Friday, February 19, 2016

Corvallis-OSU Symphony Final Frontier Concert 2016

Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra - Final Frontier concert poster 2016
I have the honor, once again, to be part of another great Corvallis-OSU Symphony concert on Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 3pm at LaSells Stewart Center.  For more information and tickets, visit the Corvallis-OSU Symphony web site.

I'll be guest-conducting the following works:

Star Wars Medley - music by John Williams
Flying Theme from E.T. - music by John Williams 
Star Trek Through The Years - music by Alexander Courage, Jerry Goldsmith, et al.
Space Oddity - words and music by David Bowie, arranged by Rob Birdwell; featured vocalist: Marc Callahan
A Brave and Startling Truth - poem by Maya Angelou, music by Rob Birdwell; featured poetry reader: Shelley Moon

Other works to be performed and conducted by Corvallis-OSU Symphony music director Marlan Carlson include:

Am I excited?  Way beyond that!  There's a tremendous amount of talent on and off stage - professional musicians, teachers, extraordinary students, and pro-level community players comprise this orchestra.  A hard working symphony board and masterful music direction by Marlan Carlson make this, like so many other concerts, a one-of-a-kind event.

Corvallis-OSU Symphony
It's an honor to be able to "play" (as conducting is my instrument for this gig) with such talented musicians.  As usual, I'm humbled but soaking in the experience and always learning new things.  The 30 minutes or so that I'll spend on the stand during the performance imploring musical expression out of the orchestra for my selections - and flowing along a good deal of the way too - won't compare to the hours/days/nights of preparation, dreaming, scoring, communicating, persuading, doubting, and hoping.  That's true with just about everything though - probably why I like watching those "making of" documentaries of films or music as much (if not more) than the finished product.  

Dr. Marlan CarlsonMarc Callahan
Marlan Carlson and I were chatting in his office in early December 2015 about the possibility and logistics of adding David Bowie's Space Oddity to the program, preferably with an operatic baritone singer. To my delight he said he knew just the singer.  I followed him from his office as he speedily lead the way to the studio of Marc Callahan.  Marlan asked Marc of his availability, introduced me, and then I mentioned the Bowie song; Marc took maybe 20 seconds to stew this idea around before he said, "why not?" and just like that a new arrangement, song, and performer were slated for the concert! It's been a joy getting to know Marc and his exceptional vocal talents.  I can't wait for him to unleash that thunderous voice of his on this song - it is musically and emotionally fitting that a wondrous voice and talent such as his will be performing it.  Coming in the shadow of David Bowie's recent passing makes it all the more poignant.  I'd been scoring the arrangement of Space Oddity and completely immersed in all things Bowie for several weeks when I heard the sad news.  The gift of Bowie's Blackstar album and the stories from his collaborators shed light on his relentless artistry despite what he was facing.  Can't get much more final frontier than that.

Shelley MoonThere are always pleasant surprises and happy accidents when putting together any music, program, show or concert - getting to know poet, author, and storyteller Shelley Moon is certainly one, and Maya Angelou's poem "A Brave and Startling Truth" is another.  The concept of the "final frontier" theme is clear in every line of Dr. Angelou's poem - written in 1995 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations - and Shelley Moon's reading of it will be a gift for all as she lends her artistic voice and life experience to every word, phrase, and meaning in the poem.  As Maya Angelou so eloquently states, "We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world " - that's final frontier stuff all the way.

Rob Birdwell
Shelley Moon's reading of "A Brave and Startling Truth" will be underscored by my original music inspired by Maya Angelou's words and message.  It's an experiment and there's always risk in this sort of thing but I'm grateful for this collaboration and opportunity. 

And finally, don't even get me started on the Theremin and all that I learned about that instrument and its inventor over these past couple months!  More on that later - hopefully much more!

Rob Birdwell