Shall We Dance?

Victoria Symphony and Ballet Victoria

Date and Venue 14 October 2009, 2.30pm | Royal Theatre, Victoria

Conductor Maestro Giuseppe Pietraroia Featured performers Ballet Victoria Dancers

Reviewer Ed Farolan

In the opening performance of the Royal Tea Series, Conductor in Residence Maestro Giuseppe Pietraroia led the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in an afternoon of dance music. This series is quite similar to VSO's Tea and Trumpets where mostly senior members of the community come and have tea and cookies before the one-hour performance, on what is usually a mid-week event of well-known classical music .

The orchestra opened with Rodgers' "Shall We Dance?" from The King and I , that ever so popular musical that became part of the musical repertoire of schools all over the world after Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr made a hit of it in the film. This was followed by Delibes' "Pizzicato" from Sylvia, again, another piece whose tune we're familiar with, and usually a must for ballet dancers beginning to learn the ropes. The programme, whether it was a misprint or not, stated that the Ballet Victoria dancers would dance to this music, but they didn't. Host Scott Walker should have clarified this.

Under Artistic director Paul Destrooper, Ballet Victoria took the stage with his dancers in the ever-popular "Waltz" from Swan Lake by Tchaikowsky. Walker introduced the piece by giving us a historical background on how this ballet didn't do too well in Moscow, but in later years, as we all know, became one of the world's greatest classic ballets.

Antonín Dvorák's Slavonic Dance No. 4, op. 46 followed, and we were informed by Walker how this Czech composer was influenced by Brahms' Hungarian compositions. Nevertheless, he employed the melodies and idioms of the folk music from Moravia and his native Bohemia. We were entertained by a little bit of cowboy music, "Hoedown" from Copland's Rodeo and the Ballet Victoria dancers taking the stage again. I felt that the dance was too long. What Destrooper shoul have done was syncopated it so that the dancers would have danced only half of Copland's piece.

The only other dance number performed by Ballet Victoria was Gade's Jalousie. The ballet company did what it does best, doing a ballet version of this tango piece. However, as an audience member, I felt that they should have done a little bit of the actual tango the way this dance piece was meant to be.

There were other dance music compositions that were played by the orchestra and I was hoping to see these pieces danced, but they weren't. What I would have wanted to see from the dancers were bits and pieces, samplers, as it were, of all of the pieces played by the orchestra, say, a Russian dance from Tchaikowsky's Polonnaise, and especially the Waltz in its modern version from Rodgers and Hammerstein as well as the style Strauss meant it to be in Wiener Blut.

But all in all, it was a pretty good one-hour entertainment, especially with the very informative background Walker gave us before each composition was played, cracking jokes here and there, especially the one about his dancing with Karen Kain (and has a photo to prove it). Again, it was worth the afternoon trip to Victoria.


Swingin' and Singin'

Victoria Symphony and Five By Design

Dates and Venue 17, 18, and 19 September 2009 at 8pm | Royal Theate, Victoria

Conductor Maestro Brian Jackson Featured performers Five by Design

Reviewer Ed Farolan

It was worth the trip to Victoria to watch this first rate entertainment. The Royal Theatre is a beautiful venue, similar to the Orpheum, with its Rococo/Renaissance architecture similar to that of Vancouver's Orpheum. International vocal quintet Five By Design comprised of Lorie Carpenter-Niska, Kurt Niska, Sheridan Zuther, Michael Swedberg and Terrence Niska.opened the Symphony's Beltone Pops Series season swingin’ and singin’.

Earlier this year I reviewed their performance here in Vancouver, and I made it a point to travel all the way to Victoria to see them again. Although many of the songs performed were done in Vancouver, there was a theme that made it something more Canadian: The Happy Gang. Maestro Jackson gave us a brief history of The Happy Gang Troupe of musical entertainers which was heard from 1937 to 1959, weekdays at lunchtime, in a CBC Toronto.radio variety show of the same name. It was heard in its prime years by some two million Canadians daily and also was carried for a time in the USA.

The programme started with an overture by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, That's Entertainment, a medley of songs which brought back memories to this Victoria matinee audience composed mainly of the older generation of baby boomers. This was followed by Five by Design's Sentimental Journey, I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo and Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing. When the troupe made their exit, to do their costume change, the orchestra gave us a rendition of that great classic that'll remain etched in our memories, Glen Miller's Moonlight Serenade.

In-between these songs and orchestra playing,there were commercials like Robin Hood Flour and Colgate Tooth Powder that were performed by the group the way they were done during those Radio Days, live, unlike the canned and taped commercials we see today. I still remember those commercials and they did bring back memories of my boyhood days.

There were more than 40 numbers in the programme during this delightful two-hour show with such classics as Istanbul (not Constantinople), I'll Be Seeing You, Cross Over the Bridge, Papa Loves Mambo, Chattanooga Choo Choo, and others.

This is the kind of entertainment I enjoy and I look forward to seeing more of the Victoria Symphony Beltone Pops series in their 2009/10 season..

.© 2009 Ed Farolan