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Saint-Saëns’ Engaging “Carnival of the Animals” Roars to Life for Pacific Symphony’s “Family Musical Mornings” Concert Featuring Giant, Irresistible Bob Brown Puppets!
Orange County, Calif. — April 12, 2017
Pacific Symphony, led by Assistant Conductor Roger Kalia, brings a zoo magically to life through enchanting music, adorable Bob Brown Puppets and a compelling narrator to tell the story of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.” Performed with charming, oversized puppets on a full-scale theatrical set, the heart and focus of “Carnival of the Animals” are the musical segments that make up Saint-Saëns’ playful masterpiece. Featuring each animal in its own descriptive song—from the royal march of the stately lions, to hippity-hopping kangaroos, lumbering elephants, a graceful swimming swan and so many more—the puppets act as real-life characters in humorous and imaginative ways, adding a new dimension to the music and delighting younger audiences and their families in an entertaining fashion!
This 45-minute Family Musical Mornings concert, presented by Farmers & Merchants Bank, is designed for children, especially ages 5-11, and takes place on Saturday, April 29 at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Children and families are invited to also participate in fun and educational interactive musical activities during the Musical Carnival, which begins at 9 a.m. (for the 10 a.m. concert) and 12:15 p.m. (for the 11:30 a.m. concert. The “Spotlight Instrument” for this concert is the piano. Tickets are $25-$50. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“This work is perfect for introducing our young audiences to the instruments of the orchestra,” explains Maestro Kalia. “Each of the suite’s 14 movements introduces us to a different animal or group of animals, with a small number of instruments mimicking their voices or the ways they move. Starting with the lion’s roar and slowing to reflect the elephant’s bulk,
Saint-Saëns pokes fun at the music of his time.”
The puppets, props and scenery, all enhanced by special lighting effects, provide a spectacular visual interpretation of Saint Saëns’ most enduring and endearing work, told through the narrator, played by Symphony favorite, actor David Stoneman. Stoneman was last seen as the father in the Symphony’s Family Musical Mornings’ opera, “Hansel and Gretel” in January. All the other characters in the story created for “Carnival of the Animals” are giant puppets!
“Bob Brown Puppets is a group dedicated to working with younger audiences in an engaging manner,” says Kalia. “The puppets act as real-life characters in funny and creative ways, which adds a new dimension to the music. In this particular work, the puppets will consist of a variety of different animals: a lion, a tortoise, an elephant and kangaroos, among others.”
This grand, zoological fantasy with a narrator begins when a young boy, giving up on his piano practice, clutches his stuffed lion. He has left his radio on and we hear “Carnival of the Animals” in concert. Suddenly, the toys in his room magically come to life as the various themes are played. Beginning with a regal, king-sized, somewhat pompous, royally-robed lion, we also meet a seven-foot kangaroo magician who can find everything imaginable in her pouch (except her baby), a dancing dinosaur skeleton, a school of florescent fish, a graceful ice skating swan, a cuckoo playing peek-a-boo with a big tom cat, and many other enchanting creatures. “Carnival of the Animals” lights up a child’s imagination!
“Each movement uses different parts of the orchestra to embody the sounds of an animal, from roosters to elephants to kangaroos,” Kalia explains. The original score called for only 11 instruments: two pianos, a flute, a clarinet, a glass harmonica xylophone, string quartet and double bass. Modern performances of this work consist of a full-string section. Saint-Saëns cleverly used a small group of instruments to represent the sounds and characteristics of different animals. For example, the double bass, with its ability to play low pitches and to sound a bit cumbersome and graceful at the same time, is the obvious choice for the elephant.”
After attending a concert with the Bob Brown Puppets, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote: “This was wonderful stuff, engaging for adults and the children who were there. The puppets were magnificent, and their show well conceived. The puppets were lifelike and funny.”
Kalia confess: “My favorite animal represented in this work is the swan. To this day, it is one of the most famous pieces played by cellists around the world. I also enjoy the movement,
‘Fossils,’ which uses music from Saint-Saëns ‘Danse Macabre,’ in which the dancing skeletons are represented by bone-striking sounds from the xylophone.
A precocious Saint-Saëns began composing at the age of 3. At 11, he debuted as a concert pianist, offering as an encore to play any Beethoven sonata the audience could name. The young genius grew into a virtuoso pianist and internationally acclaimed organist who easily dispensed elegant, perfectly proportioned works as naturally, he said, as “an apple tree producing apples.” He championed the music of Schumann and Wagner, and was friends with Berlioz and Lizst, and he lived to become something of a reactionary, protesting works by Debussy and outraged by Stravinsky. Though today Saint-Saëns is known for a relatively few works (his “Organ” Symphony No. 3 (1886); the opera “Samson and Delilah” (1877), and the ever-popular “Carnival of the Animals,” (1886), he published nearly 300 compositions in his 86 years.
Saint-Saëns regarded “Carnival of the Animals” as a piece of fun from the very beginning, even confessing that he worked on it when he should have been working on his third symphony. Saint-Saëns intended it for comedic purposes, conjuring animals through different orchestration and instrumental techniques, although, among all the animal references is also a section titled “Pianists,” which evokes a session of scale practice. There are also numerous musical allusions and references to popular pieces. “Carnival of the Animals” has since become one of the composer’s best-known works.
“I am thrilled to be conducting Pacific Symphony in one of the most popular pieces in the classical repertoire,” says Kalia. “The music is imaginative, humorous, lyrical and exciting. In other words, there is something for everyone, and it is a great way for our young audience members to learn more about the different instruments of the orchestra. By working with Bob Brown Puppets, we are creating an interactive and engaging concert that will be extremely memorable and a good time for everyone.”
Bob Brown Puppets has been a major children’s theater company for the past 50 years, offering the finest in children’s education and entertainment and performing for more than 300,000 children a year.
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