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Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season….

December 2, 2013
Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

When I saw Lighting Designer Clifton Taylor’s name associated with the Little Orchestra Society’s production of Stravinsky’s Firebird, I knew I had to see it. I know from experience that anything Clifton Taylor is associated with is going to be well worth the cost of the seat.

So, entering into a lobby filled with parents with children in hand, I embarked on an amazingly fun afternoon. With a program lasting only 55 minutes, The Little Orchestra Society’s® performances of Stravinsky’s Firebird was their first Happy Concerts for Young People program of the 2013-2014 season, recommended for ages 6-12. Anchored by music from Igor Stravinsky’s dramatic ballet, Firebird, the program also included works by composers who inspired young Stravinsky as he set out to compose the piece that would bring him worldwide acclaim.

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

The evening was led by guest conductor David Alan Miller, who is currently the Music Director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. He would begin with an educational antidote about each of the works being played. We were given a little background of what each work was about and who the composer was. Also how the work may have related or perhaps have influenced Stravinsky and his eventually creation of the Firebird Suite.

The LOS played wonderfully Tchaikovsky’s March and Trepak from The Nutcracker Suite, Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor by Aleksandr Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Dance of the Comedians from The Snow Maiden, and one of my favorites, Mussorgsky’s The Hut on Chicken Legs from Pictures at an Exhibition.

Stravinsky’s Firebird, was last on the program, it was a visual delight for both children and adults. Director/Designer Chris M. Green, along with Choreographer David Neumann, and Lighting Designer Clifton Taylor created a magic world filled with lights and puppetry.

Clifton Taylor uses lighting in the same manner a painter uses color to soften, enhance or announce the foregoing storyline. Mr. Clifton’s lighting is never overt but rather woven into the core of the production so it becomes a vital part of the whole experience.

Everyone sat enraptured as the young Prince, accompanied by his small tiger cub, discovers the tree that grows the Golden Apples. We watched while the young Prince coaxed the Firebird into trusting him by feeding her bits of the Golden Apple.

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

The Firebird slightly resembled Sesame Street’s Big Bird, with its billowing yellow chiffon and large beak, but I thought this may have been intentional. The kids were able to immediately identify with the Firebird, which I though very clever.

Chris Green had designed such excellent puppets, especially the small tiger cub and later when the tiger had reached adulthood. My only complaint, that while the puppeteers were wearing all black, I wished their head and faces, as well as their hands had been covered in black as well. There was a mystery, a little of the magic robbed from the production. I kept getting distracted watching the puppeteers’ faces and the placement of their hands on the puppets. As the adult Prince traveled across the stage, I was disconcerted to see the hands on his black boots that allowed for the manipulation of his legs. Had the hands been wearing black gloves, this would have blended in with the boots and lending a bit more believability, allowed the audience to more easily transcend to that mystical place of legend, evil wizards and handsome princes that come to the rescue.

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

Another thing that I think would have been helpful would have been a sheer black scrim. Something that still allowed the orchestra to be seen but would have created a sense of intimacy lost within the depth of the stage at the New York City Center.

Several of the afternoon’s musical selections were from ballets performed by Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes at the turn of the 20th Century, a time when music and art were going into new and unchartered territories. The early 20th Century brought the beginning of Expressionism, the idea that the artist needed to move away from depicting objective reality and instead explore subjective emotions and the response to those emotions.

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

Stravinsky’s Firebird, with choreography by Michel Fokine, was one of those works that became a famous ballet for the Ballet Russes. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird that can be both a blessing and a curse to its owner. When the ballet was first performed on 25 June 1910, it was an instant success with both audience and critics.

Stravinsky was a quite young and virtual unknown when he was recruited by Diaghilev to create for the Ballet Russes. The Firebird was his first project. (…Another of the afternoon’s works, The Polovtsian Dances, a ballet excerpt from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, was also one of the highlights of the first Ballets Russes Season in 1909…)

It was a little odd for me to hear music from famous ballets without seeing the ballet being performed alongside. Though it was quite fun as I mentally envisioned the choreography in my head.

The kids were encouraged to repeat a loud the names of the famous composers, where Stravinsky and Mussorgsky had several innovated variations on the proper pronouncement of their name. The way the conductor, David Alan Miller, emphasized why each work was written and what visualizations were associated with the work allowed the children to color the music in their imaginations with their own imagery.

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

As someone who has a background in Education, I found the afternoon fascinating. The Little Orchestra Society website offered both Pre-Concert and Post-Concert Discovery Guides. Both had great suggestions and activities for parent and child to more fully utilize the experience. The Post-Concert Discovery Guide has a superb Supplemental Materials guide for further reading, listening and viewing in order to expand on the learning aspects of the afternoon.

This is an EXCELLENT program for anyone with young children. The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People program with its Pre-Concert and Post-Concert Discovery Guides is a great opportunity to expand the curriculum and add to the learning experience of any child. Parents who home school their children should heed this opportunity.

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season

Stravinsky’s Firebird | The Little Orchestra Society’s® Happy Concerts for Young People 2013-2014 Season. Photo: Deborah Grosmark

The Little Orchestra Society (LOS) was founded in 1947 by Thomas Scherman with a mission to put music in engaging as well as educational contexts. Basically, if you can grab the attention of an individual when just a child, you have a very good chance to maintain that interest in music and the arts into adulthood.

Happy Concerts For Young People is a Peabody Award-winning concert series consisting of three programs that incorporate multiple art forms and narration to enhance audiences’ understanding and enjoyment of the music.

HAPPY CONCERTS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

3-CONCERT SUBSCRIPTIONS AND SINGLE TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE.

3-CONCERT SERIES

Stravinsky’s Firebird

New York City Center

David Allan Miller, Guest Conductor

Sat. Nov. 23 @ 11am & 1PM

Sun. Nov. 24 @ 1pm

Hansel & Gretel

New Production

Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center

James Judd, Conductor

Sat., April 5, 2014

11am & 1pm

The Composer is Dead*

Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center

James Judd, Conductor

Sat., May 17, 2014

11am & 1pm

*Includes the New York premiere of Embrace by Brooklyn composer Kenji Bunch, featuring Tracy Silverman on electric violin

For Further Info…

212.971.9500 or click here

From → Dance, Theater

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