The RSO and Motown, together at last
Never would I have imagined going to the symphony to hear “Super Freak”, or “ABC”. On Nov. 1, however, I was blown away by a very rockin’ Regina Symphony Orchestra as they played Motown’s Greatest Hits – the second show in their Shumiatcher Pops Series
The series is slightly more interactive and engaging than a Masterworks or Chamber performance. The pops series is aimed to target the general public with more popular musical themes. Instead of Prokofiev, Rossini, or Brahms, audiences will hear the best of Motown, the Phantom of the Opera, or Queen. If you missed the incredible Motown jams last Saturday, you can still make it to hear some of the most talented musicians in the country rock out with Queen on May 2. What can be better than immersing yourself in the sound of an orchestra playing “Bohemian Rhapsody”? Turning the volume up on your headphones cannot compare to a live show. There is something magical and soulful in listening to live music, and the Shumiatcher Pops concert series makes that experience even greater, featuring songs you can sing along to if you so desire.
Saturday’s performance featured not only musicians, but also three Broadway performers. Joy Lynn Jacobs, Mandy Gonzalez, and Destan Owens have all starred in Broadway hits. Their resumes boast of roles in (but not limited to) Rent, Wicked, The Music Man, and appearances in screen hits like The Good Wife and Across the Universe. The three artists are extremely talented and worked well together to create a relaxed and flirtatious atmosphere on stage. Their voices were incredible. Jacobs hit notes higher than I thought possible. Owens, joking with the audience throughout the performance, referred to Jacobs’ range as “dog notes” because they were so high. Gonzalez, too, had a powerful voice – one of those ones that you can almost feel because it is so powerful. To say the least, these artists were captivating, and worked well with the musicians to give the audience a show well worth the ticket price.
One has to wonder how an orchestra who can master the greatest and most challenging classical scores feels about playing popular music. I had the honour to talk with Conductor Victor Sawa about the show, and he assured me that, though it is less technically challenging, musicians still have a great time.
“When I was a player and I would play stuff like this, my interest would perk up. It’s a whole genre that I’m not used to playing,” says Sawa.
While Sawa enjoyed playing and now has fun conducting popular music, some orchestra members may not feel the same excitement. In fact, some members hadn’t even heard of the motown hits before they played them.
“There are some players that never heard of ‘Respect’. I’m thinking, really? You’ve got to be kidding! In that case, they’re playing this stuff literally for the first time,” Sawa said, laughing.
Apparently, being a professional musician means you can play anything, whether you have heard it before or not, because the symphony played fantastically. More impressively, these musicians who may not have even heard the music, hadn’t yet practised when I spoke with Sawa, the day before the performance.
“We start tonight. The concert is tomorrow. That’s professional orchestra. Don’t make any mistakes, or you’re fired!” Sawa joked.
Seriously, the musicians had two 2 ½-hour rehearsals before performing Saturday night. It took only five hours for this show to come together. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even master one song in that amount of time, let alone more than ten of them.
I suppose this is why we pay to hear professional musicians, something I definitely recommend. Even if you’re not into classical music, I highly doubt you would object to a live performance (choir included!) of Queen. To make it even more exciting, as a student you can go to many of the RSO performances for only seven dollars! You can’t even see a movie for less than ten dollars and considering some of the films that have been released, you’ll get much more entertainment from the symphony.