The Vancouver Symphony at the Chan Center

American Jazz Classics

July 30, 1998, 8 pm

David Lockington, Conductor

Lorraine Min, Piano


By Roxanne Davies

"It's truly wonderful what $10 million dollars can buy!" exclaimed my companion as we walked into the Chan Centre to hear the Vancouver Symphony play one of their popular summer gigs for summer 1998. Although I had been to the Chan Centre several times, it was the first time for my friend, and I enjoyed watching the reaction this premier concert hall can exert on someone the first time they see it. Opened last year, this beautiful hall located at the University of British Columbia was a gift from the Chan family and it was designed to make the most of the physical setting and the musical requirements.

A huge wall of slanted windows bring the green forest inside the entrance hall. Subtle earth tone colours are easy on the eyes. Comfy seating on the parterre and chairs in the balcony that can be moved like those in European concert halls show an attention to detail that enhance the listening enjoyment. I particularly enjoy having two armrests; no need to compete with a seat mate.

The Chan Centre is drum-shaped on the outside, while the interior concert hall is shaped like a cello, making it acoustically tuned as though the hall itself were an instrument. Musical baffles over the stage, reminiscent of props in a Star Wars movie, are raised or lowered depending on the size of the musical presentation. And so for this night, the acoustical baffles were raised sky high to accommodate a full orchestra under the direction of guest conductor David Lockington.

Lockington, Music Director of the Cheyenne Symphony, the Denver Young Artists Orchestra and the Boulder Bach Festival, as well as numerous other appointments across North America, appeared to enjoy himself as he guided the Vancouver Symphony through a program chosen to delight the summer audience. I half expected to see him start dancing during the concert. Like many conductors, Lockington sports a beautiful head of hair.

The music of Copland, Gershwin and Bernstein were featured and these composers are the recognized triumvirate of musical genius that defined the unique classical music of early 20th century America. Ragtime, blues, jazz melodies and rhythms depict the vibrant everyday life of America as it experienced its Modern Age.

Copland's Rodeo was playful and lively with its syncopated Western rhythms. The waltz was lyrical and undulating with a strings and flute predominating. His music revolutionized the sound of movies when he composed for Steinbeck's "The Red Pony".

This year is the 100th anniversary of Gershwin's birth. He lived only 39 years before succumbing to a brain tumour, but he will live on in his jazzy classics. Rhapsody in Blue is one of my favorite musical compositions. No single piece of music has the ability to transport me to the heart of New York City with such langorous ease. Pianist Lorraine Min says the piece is fun to play. "I love the jazzy rhythms, energy and tunes. I have the freedom to enjoy non-classical music within a classical structure. It's the best of both worlds!"

Vancouver-born Min has been the recipient of the Canada Council's top arts grant award for several years and performs in concert halls around the world.. When she isn't busy performing, she's working on completing her doctorate at Julliard, and now makes New York her home. The beautiful pianist received a warm welcome from her hometown audience, and she rightly deserved it. She displayed an enormous sense of energy and musical range as she glided through each musical tune in the piece. From the wonderfully recognizable glistening three-note intro to the complicated jazzy melodies, Min's performance was a delight. It was as though the feeling of the music was transmitted through her and she related the emotional intensity of the musical piece that made Gershwin famous. It's astonishing to realize this complicated and difficult piece was composed in less than a month.

The evening also contained three dance episodes from Leonard Bernstein's On the Town --loud, brassy, and enthusiastic. And the audience was humming along with those familiar melodies from Gershwin's American opera Porgy and Bess, such as I've Got Plenty of Nothing ,and It Ain't Necessarily So.

The evening also featured a contemporary piece by Michael Abel curiously titled Global Warming, since it had nothing to do with environmental disaster. Written for the Denver Youth orchestra, the music meanders around the globe, beginning in the desert and going into Caribbean rhythms, Middle Eastern melodies, full of musical twists and turns. A nice addition to what was a very satisfying summer concert.

Copyright 1998 Roxanne Davies