Moving back to your hometown after four years away is never easy. Coming from the culture rich Toronto back to Edmonton was, and still remains to be, an adjustment. However, it is not all as bad as I may make it out to be. This time back home, it is a time of rediscovery.
One of my first cultural experiences was revisiting the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The last time I had gone to the Winspear Centre was almost a decade ago. The Winspear Centre is architecturally designed for maximum sound projection so no matter where you sit, it is possible to hear every small sound the orchestra plays.
Like most symphony orchestras around the world, the ESO has introduced a “pops” series and this year marks the third season of the Robbins Pops Series. The Pops series, as I see it, is a way to connect classical music with popular sounds. This series allows the audience to experience classical music in a popular way. All pieces played in the series have been featured in popular culture in some way or another, whether in a film, a Broadway musical, or even a classical interpretation of popular songs. The season started off with a selection of famous pieces and songs which build the foundation of Broadway as we know it today.
Leading the orchestra was conductor Jack Everly who is known for conducting the American Ballet Theatre for 14 years where he served as Music Director and also for conducting various Broadway musicals. He led an entertaining evening of wonderful Broadway songs and overtures including pieces from Berstein‘s West Side Story, Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Phantom of the Opera and the Barker arrangement of a Les Misérables Medley to end the spectacular night.
Joining Everly on stage was ESO’s new Concertmaster Robert Uchida who hails from various symphonies around the world including Symphony Nova Scotia, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Complementing the orchestra was the brilliant voices of Ted Keegan, Hayden Tee, Richard Todd Adams and Kathy Voytko, who all have had featured roles in various Broadway musicals. They all sang wonderfully and added so much to the show. My favourite was probably Ted Keegan’s rendition of Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera. It was full of emotion and Keegan sang in character as if he was playing the Phantom (which he has on multiple occasions on other stages.) The most impressive performance was probably by Hayden Tee who sang Ya Got Trouble from The Music Man (He is a Kiwi who trained at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts and did this in perfect “American” accent.) Absolutely fantastic, this was a night to remember.
Thing is, I am slowly but surely finding the small gems of this city. And starting with my greatest love of classical music, I am slowly learning to appreciate the city I come from. The next show in the Pops Series is titled Shall We Dance, featuring various dance and romance classics from the Can-Can to Singin’ in the Rain.