Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids, Broadway Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Chamber Chorus, Community Youth Chorus, marching bands from East Kentwood and Grandville High Schools, Grand Rapids Ballet and Junior Ballet all came together for this powerful performance. We waited a few minutes for things to begin.
There was a strange little storyline going on throughout the show with a would-be cellist and his two young backpacked companions, something about following your dreams but it seemed weird and forced, and unnecessary.
David Lockington will be playing his swan song to Grand Rapids in a few weeks (the cellist here also played The Swan by Saint-Saens) and it was great to see him so invested in this performance.
Did I mention the lights?
We spotted our friend, Walter, who is a member of Opera Grand Rapids.The ballet was nicely choreographed for the most part and sometimes enhanced the musical performances.
Intermission took place at 9pm, about 50 minutes after the concert began, and Kathy ran into an old friend, Michael Crawford, member of the GR Symphony.
The second half opened with a flourish ~ marching band members situated and playing from every aisle, and the youth chorus marching throughout the arena waving and winding their way back to their just right and left of the stage reserved seats.
As the youth chorus slowly filed back into their seats and the entire company performed the astounding "I Will Rise" by Sean Ivory, complete with arm choreography, we were struck by how white the waving arms of the youth chorus members were. Not much diversity there. The piece itself was incredible, complete with additional percussionists and the text flashed on screens.
In the Hall of the Mountain King, played by the Youth Symphony with the dances performed by the Junior Ballet company, was pretty great and more effective than earlier numbers by the ballet pros. But the Youth Symphony didn't fare as well when playing in tandem with the GR Symphony on Beethoven's Ninth. Varineau was conducting looking at Lockington's back and they didn't pull it together until the finale when Lockington turned around and they conducted together for the final moments.
Carmina Burana, sung, played, and danced to, was fabulous. The opera singers and selections from Tosca were top notch, as were the Broadway singers who performed tunes from Phantom of the Opera. The Youth Symphony sounded excellent and so professional when playing a Stravinsky piece on their own (Berceuse & Finale from Stravinsky's Firebird Suite?). Just a few sour notes here and there reminded us that this wasn't the GR Symphony.
The entire concert was a mostly tight performance but started 10 minutes late, took about a 20 minute intermission and was finished promptly at 10pm. Lockington took his bows and quickly left the stage. There was no interest in an encore or additional bows.
But do you think we could get a program, listing performers and performances? Nowhere to be found. We saw a few people holding them but apparently they printed a dozen or so and called it good. The titles were briefly posted on the screens above but that's really not good enough. We know the programs were sparse because we could not find one anywhere on the way out and usually they are strewn on the floors and in the trash barrels (yes, we looked). Here's hoping this becomes an annual event but with more programs, please!