearsals, I’ve had a recurring thought about High School musicals: I can’t remember ever hearing someone fresh from an audience comment about the performance having been bad. Thinking back even to musicals my classmates performed in junior high school (7th, 8th, and 9th grades where I grew up), I have never seen a dud.

I imagine that most people never see a Broadway show, while only a few more see travelling Broadway productions, and slightly more see local professional theatre productions. These shows are readily available in cities, but uncommon in rural communities. So, it’s possible that a high school musical is the most polished stage show my neighbors will ever see… but I doubt it.

I’d bet that people who attend high school stage productions do catch professional productions from time-to-time. I’ve seen nearly a dozen shows on Broadway, at least as many travelling Broadway troupes, and local theatre in several small towns—I even saw a play at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The biggest failures were with Broadway shows: the ticket prices create expectation for flawless theatre experiences, so when a show is only good, it’s disappointing.

So, I expect this year’s Sound Of Music to be as outstanding as every high school musical I’ve seen; I’m pumped for theatre. But are high school musicals really that good, or do we overlook flaws that would bother us if they occurred in a professional production? It doesn’t really matter.

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