24. May 2005 · Comments Off on Live Music … Don’tcha Love It? · Categories: imported, Ramble

I sure do! So yay for the musicians of the American Ballet Theatre.

NEW YORK May 23, 2005 ˘ American Ballet Theatre and its musicians union announced a new contract deal Monday that the union said requires the ballet to use only live musicians and bans so-called virtual orchestras.

ABT Executive Director Rachel Moore said the tentative contract runs for three years and said the ballet was “committed to the use of live music” and pleased that the musicians would be on hand for its spring season.

from here

A real orchestra. It’s a very good idea, you know?

Which reminds me … I haven’t written about my recent CATS experience. So here goes …

Jameson and I went to see the tour production of CATS last week. I’ve never been much of a CATS fan (shoot, I’m really not much of a Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, although I’m not as opposed to him as many of my colleagues), but Jameson’s high school will be putting Cats on next year and he wanted to see it. I’m always up for a theatre trip. (I saw Lennon recently too. I think I forgot to blog about that as well.)

Now that I’ve seen the musical, I’m more aware of what it is all about. It’s not about story. It’s not about caring all that much about the characters (cats). It seems to me it’s mainly a vehicle for Sir ALW’s music (using T. S. Eliot’s witty poems as I’m sure you all know) and a vehicle for some dance. I found the dancing a bit less than exciting. The music … well, I think it actually works for what it is.

BUT, something definitely didn’t work. not even a little.

“What was it,” readers are yelling. “Do tell, do tell! We can’t wait to hear.”

Well, okay, maybe you aren’t all yelling that, but I’ll tell you anyway.

The problem was the “orchestra”. An orchestra that wasn’t, actually. They did have musicians, according to the program, and I looked at the back of the hall and saw a monitor that was on the conductor/keyboard player. I believe there were drums and a guitar player (perhaps two?). But there certainly wasn’t an oboe/English horn player, or any other woodwinds. There couldn’t possibly have been any brass players or, if there were, they should all be fired. Why? Because either they sounded abominable or it was ALL synthesized. I’m 99.9% sure it was the latter. No, make that 100%.

I missed my instruments! (The original show called for an oboe/English horn/d’amore player.) Oboe? WHAT oboe? Hah! Now the tone of the English horn sounded like an English horn, but tone isn’t the only thing that makes the instrument what it is. The vibrato was laughable (or maybe more “cryable” for this musician). The way the notes connected just wasn’t the way we connect notes. A keyboard can’t DO what we do.

Thank goodness.

I hate having the real instruments replaced by synthesizers. I’m not opposed to synthesizers, but I prefer they be used as their own instruments, not as replacements for the rest of us. I would hate even more being replaced if no one could hear that the replacement was poor. But my son immediately heard the problems too, so it wasn’t just me.

Of course the majority of the audience probably can’t hear the difference, but that doesn’t mean that those who put these productions* together shouldn’t care about quality. I would hope that Sir ALW would cringe if he heard this particular tour; surely he doesn’t want substandard sound?

*I must note that this is a non equity tour, and that may be one reason that the quality is so low. The singers weren’t exactly great either. Sigh. (I wonder when will they start replacing singers with synthesizers. Hmmm.)

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