Review by Danny Gaisin
‘A long time ago in a Province far away’, I and many other classically-minded kids would religiously tune in to CBS on Saturday for Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Young People’s Concerts’. It was an opportunity to learn more of the intricacies involved with classical music, without feeling that the pedagogue was patronizing or condescending. It also gave us the occasional trivia that could be impressively incorporated into dating conversations!
Conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser is a master at performances before young audiences. Like Bernstein, he never talks down to his audiences, and has an innate ability to integrate with the audience on an educational journey through classical music/orchestras utilizing humor and colloquial terms.
The maestro is also a consummate musician/arranger, and his manipulating of the HPO enabled him to audibly illustrate both similarities and differences between not only the sections, but individual instruments, i.e. clarinet & oboe. Even us jaded seniors gleaned a few insights.
Given the number of pre-teens seated inside Mohawk College’s McIntyre Hall ; the event was only an hour long, and we only noticed the beginnings of ‘sphilkis’ (Yiddish for antsy) about fifteen minutes before the finale. Obviously, being able to hold a single-digit-aged kids’ attention for forty-five minutes says a lot about Bartholomew-Poyser and his guest orator Alex Eddington who narrated what the musicians were demonstrating, or what was being projected on the two large screens.
The program was presented in four segments. The first was a demonstration of the orchestra’s instrumental families. Then, the individual instruments themselves In explaining the specific ranges, the audience was shown a competition of overlaps, humorously titled a ‘high off’ and then a ‘low off’ (trumpet & tuba). One brief gig included flute and bottles bit, and another well-received giggle utilized mouthpieces fitted to garden hoses with funnels replacing the bells.
Part two had a half-dozen volunteers from the audience brought onstage to select preferences in a 3-way melodic interpretation; then the same with harmonies and finally rhythms. Their choices became a full orchestra rendering of the music they had created.
One of the drawbacks about printed media is its immobility. Were our ARTS REVIEW on television, a sure-fire video-tape of the audience learning to not only conduct, but also to finger the stringed instruments, would have gone viral! Only shortcoming, no picture of Erica Goodman manipulating the pedals on her harp. Immobile, it just looked liked the roots of a tree-trunk.
For the Hamilton Philharmonic and its administration to hold not just one but two concerts geared to novice musicians or even those who might not yet be involved with an instrument, bodes well for the future of interest and support, not only in music but culture in general. That the 1,000-seat hall was more than 3/4’s filled, is a positive sign. Don’t recall who said it, but “Man does not live by bread alone”. Words to live by.