The Salisbury Symphony concluded its regular concert season with a big blast – well, perhaps not quite as big as the one they will deliver in two weeks at "Pops at the Post" – in Keppel Auditorium on the campus of Catawba College. Entitled "Dance," the program consisted entirely of dance sequences from movies and Broadway shows.
The first was "The Carousel Waltz" from Carousel by Richard Rodgers (1902-1979). This was the second musical that Rodgers wrote with Oscar Hammerstein (1895-1960), and the first Broadway show to dispense with the traditional overture in favor of this opening waltz, which sets the stage for the rest of the story. The orchestra got right into the mood, and just made you want to get up and dance.
In 1943, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) wrote the ballet Fancy Free for choreographer Jerome Robbins. The following year, Bernstein converted the music into a full Broadway show, and called it On the Town. It was from this show that the orchestra played three sequences. The story is about three sailors who have a twenty-four hour shore leave in New York City during World War II. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what their activities involved. The three dances depict their day quite well, and the orchestra mustered up the rawness and joie de vivre portrayed by the music.
George Gershwin (1898-1937) wrote "Promenade" or "Walking the Dog" for the Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers film score for Shall We Dance. In the film, the music accompanies a scene of walking a dog on board a luxury liner. This piece features a wonderful clarinet solo, played superbly by Eileen Young, principal.
During a trip to Paris in 1928, Gershwin started work on his rhapsodic ballet "An American in Paris, Tone Poem for Orchestra," and completed it shortly after his arrival home. His purpose, he explained, was to portray the impressions of an American visitor to the city. Gershwin quite ably captured the French atmosphere in this work, and the orchestra played with great lust and energy, every bit meeting the composer's intentions of portraying a lively and vibrant city.
Richard Rodgers' first collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein was in the musical Oklahoma. In it, they used a dance sequence for "The Dream Ballet." This particular segment includes most of the well-known themes from the show, and again, the orchestra made you want to sing and dance!
Perhaps Leonard Bernstein's crowning achievement was West Side Story, and the orchestra's performance in collaboration with Piedmont Dance Theatre in "Symphonic Dances" from the show was certainly the pinnacle of this concert. This is a set of nine dances, not necessarily in the same order as in the musical, but extremely well choreographed to tell the story using the medium of ballet. With two exceptions, the dancers portraying Tony and Office Krupke, the entire dance company is female. The young women that danced the male roles were certainly very convincing, and they had the swagger and the sneer down to a tee. The rest of the company, as well as the two principals, Maria (Alana Isiguen) and Tony (Daniel Wiley), were equally masterful in their dancing. The orchestra provided energetic and vigorous collaboration in this American masterpiece, for a spectacular season finale.