On November 19, the Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO), performing under the baton of Julie Desbordes, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, presented a refreshing young people’s concert, mostly focusing on pieces that introduce the instruments of the orchestra— what they do and how they sound—to the children of the community. Spoken narration was by WQXR radio announcer Jeff Spurgeon. Special activities for children were an ‘Instrument Petting Zoo,” mask making, and coloring, with snacks provided.
The first piece, introducing the instruments’ functions, was “Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin,” with music written by Marvin Hamlisch, orchestration by Richard Danielpour, and text by Lloyd Moss, Spurgeon’s colleague, to whose memory he dedicated his appearance. Following Spurgeon’s opening narrative poem, we heard demonstrations, followed by audience cheers, of the solo trombone; the trumpet; trumpet and trombone ‘duo;’ French horn; trumpet, trombone and horn together; cello, followed by a cello-and-wind quartet; concertmaster Phong Ta playing the ‘title tune,’ then quintet of the first five instruments, beginning to flesh out the piece; then flute and the sextet; clarinet, then septet; plaintive oboe, then octet; bassoon, making a nonet; piano, for a chamber group of 10; then percussion; and finally the full orchestra. The piece: that they played was darkly rocking, then ambling, then rejoicing, then giving way to a peaceful nocturne; and finally the bustling, clanging start of a new day. “Zin! Zin! Zin!” proved as fully evocative of New York City as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and Richard Rodgers’ “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.” The finale was encored.
Viet Cuong introduced his “The Wild Woods: A Prelude to ‘Peter and the Wolf,’” written last year, set on the night before “Peter and the Wolf,” and focusing on Peter’s grandfather. After a nocturnal opening, with something of an Eastern flavor, came a vivid dreamscape comprising graphic depictions of the eerie howling of wolves in the woods, rhythmic croaking of frogs in the pond, and chirping and twittering of birds in the trees, followed by a quote from Sergei Prokofiev’s work, as grandfather awakens from his dream.
“Peter and the Wolf,” the featured work, was narrated by Spurgeon. Some QUO players donned feathery boas and furry ears, appropriate to their characters. We met the bird (flute); duck (oboe); slinking cat (clarinet); grandfather (bassoon); wolf (three French horns); Peter, romping through the meadow (strings); and hunters, with their rifles (timpani and bass drum). The pastoral beginning concerned Peter and the bickering of the bird and duck. The sneaky cat entered, in pursuit of the bird. Stern grandfather warned Peter to beware of marauding wolves, coming out of the woods and into the meadow. The ominous entrance of the wolf was followed by the cat climbing the tree to escape him, with the bird remaining on a branch at a safe distance from both wolf and louche cat. The flustered duck was swallowed whole by the wolf. Peter climbed the tree and, at his urging, the bird flew around the wolf’s head to taunt and confuse him. Peter lassoed the wolf’s tail and tied the other end of the rope to the tree. The hunters emerged from the woods, but Peter bade them not to shoot, but to help get the wolf to a zoo. In the triumphal procession, concluding the work, we heard Peter, the bird, the hunters, and the wolf’s themes, the grandfather and the cat, and the duck, quacking from inside the wolf’s belly.
QUO next offers a QUOtets chamber concert, on December 10 at 8 p.m. Ticket prices are $20 for general admission, $15 in advance, and $10 for students and seniors. Visit www.queerurbanorchestra.org
for tickets and information. Church of the Holy Apostles is located at 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street.