Wednesday, December 02, 2015

When the orchestra dances

This performance of Copland's Appalachian Spring was given by the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra in spring 2014 and it's absolutely enchanting. The music becomes the ballet. The musicians are the dancers. The choreography reflects the details of the scoring - and as you can imagine, having to memorise the whole thing plus the movement must mean the young players have to know it inside out and backwards, and it sounds fabulous as well. Grab a cuppa, watch and enjoy. I hope you love it as much as I do. Full info from the video's Youtube page is reproduced below it.

(Of course, I look forward very much to the day when some orchestras closer to home decide to have a shot at this...unfortunately my computer does not give me those little purple demon emoticons...)

Conceived by James Ross
Movement Design by Liz Lerman

Vincent E. Thomas, choreographic collaborator
Martha Wittman, performing collaborator
Enrico Lopez-Yanez, Young Man

Jedidiah Roe, Lighting Design
Video by Christian Amonson, Artslaureate,
Audio recorded and mastered by Antonino d'Urzo, Opusrite™

Performed May 2 and 4, 2014, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Country Fair:
Simple Gifts:

Movement is inherent in the act of making music; yet, its impact is often overlooked in the orchestral setting. In 2012, Liz Lerman and the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra (UMSO) explored the relationship between movement and music in a fully choreographed and critically-acclaimed performance of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun." The musicians of UMSO were the dancers as well as the players. They discovered that playing from memory while moving onstage, while challenging, actually improved their ability to communicate with and listen to each other. Classical music critic Anne Midgette of the Washington Post called the performance "one of the standout performances of my many years in Washington."

In May, 2014, Lerman and her team of collaborators (James Ross, Vincent Thomas, Martha Wittman, and UMSO) delved deeper into this connection between movement and music in "Appalachian Spring," a work that was originally commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge in 1943 as one of three new ballets to be choreographed by American modern dance icon, Martha Graham; the music was composed by Aaron Copland and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945. This performance by UMSO alternates between the 13-instrument and the full orchestral version of the suite. The choreography is influenced by American folk dance, the gestures musicians make while playing their instruments, and the unmitigated sense of hopefulness in the music itself.  

Complete information at