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The Triangle Wind Ensemble, with Director Dr. Evan Feldman, performed a wonderful holiday concert at the Cary Arts Center. Titled "Tis the Season," the program was half festive favorites and half immersive film score experience, with the music of Howard Blake's The Snowman played alongside the big screen. There was no shortage of exuberant fun to be had throughout the entire concert, especially for the children in the audience.
The program's first section was cleverly programmed with Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter favorites that were varied in both musical texture and mood. British composer Andrew Pearce's "End of the Year Special," whose title may sound generic, is an ingenious mashup of boisterous textures with constant forward motion. Consistent jingle bells give the tune its holiday feel. With this piece and the following selections too, Feldman conducted with expressive gestures that greatly added to the TWE's sound. As a result, the auditorium was filled with forward motion from the rising and falling melodies.
The horn section shone in Alfred Reed's meditative arrangement of "Greensleeves," a slow and melodious piece that showcased a slightly different side of the TWE. This was followed contrastingly by Rimsky-Korsakov's "Dance of the Tumblers," – a whirling, locomotive romp from the opera-ballet The Snow Maiden. This piece was perhaps the most difficult selection on the program, but the TWE handled the rapid, layered melodies with ease. "Chanukah is Here," a medley of traditional songs arranged by Calvin Custer, held contrast within itself. Feldman's conducting method of directly bringing out countermelodies or prominent little shreds of melody from the overall texture was very effective.
Two classic Leroy Anderson tunes rounded out the first half, and the classic "Sleigh Ride" was given an interactive twist. First, Feldman donned a red suit with cartoon snowmen and proceeded to throw "snowballs" (made of cotton) into the audience to be tossed around while the TWE played. The audience was encouraged to clap along with the "whip" sound of the song as well.
After this joyful rendition and the intermission, the audience settled in for the 1982 film The Snowman. It has no spoken dialogue, like the picture book it is based on – instead, the musical score tells the whole story, down to the minutest details. The music fills out the imagery, dialogue, and sound effects of the movie's hand-drawn frames. This attribute of the music was what made TWE's performance so immersive, since the music was timed accurately down to the second, to match what was happening on the screen. For instance, footsteps, facial expressions, and twinkling lights were all reflected in the timing of the instruments.
Of course, the overall mood of each scene was reflected as well. When the snowman took his creator (the boy) on a flying trip around vast, snow-covered landscapes, soloist Joshua Singleton appeared onstage to sing the film's one instance of words: the song "Walking on Air." This soaring melody was quite beautiful, especially when matched with the movie's expansive imagery. Singleton's clear-toned voice was perfect for the British style of the song and its memorable melody. Overall, the film and its music created a cozy, warm atmosphere that was perfect for the chilly December night, thanks to the Triangle Wind Ensemble.