CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In early 1886, the French composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns decided to have a little fun. He should have been working on his famed Third Symphony, but he kept tinkering that year with a playful musical suite he eventually titled “The Carnival of the Animals.”
While working on the piece, he reportedly wrote a letter, stating, “mais c’est si amusant,” or “but it’s so fun!”
That’s a perfect description of the work, but the word “fun” seems a bit inadequate when describing the Gateway Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming, family concert of “The Carnival of the Animals” at 3 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Austin Peay State University Mabry Concert Hall. That afternoon, the orchestra will once again join with visual artists and APSU art professors Barry Jones and Kell Black to create an astounding, hybrid concert experience.
“It’s refreshing, it’s new, it's spontaneous. It’s a challenge,” Dr. Gregory Wolynec, professor of music and GCO conductor, said. “This is going to be a pretty unique concert.”
In a similar concert last October, the orchestra performed German composer HK Gruber’s “Frankenstein!!” while Black and Jones projected movie clips, live images and animated drawings onto the massive back wall of the concert hall.
“One of the really cool parts last year was they animated artwork by Kell’s eight-year-old son,” Wolynec said. “This time, they will do animation again, using drawings by fifth graders.”
More than 100 Clarksville-Montgomery County School System students submitted drawings for this concert. Over the last few weeks, APSU students in an Electronics Imaging class have worked to animate those pictures.
“This is a freshman-level course,” Black said. “When I told them this would have a real-world application and that their animation would be projected almost two stories tall with a fantastic orchestra playing in front of them, they jumped on this like nothing else this semester.”
The Nov. 3 concert marks the first time the GCO has specifically targeted a younger audience. The day will begin at 2 p.m. with craft projects for children relating to the concert and an instrument petting zoo, facilitated by Dr. Eric Branscome, APSU director of music education, with the help of APSU music education students. At 3 p.m., the children and their families will then be treated to the popular, classical work.
“It’s a great way to introduce them to the instruments,” Wolynec said. “Each instrument in this work is used in some way that is sort of stereotypical of that instrument. The flute gets to be the aviaries, the birds. Double bass gets to be the elephants.”
While the orchestra plays, Black and Jones will move about on stage between computer stations and mixing boards to create the images above.
“One of the things that was really popular last year was the live video, so we’ve purchased a bunch of small birdhouse cameras, and we’re going to place those throughout the orchestra,” Jones said. “So at any time I can hit a button and go live throughout the orchestra.”
On Monday, Nov. 4, the GCO and Black and Jones will host two encore performances of “The Carnival of the Animals” for more than 1,200 students from all across Clarksville-Montgomery County.
The Nov. 3 concert is geared for families. Tickets are $30 for families and $20 for military families, regardless of the number of children. Individual tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the orchestra’s website,www.gatewaychamberorchestra.com.