a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Oct, 2009

Last night’s “Beyond the Score” at the NAC

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Giveaways and product reviews|Ottawa

Last night Julie and I went to see Beyond the Score, an innovative show at the NAC. I was given two tickets awhile back as well as two more for a giveaway. (I briefly met Erica and her husband Mark, the winners of the ticket giveaway. Three cheers for a night on the town!)

Beyond the Score is an interesting premise; take a well-known piece of classical music and break it down. It’s part lecture, part multimedia experience, and part concert. In this case everything revolved around  Mozart’s piano concerto No. 27 (his final piano concerto), a significant piece of music from a prolific composer whose popularity was, unfortunately, waning by the time he composed this piece.

Mozart composed over 600 works and died at the age of 35.

My knowledge of classical musical is pretty limited, but I have a keen appreciation for the artform. I do know that the experience of listening to classical music is enriched by extra information you have going into it. For example, in this case we were told to listen for “laughing strings” that gently mocked, given an explanation of the inclusion of a melody he’d composed for a children’s songbook, the regular presence of a rogue D flat and what it signified, as well as insights into Mozart’s creative process. 

Bill Richardson narrated the first half of the evening – the education part – while actor Pierre Brault dramatized selected parts (with appropriate accents and even humour) for added emphasis. This broke it all up very well and prevented the evening from becoming a dry lecture on music and life in the 1700s.

Brault makes it look so easy. So does Richardson for that matter. No hiccups, no bumps in the road.  There was a bit of singing and miming (!), and the pieces all fit together nicely to tell the larger story.

I’m not qualified to comment on the actual performance – I couldn’t tell you if everyone hit every note – but it was pretty good from where were sitting.

We had great seats thanks to Jennifer Covert and her colleagues at the NAC. We were the second row from the stage, so close we could see the dust on Bill Richardson’s shoes (that’s a good thing, really). It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see everything from this perspective and I really appreciate not being stuck in the back of the room.

The pianist was Katherine Chi. I would have loved to see her hands flying over the keys as this piece sounded like it had its own particular challenges.

I have a deep admiration for stringed instruments and people who can coax beautiful music out of them. I sat there, not knowing whether to drift away in my thoughts or focus on what was happening and mindfully enjoy the music. Sadly (and I have debated posting this detail) my enjoyment of the evening was marred by a fellow-audience member who was wearing too much perfume. It was distracting – dare I say, sickening – and made it difficult to let myself get immersed in the music. Julie and I both had to switch seats after the intermission.

But I can’t let that detract from the whole.

After the performance we got to go backstage (I do love the backstage access!):

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Piano Forte

…  to meet Pierre Brault, who is eloquent and charming. Thankfully, someone else asked him a couple questions because it would have been awkward otherwise.

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Someone asked him about his role onstage.

“I can easily get up there and hot dog for 10 minutes,” he said. “But that’s not what I’m here for.”

He made a good point. He could have easily stolen the show, his presence is large, but the focus here is really on the music. Brault also said something interesting about the future of theatre reviews. He gets the blogging thing. Mainstream media isn’t reviewing as much as they used to. He mentioned that he hadn’t heard anything from the CBC’s Alvina Ruprecht since June and they’ve stopped relying on the mass media as much as they used to. The future, for them, is social media. And he’s on the cusp of this shift.

Anyway, Julie and I walked out singing the opening tune. (It sounds like a walk in a garden, doesn’t it? It totally sticks in my head.)

This experience makes me want to see Amadeus again, but I expect there’ll be a run on the DVD this week. :) (Speaking of which, remember this scene? And the laugh? Ha!)

Anyway, yes, thank you NAC, for the opportunity to see this show. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a bit of Mozart and can appreciate the extra insight into his life and work.


5 Responses to "Last night’s “Beyond the Score” at the NAC"

1 | Erica

October 1st, 2009 at 9:17 am

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We walked out singing the opening tune, too. 1790s earworm?

I definitely appreciated the background information, and it did add to my experience of the music. Once they mentioned the theme of springtime, I couldn’t help but hear allergies in the stuttering violins in the first movement (ah-ah-ah-CHOO!).

We’re so grateful to you and Jennifer and the NAC for inviting us to the show, and we’ve been inspired to get out to the NAC more often – we picked up several brochures listing all of the amazing upcoming theatre, dance, and musical performances. I’d forgotten what a great vibe there is – the eager hush of the crowd while the musicians are tuning, the happy intermission chatter, the first people who leap to their feet at the end of the show. It’s such a wonderful community.

2 | robyn

October 1st, 2009 at 9:59 am

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So glad you enjoyed it! And disappointed that I was at home sick so I wan’t able to say hi (AND I had to miss the concert I was so looking forward to).

Love the shots of backstage!

3 | Chantal

October 1st, 2009 at 3:11 pm

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Sounds like a great time!

4 | Jennifer Covert

October 2nd, 2009 at 3:43 pm

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Great post Andrea and thanks so much for attending. I had a blast too. I was particularly interested in Pierre’s comments about the importance of bloggers to artists these days as well.
talk later,
Jen

5 | BeachMama

October 3rd, 2009 at 1:54 pm

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Oh how fun Andrea. Sorry about the perfume, makes me wonder what happened to nice gentle perfume of days gone by to the full on death whiffs we get now. I love Mozart and in particular the movie Amadeus which sort of gives a peek into his life. I used to listen to Mozart a lot back when I was in University studying and tanning (I would get my 7 minutes in on the tanning bed). It was great.

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