In a packed Boe Chapel last Sunday afternoon, the St. Olaf Orchestra warmed up for its impending concert. Unlike other concerts, however, the tone as audience members took their seats seemed less serious than usual. The shouts and laughter of children, mixed with the instruments warming up, created an almost whimsical air. In their annual Family Concert, the St. Olaf Orchestra performed for both the College and the greater Northfield community. Featured works included Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a medley from the musical Mary Poppins and John William’s “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter.
After a brief introduction by Director Steve Amundson, the program began with John Lithgrow’s “The Remarkable Farkle McBride.” Narrated by Dale Kruse, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Voice and Lyric Theater at St. Olaf, the narrative followed the story of a young boy in search of the perfect instrument to play. Each section of the orchestra was featured as Farkle undertook his search. Despite his efforts, however, Farkle became increasingly dissatisfied with every instrument. Just when all seemed lost, Farkle was given the opportunity to conduct the orchestra. As maestro of the orchestra, Farkle was finally satisfied as he was able to conducting all the instruments he had previously attempted to play.
“Featured works included Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a medley from the musical Mary Poppins and John Williams’s ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ from Harry Potter.” – Hannah Martens ’20
The orchestra next performed Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Like “The Remarkable Farkle McBride,” “Peter and the Wolf” is narrated. The orchestra’s rendition featured the narrations of soprano Karen Wilkerson, a visiting voice instructor. The piece follows the adventures of a young boy named Peter and his experience with creatures from the nearby forest. Each character is represented by an instrument. The Bird was played by the flute, the Duck an oboe, the Cat a clarinet, the Grandfather a bassoon, Peter by the string section and the Wolf by three French horns. The next two pieces featured guest conductors. Following Prokofiev, Amundson held a contest to choose the conductor of the next piece. The winner, a fourth grader from Minneapolis, had the opportunity to lead the orchestra in Rodgers’ “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music.” She had a fantastic debut! Afterwards, Sophia Spiegel ’19 conducted the orchestra in “A Disney Supertime,” a piece from Mary Poppins.
In a magical conclusion, the orchestra performed John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme.” Audience members were surprised with a special appearance from Dumbledore, who used his wand as a baton to conduct the musicians. The concert ended with a standing ovation from the audience.
The St. Olaf Orchestra Family Concert provided an exciting experience for all. Both young and old appreciated the chance to engage with the music in ways not typical to orchestra concerts.