Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 14, 2011

Lights, Camera...Oscars!!!

Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
February 12, 2011
By Shera Cohen

Book ending the program with music from two blockbusters - "Gone With The Wind" and "Titanic" - Maestro Kevin Rhodes and the Springfield Symphony jam-packed over 20 movie music themes into two hours. Appropriately, Rhodes and his musicians were dressed to the nines, as if they were attending the Oscars.

The program's selections and pace balanced hot jazz ("All That Jazz") with melodic melody ("Moon River"), romance ("Tonight") with comedy ("Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"), nostalgia ("The Way You Look Tonight") with 21st century ("A Whole New World"). Of course, it would be impossible to stage an Oscar-themed concert without John Williams' compositions; from "Star Wars" to "Harry Potter." As much as this music was familiar to the audience, it seemed almost as easy for the orchestra to play. That's the sign of a good conductor and his troupe - make it look simple.

Singers Nathaniel Stampley and Sarah Pfisterer, were always in tune as MCs and as vocalists. Each with a background of years on Broadway, the SSO certainly hired a talented twosome. Stampley's "The Days of Wine and Roses" showed richness and fullness; Pfisterer's "I've Got You Under My Skin" was sexy and sultry. Their duets were the hit of the evening, seeming as if they had rehearsed so often that their vocal styles were wedded. However, Pfisterer was a replacement for the originally scheduled singer. Again, another sign of professionalism. Their "Trolley Song" was crisp and fun, Bernstein's "Tonight" was lovely and personal, and "The Time of My Life" was sparkly and sincere.

A bit unexpected were many new or unfamiliar arrangements to well-known music. This is not a criticism, but an observation that music (like any art form) can be shaped to fit the players and audiences. While the somewhat jazzy or calypso beat to "The Days of Wine and Roses" seemed unusual for a sad song, "Unchained Melody's" unexpected pacing worked well. In addition, tried and true solos became duets, which worked exceptionally well; i.e. "My Heart Will Go On."

Toss in the not-often heard yet exquisite orchestration of "Chariots of Fire" and the very familiar and rousing "Rocky" for the SSO to receive an instant standing ovation.