Sunday, 9 October 2016

Disney in Concert - Tale as Old as Time

Once again it is that time of year, around Canadian Thanksgiving, when Ashley and I dress up to the nines and attend the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of Disney in Concert. Last year we skipped it because they decided to go with a live performance of Nightmare Before Christmas (not that I don't like the film, we just weren't feeling it), and the year before was Fantasia - Live in Concert. 2013 was the last time there was a straightforward Disney in Concert, and this was a different line-up than the previous concert to make the rounds of Pops series across Canada and the United States. Symphonic Pops Music has put together a new package of clips and medleys titled Tale as Old as Time.

One thing that happened between the 2013 edition and now is this little film Disney snuck out that few people have heard of, called Frozen. Disney in Concert - Tale as Old as Time ended off with a medley from the film, save for a grand finale of The Circle of Life. Understandably, the selection of songs was weighted towards more recent films. Virtually anything pre-1989 was reduced to a single medley in the start that includes Second Star to the Right, Some Day my Prince Will Come, Bella Note, part of The Nutcracker Suite (from Fantasia), Little April Showers and I'm Late (from Alice in Wonderland). This was followed by a medley from Tangled, a song from Mulan, an "Enchanted Helpers" medley (Friend Like Me, Under the Sea, and Be Our Guest), a villains medley (Trust in Me, Poor Unfortunate Souls, Be Prepared), a medley from Hercules, a medley from Princess and the Frog, a romance medley (Kiss the Girl, Beauty and the Beast, So This is Love), the climax of Sleeping Beauty, and finally Frozen and Circle of Life.

As understandable as it is, it's still a little disappointing that Hercules and Tangled get full medleys but not Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan, or Fantasia. I'll take Battle Between the Forces of Good and Evil, but I would have lost my mind at Night on Bald Mountain. Mary Poppins was nowhere to be found! But this is the usual complaint of an older person with a distinct taste for older Disney films.

Equally usual, it seems like the Calgary Philharmonic wasn't feeling Disney in Concert this year either. They have a well-known issue with phoning in Pops concerts and several times the orchestra couldn't get on the same page about where they were supposed to be in the music. They did play beautifully, but were struggling at times, whether going too fast, too slow, or "fighting" to be heard over one another and the vocalists. Disney in Concert - Tale as Old as Time is a very vocalist-heavy set, and I can understand if a well-trained symphonic musician chafes against playing "background music" for a cartoon and a vocalist strutting about. Which is again why I would have loved to see more from films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Fantasia!

For their part, the vocalists - Aaron Phillips, Andrew Johnson, Lisa Livesay, Whitney Claire Kaufman - were very good, as one would hope. And the CPO did an excellent job with the opening medley of classics and the piece from Sleeping Beauty, which was from Tchaikovsky anyways. For what the show was rather than what I would have most preferred, the thematic medleys were a nice way of arranging it... Sidekicks, villains songs, love songs, etc. It was almost like walking through the generalized plot of a Disney film, with examples pulled from individual films.

It`s always an enjoyable evening out to go to the symphony and get a bit of large-scale Disney beyond our living room. It was also our first time experiencing it waaaay up from the nosebleeds... or to use the fancy term, "loges." We almost had our own private box, and given that tickets were only $20, I suspect we'll be availing ourselves of those much more frequently than we have. That is, if we can get over vertigo and my healthy respect for gravity!

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