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Songs Strings & Steps 12 - Hits From Broadway


A Review

By Rosemary Phillips, April 2012

Songs Strings & Steps Program Cover
Hits From Broadway - Program Cover
Introduction
Conducting traffic
A full house
From parking lot to roof top
On with the show
The Abbotsford Youth Orchestra
A beautiful segue
A show stopper
Oliver
Audience participation
Links to more information

Introduction
This is a review - Rosemary style... meaning I don’t take notes. I prefer to sit back and enjoy the show, so I may not remember names or numbers... and I’m biased!

It was a concert I just knew I had to attend even though it meant travelling seven hours each way to get there. I couldn’t resist – hits from all my favourite shows – produced by an incredible team of people who have a method going – a formula that really makes a show work.

Calvin Dyck, virtuoso violinist, teacher and music director, developed these community concerts 12 years ago, in Abbotsford, British Columbia, as a way of introducing young people and the community to the passion and joy of music, classical and otherwise, by involving all the senses, and all the performing arts disciplines – at the highest level. When Sylvia Friesen came on board as the show designer, Calvin’s vision became a reality with costumes, sets, visuals and choreography. (For Hits from Broadway the Charlene Hart Dancers, Fraser Valley Academy of Dance and the student musicians of the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra were choreographed by Janelle Stauffer, John C. Carney, Catherine Potocky and Penelope Boyse.)

Conducting traffic
Knowing that Calvin was directing the show and the orchestra, and at the same time performing, I was completely surprised, gobsmacked you might say, to see him out in the parking lot before the matinee performance, directing traffic. He was jovially helping people find a parking spot. Construction by the Abbotsford Arts Centre and a local basketball tournament had created a shortage of parking spaces for the afternoon, and the promised parking lot attendants had not arrived. So Calvin stepped in.

Joyce Tarvin, my friend and guest for the performance, found it wonderfully amusing – to think that the conductor (and performer) was out there in the road, just before curtain time, conducting cars. Way to go Calvin! You should have had a baton in your hand...

A full house
Needless to say, the theatre was full to sold-out! As it had been the night before. Wandering around the hall, as everyone excitedly settled into their seats, was a young cast member with a microphone. Dressed formally in a beautiful royal blue satin dress and wearing a fur stole, she asked young men of their eligibility as bachelors for matchmaking, then had them sing a few bars from a Broadway song. She then asked audience members quiz questions about Broadway and the many musicals. This was engaging and often humorous pre-concert entertainment- and a great warm-up for the show.

From parking lot to roof top
Then, sure enough, as the lights dimmed, there was Calvin, in costume, playing his beautiful Cuypers violin, as the Fiddler on the Roof. What a marvelous way to begin a concert – the parking lot attendant transforms into a roof-top fiddler!

On with the show
From the opening bars of Fiddler on the Roof through to the closing songs from Les Misérables, I was amazed at the quality of performance – the music, dancing and acting from a mostly amateur community production. I could have been sitting in a theatre in the West End of London, or Toronto’s Sony Centre (originally O’Keefe Centre where I saw the Broadway touring Fiddler on the Roof in the early 1970s), or on Broadway itself.

Adding to the music, dance and acting was perfectly timed film and photography projected on a screen above the orchestra. It all blended together to give a complete experience of each Broadway show segment.

The Abbotsford Youth Orchestra
Musically the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra is a phenomenon, one that British Columbia's Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley should be really proud of. While joined by several professional musicians (brass, wind and strings that included members of the Vancouver Island Symphony for which Calvin is the concertmaster) their precision and passion is astounding, particularly when performing in costume, often without music, and either standing or dancing. As an orchestra they played behind feature performers like Joran Schuurman as a very believable Tevye, Chelsea Rus as Christine and Shane Wiebe as Raoul in a dramatic portrayal of Phantom of the Opera, the iSing chorus with a joyful Footloose, Chili Con Carne, and Trashin’ the Camp from Tarzan, or the cast of Sound of Music, Lion King, Mary Poppins, West Side Story, Oliver and Les Misérables. Then as soloist, AYO members stepped forward in costume and danced while playing for segments from several of the Broadway shows.

Beautiful segue
Following through on his passion for classical music, Calvin carried his violin to centre stage where he joined cellist Joel Stobbe for a most beautiful duet, Passacaglia by George Frideric Handel, arranged by Johan Halvorsen. The audience loved it and whooped as Calvin and Joel took their bows.

A show stopper
Shane Wiebe, Abbotsford’s very own finalist for Canadian Idol, returned to his hometown from Toronto for this show. He was brilliant. I last saw him in a Songs Strings & Steps where he played the role of a reluctant dragon – that was a few years ago. For this show he not only gave his polished voice to several Broadway characters, he presented his own version of a Broadway Medley – with impersonations, and accompanying himself. But first, while sauntering over to the piano at centre stage, he tripped over a cable and nonchalantly apologized to the staging assistant. That helped set the comedic pace. He introduced himself, as if no one knew him, then sat down on the piano bench and continued to sing songs, like the Sound of Music, in a range I have never heard before. I’ve heard falsetto. And I’ve heard male sopranos. But this was definitely different – incredible, and different. A show stopper for sure! He was humorous and brilliant. I laughed so hard tears fell down my cheeks. (I must remember to take tissues with me next time I go to a concert.)

Oliver
I should mention the youngsters in Oliver. They were fantastic! Again, it was like watching professional theatre. And this is where LIVE theatre gives you so much more. Young Avri Wright, as Oliver, was singing Where is Love and the head-mic wasn’t working. An attempt by staging didn’t solve the problem. This young pure voice just couldn’t be heard. Calvin stopped the orchestra mid-bar, stepped down from the podium, walked to stage right, picked up a hand-held mic, walked back to centre stage and gave it to Avri. The audience cheered! Now that’s LIVE music! Anything can happen. Oh, and young Andrew Dyck – a perfect Artful Dodger – accent and all!

Audience participation
For every Songs Strings & Steps there are surprises and interaction. In this case, the audience joined in with Edelweiss from Sound of Music, and stood to add voice to the boisterous, couldn’t-be-more-appropriate and endlessly-inspiring song Do You Hear the People Sing... It is the future that they bring...When tomorrow comes... What a way to end a show! And what a show - high energy, high quality, full of emotion and passion - and a totally delighted audience! All the energy, creativity, and rehearsal created a jewel of a performance that will not be easily forgotten!

See, I told you I was biased! This is but the beginning - I could write pages!

Links to more information

For more information and videos about Calvin Dyck, his performances, the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra and Songs Strings and Steps visit Calvin’s web site.

There are many more articles on this site about great musicians and artists - (see Articles Index) - including Calvin Dyck, violinist, musical director, and Sylvia Friesen, Songs Strings & Steps show designer.

   

Copyright Rosemary Phillips, Quills Quotes & Notes Enterprises, 2013
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