puts on a Winning Show"
Red Deer Advocate
whistling New York, New York as he left the Red Deer College Arts Centre
Sunday night. That's exactly how a night of well-chosen and marvelously
executed show tunes can affect you.
Sunday's Red Deer Symphony Orchestra concert was called Andrew Lloyd
Webber and Friends, indicating that while most of the selections were
the work of the British composer, not all of them were. New York, New
York, for example, is by the musical team of Fred Ebb and John Kander.
But no matter who wrote it, every song on the program was a winner. That
was thanks to the combination of Calgary baritone Michael Hope and the
RDSO, under musical director Claude Lapalme. As pointed out by Hope
during the evening, more than half the orchestrations for the songs he
performed just happened to have been written by the maestro himself.
Though Hope has sung this program with several other orchestras, this
was the first time with Lapalme and the RDSO.
Besides being having a wonderful voice, Hope is quite the charmer. As
audience members were settling into their seats at the beginning of the
evening, Hope walked around introducing himself to them.
Anyone who attends RDSO performances regularly knows that while the
music is excellent, there is always a quality of informality to the
evening, thanks largely to Lapalme's easy going style. Add to that
Hope's demeanour and it was twice as informal as usual on Sunday, with
Hope occasionally cracking consciously lame jokes between songs.
Not that there weren't serious moments. Of course there were. One came
when he introduced a song sung by one of the young protagonists in The
Beautiful Game, a musical set just when the fighting in Northern Ireland
was getting going, in the late 60s and early 70s. The young man sings
about his reluctance to take part in a war about hate. Hope sang a
considerable portion of the very thought-provoking song unaccompanied -
before the orchestra joined in.
The show kicked off with the orchestra alone playing the super dramatic,
dare we say, melodramatic, Overture: Phantom of the Opera. It's
certainly stirring and attention-grabbing. That set the tone for the
rest of the evening, which incidentally, officially ended with Phantom
selections. But then, of course, came Hope's well-deserved standing
ovation, which resulted in the audience being rewarded with the
aforementioned New York, New York and You Raise Me Up. The latter song,
music by Rolf Lovland and lyrics by Brendan Graham, although relatively
new, sounds like a traditional Irish folk tune. The combination of Hope
singing and the orchestra, sounding so very Irish, was quite
The program was jam-packed with memorable tunes, all interpreted with
great feeling by Hope.
They included the haunting You Must Love Me, from Evita, The Last Night
of the World, from Miss Saigon, Love Changes Everything, from Aspects of
Love, Macavity the Mystery Cat from Cats, and All I Ask of You, from
Hope is quite the showman, doing quite a sizzling routine to accompany
Too Darn Hot, from Kiss Me Kate, by Cole Porter and having a lot of fun
with Macavity the Mystery Cat.
He also paid tribute to various musicians in the orchestra as well as to
Lapalme and the RDSO as a whole. It should be mentioned that this might
be the first time a drum kit and an electric bass guitar have made an
appearance among the more typical instruments like violin or oboe.
The show definitely lived up to expectations - it's been sold out for
three months, and more than 400 people paid to attend the afternoon's
rehearsal. It's not the first time Hope has sung with the RDSO, so many
of the audience would have known in advance that Hope plus Webber plus
Lapalme was going to add up to a winner.
They were right.