Tea and Trumpets Series
Once Upon a Time

Date: 1 October 2003 2.00pm Venue: Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer: John Jane






Conductor: Tania Miller Host: Christopher Gaze

It was the late Otto Lowy, the CBC broadcaster and music critic, who conceived the idea of the Tea & Trumpets' series of concerts, primarily for the enjoyment of seniors. If Otto could have gazed around the Orpheum's lobby, I'm sure he would have been overwhelmed to see how many of those seniors made up this afternoon's audience.

Host Christopher Gaze

Christopher Gaze has once again returned as host to lend his considerable acting chops in providing entertaining narratives to the programme. Mr. Gaze's ebullient style was perfect for the job as host and he occasionally showed he was willing to engage in light-hearted banter.

The recently married Tania Miller, now sporting a new shorter hairstyle, appeared on stage at precisely two-o'-clock. Maestra Miller picked up the conductor's baton to lead the orchestra in a selection of well-known works connected with a fairy tale theme. Ms Miller always appears to enjoy a friendly communication with both musicians and audience.

The orchestra began with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's rather appropriate Tsar Saltan Suite. With its stirring melody lines, this piece paints an image of a military leader taking his troop into war.

The second work in the programme was the dramatic Overture from La Cenerentola (Cinderella) by Giaocchimo Rossini. The woodwind section was featured to glorious effect as it built to a crescendo, then fell and finally rose again.





The two movements selected from Maurice Ravel's Mother Goose Suite were the haunting Beauty and the Beast Interlude and The Enchanted Garden, which is a rather gentle dance. Ravel originally wrote these pieces as piano duets intended to be played by children and are instantly recognizable to those who have sent our offsprings to piano lessons.

Despite his fame as the composer of the frivalous Can-Can, Jacques Offenbach was known as the Mozart of the Champs d' Lysee. The orchestra performed two arias from his Tales of Hoffman. The first, Doll Song, delightfully sung (and acted) by soprano Melanie Krueger. Ms Krueger enchanted the audience with her animated impression of a mechanical 'wind-up doll', which frequently required the assistance of host Christopher Gaze who had to wind her up twice. For Barcarolle, a beautiful poem to the raptures of love, Ms Krueger was joined on stage by mezzo-soprano Sandra Stringer.

Following Gaze's spirited recitation from Midsummer Night's Dream, we heard the expressive Nocturne from Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music composed exclusively for the Bard's play. It opened with an arresting horn solo, and thus transported us to the surreal world of weary mortals.

Maestra Miller

The orchestra rounded out the afternoon with two waltzes from Pyotr (Peter)Tchaikovsky: Adagio from Sleeping Beauty, which featured a harp solo; and a well-rehearsed encore performance of the ever-popular Entrance of the Guests from Swan Lake.

These monthly matinee concerts that incorporate a single musical theme have become extremely popular. Small wonder then that this season, a fifth concert has been added to the series.

2003, John Jane