Sidney Classical Orchestra ends season with two pianos and a carnival

On Sunday April 15, the Sidney Classical Orchestra (SCO) will be joined by not one but two pianos in a program called Duelling Pianos. The two works on the program, Poulenc’s double piano concerto and Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals will be played by Susan de Burgh and Ed LeBarron. The orchestra’s conductor, Stephen Brown, said the program is a great introduction for anyone interested in classical music.

The raucous Carnival is made up of 14 movements, each representing an animal (“Hens and Roosters”, “Kangaroos”, and “Pianists” — who can be heard practicing their scales). It was never intended for public performance, but has become one of Saint-Saens’ most enduring works, said Brown. It was scored for two pianos and a very small orchestra, “which suits us just great,” said Brown. It is for strings, flute, clarinet, and percussion, “and it’s just a lot of fun.”

“He considered this as entertainment for his family, and forbid its performance in his lifetime,” said Brown. “And now it’s become basically his most well-known work after he died. People took to it.”

In 1949, Ogden Nash wrote humourous poems meant to be read between each of the movements of the work, and they will be read by Robert Holliston, a pianist who has performed with the Sidney Classical Orchestra on numerous occasions and given the pre-performance lectures for Pacific Opera Victoria since 1993. “He’s a great talker,” said Brown.

“When you read the text and listen to the music, you really get a hang of what he’s up to…One of the most beautiful movements is ‘The Swan’ where the cello plays,” said Brown.

While preparing this program, Brown wondered if he had a piece of his own that would complement the two works and use similar instrumentation. He did not, so he adapted a song cycle of his that he said has gone through many arrangements since its inception in 2008. Movements that were once sung are now played by instruments. Called “Where the Gander Goes Barefoot,” it is based on Mother Goose nursery rhymes, and Holliston will read some of those nursery rhymes before each movement.

Brown’s experience as a composer and arranger came in handy even when preparing pieces from other composers. Poulenc’s double piano concerto is written for a larger orchestra, so he modified an existing string orchestra arrangement by adding extra woodwinds and percussion to fit the piece to the smaller orchestra.

As the last concert of the season, the SCO is also doing a silent auction. Audience members can bid on local art and items from Bistro Suisse, BC Ferries, Butchart Gardens, Chemainus Theatre, three nights at Long Beach Lodge Resort in Tofino, and Tig-na-mara in Chemainus.

“If you’ve never been to a classical music concert before, this would be a great one to go to,” said Brown.

The concert is on Sunday April 15 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, 10030 Third St. in Sidney. Tickets are $25 for adults, $13 for students, and free for people 19 and under. Tickets are available at Tanner’s Books, CityScribe, and Long and McQuade in Victoria. For more information, call 250 480 1133.

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