Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Toronto Symphony Orchestra Plays James Bond

We do not often frequent the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), since I can only appreciate classical music in small doses.  Sitting through an entire concert of this would probably put me to sleep.  Every once in a while, the TSO selects music with a contemporary theme that I can recognize and enjoy.  A few years ago, we listened to them play songs from the Swedish group ABBA.  Today, we attended an excellent performance based mainly on music from the James Bond movies.  Following the iconic main Bond theme,  memorable songs spanning the entire movie cannon were covered, ranging from the first theme song "To Russia With Love" through the most recent Oscar-winning song "Skyfall".

The dynamic, personable conductor John Morris Russell humorously introduced each piece, proferring quips about his opinion of the various Bonds (Sean Connery - yeah! Roger Moore - meh...) and movies.  Dressed in a Bond-like black tuxedo, Russell's voice and mannerisms reminded me of comedian Drew Carey.  His banter put the audience at ease and really added to the experience.

Broadway performers Ron Bohmer and Capathia Jenkins provided the male and female vocals for the songs.  While Bohmer was good in his renditions of Thunderball (channeling Tom Jones), "From Russia With Love, Live and Let Die and You Know My Name", it was Jenkins who brought the house down with her power ballads.

Jenkins was stellar as she belted out tune after tune including "For Your Eyes Only, Tomorrow Never Dies, Surrender, Diamonds Are Forever, Skyfall, License to Kill, and The Look of Love.  The final "The Spy Who Loved Me" suite  was a tribute to recently deceased Marvin Hamlisch who wrote the score.  Prior to singing the associated theme song "Nobody Does it Better", Jenkins reminisced about how Hamlisch used to take his cast out to dinner after a show and would order one of every single dessert on the menu so that everyone could share.  During an interlude in one of her songs, while the orchestra played, Jenkins and conductor Russell shared a sweet little dance.

Each vocalist changed costumes about 4-5 times with Bohmer  appearing in everything from tuxedos to jeans, while Jenkins came out in an array of beautiful gowns.

At the beginning of the second half,  a series of spy-genre related theme songs were performed by the symphony including "Mission Impossible, The Avengers, Pink Panther, Shaft and the Peter Gunn Theme".  From our vantage point, the silver-haired saxophone soloist, who was featured in several of these pieces, bore a strong resemblance to Bill Clinton.

Although our seats were way off to the side, we were not very high up and therefore had a good view of two-thirds of the orchestra including the harpist and secondary percussionists who handled the tambourine, triangle, gong and some shaky instrument that sounded like a maraca.  I found myself comparing their relatively minor roles to that of the violinists, who played constantly and vigorously for two hours, and wondered if the musicians were paid based on number of notes played.

 Listening to this beautiful music made me wish that I was even slightly musically inclined.  Maybe if I practised really hard, one day I might be able to handle that triangle.

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