Review by Danny Gaisin
What is probably the last of our O.A.R. covered events for 2018 certainly was a cherry-topping one. The Hamilton Philharmonic’s presentation of Roch Carrier’s story about a Quebec kid forced to wear a Maple Leaf’s sweater was narrated by the writer himself; and offered with composer Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s interpretive music as back-drop is about as perfect an evening as this writer could even imagine. Fortunately, it was professionally recorded! It was also the first opportunity for the audience to see the Trillium®-subsidized projection screens so that Cohen’s caricature imagery could be easily projected and viewed. *
The opening work; Leroy Anderson’s ‘Festival’ put one in the right frame of mind. It is a composite of the many carols that shoppers are swamped with as they mall shop, or listen to such radio stations as 92.1 or CHFI which have them on a continual taped loop! To showcase the HPO’s level of excellence, conductor New utilized an almost andantino dramatic opening to Waldteufel’s ‘Skater’s Waltz which incorporated a delicious solo flute riff. Almost made one want to dust off the Risport or Riedells, and head out to the closest rink.
Carrier’s hockey tale takes place in rural Quebec circa 1940s. ..my own pre-teen years… Ingrained in all of us were certain dictates and rules. Keep the blackout curtains closed; don’t waste anything,-especially food; spit whenever the term ‘Maple Leaf’ was spoken; respect the Catholic church (even non-R.C.’s); and members of the Montreal Canadiens must be worshipped like demi-Gods. Traditionally, it was a team member who would present our public school graduation diplomas. In 1949, No. 9 himself was supposed to be the presenter but given his lack of comfort in English; we had to settle for Bill Durnan, the goalie!
Briefly, the story deals with a French-Canadian youngster who unfortunately HAD to wear a new Toronto Leaf’s blue jersey as his original Habs’ copy was in tatters. Oh, the shame of it. No, it was a disgrace and an insult to everything we believed in. To underscore the intensity of feelings, wife Terry was born in Toronto. To save our marriage, we decided to never watch a Toronto/Montreal game together. Still don’t!
Richardson-Schulte’s composition reflects the very essence of the game but also the rural feel of that era. Together, this was an evocative occasion for this scribe as feelings that were seven decades dormant rose to the fore. Even found myself counting the predominance of red over blue jerseys on stage and throughout the audience. (Red’s outnumbered the Leafs by 5 to 1!)
Familiar themes, performed with spoons, whistles, and organ made last night into a different form of a traditional ‘Saturday Night…and a guy named Hewitt! Conductor Gemma New also contributed to the overall effect wearing a black & white referee’s shirt. I understand that the orchestra members were in fear of flubbing a note, fearing a two-minute penalty in the box.
Note To HPO administration – put us down for a copy of the tape.
Post interval, the orchestra was augmented by over 4-dozen members of HPYO- the youth branch of the Philharmonic. After a somewhat shaky start performing ‘Dance of the Tumblers’ from The Snow Maiden, the enlarged assemblage presented four excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”. A rather fast rendering of the ‘Trepak’, an elongated Waltz of the Flowers highlighted Erica Goodman’s exquisite harp playing. Small regret:- only four segments, wish we could have heard a few more excerpts as this is one of those rare years when we aren’t attending the full ballet. A recitation of Night Before Christmas; Anderson’s ‘Sleighride’ (not utilizing my famous Leroy Clapper instrument) and then, we were all conscripted to rise and sing a number of familiar carols – Karaoke gone nuclear.
It was entirely fun and given the plethora of bells from the percussion section, it was “ ♫ Joyful & Triumphant ♪”.
*** Merry Christmas to all our readers ***