The doomsayers got it wrong yet again with their dire predictions. The Cary Arts Center is going to be just fine, management assures us, after a thorough airing out. That action should be adequate to overcome the ravages of an appearance there by the Really Terrible Orchestra of the Triangle.
This group, sneeringly but lovingly referred to as RTOOT, used up an entire Monday evening for a goodly crowd of (former?) music lovers, honorable citizens who sat through the program "Folk Songs and Fairy Tales." In an unscientific survey of attendees, almost everyone thought there actually were music organizations inferior to RTOOT. But no one was able to come up with a specific example.
Conductor (and chief suspect) Sandy Hobgood led off with a version of Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette." One could dimly discern the profile silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock passing along the backdrop. Some fifty players are involved here, with their names actually listed, probably pseudonyms. Hobgood"s abettor, Bob Petters, came on to conduct the Prelude from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. There was some confusion on the podium as to whether it would be this piece or "Night on Bald Mountain." It sounded more like Hansel and Gretel, so let’s go with that. The first half ended with the March from The Love of Three Oranges by Prokofiev, about which not much needs to be said.
Petters came back after intermission to lead the aforementioned "Night on Bald Mountain," a sonic marvel by Mussorgsky, with a boost from Rimsky-Korsakov. Here was music at times bordering on the genuinely respectable. Did they sneak in a few non-credited guest musicians during the break? The forte sections and some of the woodwind passages were quite recognizable, even admirable, and distinctly different from the earlier piece involving Hansel and Gretel.
Speaking of respectable, what about that English Folksong Suite of Vaughan Williams? The players performed as if they had actually seen those three sections before. One could listen to the two Marches and the Intermezzo in relative bliss and contentment.
The "Summertime Singalong" brought on – surprise – "Summertime" and "A Summer Place." The audience participation here did not enhance the evening. They came on strong, though, as they intoned "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
The orchestra presented an encore that constituted a transparent ploy devised to elicit audience applause. Petters led the "Radetzky March" by Johann Strauss the Elder. Here the audience provided most of the percussion by clapping in time as directed by the conductor. Such deviousness fooled no one.
By some alchemy these players and their leaders were able to persuade the attendees that they actually enjoyed themselves. Was the standing ovation just a ruse to gain early access to the exits?