Live Tweeting at the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) Sunday Masters

Last year, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra invited a number of local bloggers to live-blog Symphony Under the Sky. I remember reading Adam’s posts from the event, and thought it was a cool initiative; a rather unique way to try to get a different crowd interested in the ESO. When I was invited to do the same this year for Carmina Burana, I readily agreed (I received two free tickets and a CD previewing the 2009/2010 season).

Of course, I decided to live-tweet the event rather than live-blog it – you can see my tweets here. I tried to do a mix of details from the program and observations. Two other bloggers sat next to me, though they weren’t live-blogging: Jim Tustian (a former photographer for the ESO) and The Choir Girl. We were up in the Gallery, which was sold out despite not normally being open for Sunday performances.

The Winspear Centre

Snagged this photo before the show started, ignoring the sign about recording devices!

The first piece was Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances. It was immediately recognizable. At just 13 minutes for the performance, I was left wanting more! I’m a sucker for the contrast of Disney-esque sections and the familiar booming sections.

The second piece was Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, consisting of all eight movements: Prologue, Pastoral, Nocturne, Elegy, Dirge, Hymn, Sonnet, Epilogue. I was thankful the performance was just 23 minutes long, because I couldn’t get into it. Before the performance started, conductor William Eddins said that you need a strong tenor, strong horn player, and strong string section to perform Britten’s piece. He joked that getting all three was as likely as the Edmonton Oilers winning the Stanley Cup this year!

The main event was after the intermission – Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Again, this one was instantly recognizable, though with about 65 minutes of music there were definitely long sections I had never heard before. I enjoyed it all, but my favorite part was definitely Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, O Fortuna which both opened and closed the performance.

As I mentioned, William Eddins was the conductor. He’s currently in his fourth season as Music Director for the ESO. Performers today included Allene Hackleman, French horn, Bonaventura Bottone, tenor, Illana Davidson, soprano, and Hugh Russell, baritone. The Cantilon Chamber Chorus and the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Edmonton provided the rest of the vocals.

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Social Media

Before the show and during the intermission, I had the chance to ask Philip Paschke, ESO’s New Media Specialist (he must be one of the only people in the city with a title like that), about their travels into the world of social media. He told me their website needs work, and in the future will hopefully incorporate the ESO Blog, and potentially Twitter, Facebook, and other services. Like so many organizations, they are hearing a lot about Twitter and the other social media tools and are struggling to understand how to best make use of them.

I think the blogger initiative is a good one. There’s another concert being blogged on April 16th, and Philip hopes to get at least one more before the season ends. One of the biggest challenges thus far has been fielding complaints about “the inconsiderate texters” from other concert-goers. It’s definitely a challenge to make the click-clacking of keys seem welcome inside The Winspear Centre (fortunately my BlackBerry was relatively silent).

I’m not sure if my live-tweets were of interest to anyone, but I had fun doing it. If nothing else, tweets and blog posts during a concert just help to remind others that the ESO is still putting on great concerts.

Thanks to Philip for inviting me to participate – I really enjoyed the show, and I look forward to the ESO’s future adventures with social media.

A 75th Birthday Tribute to John Williams

johnwilliamsTonight I went to the wonderful Winspear Centre along with Dickson and Sharon to enjoy the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performing some of the more famous works by John Williams. It was the first night of the ESO Robbins Pops, and it was a great show. Conductor Bruce Hangen from the Boston Conservatory was on hand for the evening, and he shared some short video clips before most pieces of him talking with John about the music. It’s really quite amazing how much John Williams has accomplished in his career. From Wikipedia:

In a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film scores in history, including those for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Harry Potter. In addition, he has composed theme music for four Olympic Games, numerous television series and concert pieces.

Sadly, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park were not performed, but the rest of those themes were, along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Amistad, Catch Me If You Can, and Saving Private Ryan. With four of the fourteen pieces they performed coming from Star Wars, you might say that was the theme for the evening, and it was complete with storm troopers, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader. Yes, they actually had people in Star Wars costumes! (UPDATE: Here are some photos.)

Another neat thing about the evening was that Bruce got the audience to sing happy birthday to John on camera! As a thank you for allowing ESO to perform his music (some which hasn’t been published, like Jaws) and for allowing the interview clips to be shown, John will get a copy of our birthday song.

During the interview clip for Schindler’s List, John said he looked at the film and was deeply moved. When he went to talk to Steven Spielberg about the music, the conversation went something like this:

John: This film is incredibly moving, you truly need a better composer than me.
Steven: I know, but they are all dead!

I really enjoyed the show, and hearing the music definitely makes me want to watch the movies again. I had forgotten how perfectly frightening the music for Jaws is! And when they started to play E.T. I couldn’t help but smile – it was like I was transported back in time! E.T. was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, and it still is. The music just gets me every time I hear it.

Happy Birthday to you John Williams! I hope you continue doing your thing for years to come.

Read: Winspear Centre