Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 11:02 am | Partly Cloudy 72º


Review: Santa Barbara Symphony Offers Energetic ‘Carnival of the Animals’

Lumbering elephants, zippy honeybees, clopping horses, birds from the barnyard to the forest and underwater creatures visited the Granada Theater on Saturday as part of a family oriented "Carnival of the Animals" concert by the Santa Barbara Symphony

Before the show, audience members explored big animal skulls and skins with the Santa Barbara Zoo, and enjoyed books and colored animal pictures courtesy of the Santa Barbara Public Library.

In the Founders Room, they tried out a wide array of instruments courtesy of the symphony’s Music Van program. 

Music Van volunteers were on hand to guide children as they tested out string, brass, wind, and percussion instruments.

The orchestra sounded strong and energetic. 

Some concert-goers slept on parents’ laps, snoring lightly, waking to applaud and promptly resuming their naps. 

Guest conductor Lara Webber entered the stage waving from the podium like she’d seen you from her front porch.

A zesty March from Britten’s “Soiree Musicale” inspired lots of young audience members to wave their arms and conduct along with her.

Part of the team from the Santa Barbara Symphony’s performance of ‘Carnival of the Animals’ at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. From left are arrator and host Andrew Firestone, pianist Natasha Kislenko, guest conductor Lara Webber and pianist Robert Cassidy. Click to view larger
Part of the team from the Santa Barbara Symphony’s performance of ‘Carnival of the Animals’ at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. From left are arrator and host Andrew Firestone, pianist Natasha Kislenko, guest conductor Lara Webber and pianist Robert Cassidy. (Santa Barbara Symphony photo)

Webber then addressed the audience directly to introduce “Hoe Down” from Aaron Copland’s ballet “Rodeo.” 

Andrew Firestone joined the performers as our peppy host, sharing a contagious enthusiasm for the musicians and program.

With a brief description to set our imaginations abuzz, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” held us all speechless with its entrancing tempo and iconic melody. 

The kids in the house were tracking with the orchestra up to this point.

Then they were asked what kinds of sounds chickens make and the hall erupted in clucking and squawking and cheeping that could not be corralled enough for us to hear the two movements from Respighi’s “The Birds.” That is, until the magical xylophone sounds caught our attention again.

A pair of grand pianos were rolled onstage to face each other in a yin-yang arrangement, and Robert Cassidy and Natasha Kislenko joined the orchestra to perform Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.”

Firestone’s spirited recitation of Ogden Nash’ mid-century rhymes about the subjects’ “feathers, fur and fins” set a vivid picture in our imaginations prior to each movement, making it easy to connect musical effects with the creature in question.

The regal lion promenades first; followed by hens and roosters; and the jackass with musical references to bucking, kicking and running.

The pace slowed for elephants’ weighty wandering and a tortoise making its slow, persistent way through life. 

Jumping kangaroos, the creatures of a swirling underwater habitat, mules who “have no rules,” a variety of birds’ songs and flight, and the clackety skeletal sounds of “Fossils” followed.

“The Swan” is recognizable as the music of Anna Pavlova’s “Dying Swan.” It’s melodic and flowy and brings to mind a graceful bird gliding across the water.

After a resounding finale, the orchestra performed a lively “Sleigh Ride” complete with clop-clopping of horses pulling the sleigh and the downbeat crack of the wooden clappers to keep things moving.

Kids and their families all seemed happy as we exited the theater after a performance that was as enjoyable as intended.

Local arts critic Judith Smith-Meyer is a round-the-clock appreciator of the creative act. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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