If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, then the Red Deer Symphony was able to pull off a more straightforward feat on Saturday — the RDSO performed a wonderful concert of music for dancing.
The only thing missing at the Red Deer College Arts Centre was floor space — otherwise there would certainly have been some waltzing in the aisles.
As it was, plenty of audience members were moving to the music in their seats as the RDSO presented three pieces by Johann Strauss, Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, and works by the Hungarian and Quebec composers Franz Lehar and Gilles Vigneault.
The evening’s guest soloist was coloratura soprano Nicole Brooks, who adopted a coquettish air while singing The Laughing Song from the Strauss operetta Die Fledermaus.
Looking resplendent in a turquoise gown, Brooks used her clear voice and perfect articulation to give an elegant rendition of a song that inserts bursts of laughter into a sophisticated aria.
The young singer from Wetaskiwin conveyed more wistfulness while performing Lehar’s Vilja from The Merry Widow.
The song is about a legendary Maid of the Woods who does not return the love of a huntsman, and Brooks put across the appropriate sense of regret and sadness while performing the lovely, lilting tune.
Brooks, who is not yet 20, will be one to watch as she pursues a classical singing career.
She’s already made a promising start, having been recommended to the Provincial Music Festival three times in a row, and received the 2009 Red Deer Festival Grand Award.
The RDSO made a sprightly job of Strauss’s Emperor Waltz, with the swirling melody conjuring up images of grandly dressed couples twirling through ornate Viennese ballrooms.
Who knew that Stauss’s light-hearted waltzes with their gorgeous, smooth strains, take a serious toll on musicians — particularly those playing the second violin and viola?
Conductor Claude Lapalme told the audience, “I have visions of second violinists being taken out on stretchers,” their bow arms held at stiff angles after an arduous evening of playing nothing but waltzes.
The RDSO audience has been requesting the ever-popular Blue Danube Waltz for 20 years and finally had the chance to hear it played on Saturday.
This piece, with its familiar horn intro, had the most personal meaning for me, as the Blue Danube Waltz has always been my mother’s favourite song, and mom passed away last week at the age of 75.
The best thing I can say about the RDSO’s performance of it is that my mother, Milica Petrovic, would have loved it.
Dances of a different kind were on Dvorak’s mind when he composed his Slavonic Dances, based on Czechoslovakian folk music. The RDSO performed five of them — all as varied and intricate as the contents of a box of fine chocolates.
The Furiant was lively, the Dumka meandered, the Sousesdka was a rustic version of a Polonaise, the Starodavny was romantic and melancholy, and the Polka was anything but an oompapa tune — Lapalme described it as having more depth and sophistication.
The RDSO conveyed all the different nuances and delivered a truly interesting dance mix.
The only non-dance song on the program was Vigneault’s Mon Pays, which was turned into an orchestral overture by our very own talented Lapalme.
While this song, considered by many to be Quebec’s anthem, might not officially be a dance, Vigneault’s sweeping homage to his wintry homeland has the requisite tuneful melody to set listeners swaying.
And sway they did on Saturday.