‘Disney in Concert’ promises the soaring sounds of old favorites
Animation has come a long way since Walt Disney set up his first Hollywood studio in the silent film era. And as his studio added sound, and went to feature length films and diversified to live casts, acquired television channels and opened entertainment parks, it has grown to be a dominant influence in cultural life.
Disney’s success certainly included the music for his films, which was a priority and even in one case featured the famous conductor Leopold Stokowski. The studio has won a dozen Oscars for best original songs. One of its many creative teams produces Pops concert program, capitalizing on the surge in audience enthusiasm for film music.
Disney is a corporate giant, too, and grew larger on March 20 when it acquired 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion, a purchase which excluded Fox News.
Andres Franco will conduct four vocal soloists and the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in “Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time” March 29-31 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall. In addition, the symphony will present a sensory friendly Saturday matinee performance of the program, for which all seats are $15.
The conductor is enthusiastic about the upcoming concerts because he’s already done this program with another orchestra.
A nice combination
“It offers many different types of music,” he says. “Having a little bit of singing, the orchestra and the movies will create a very special night.”
The show includes about 100 minutes of film and four vocal soloists, all supplied by Disney.
“I’ve had the good fortune to work with two of the singers before, Andrew Johnson and Lisa Livesay,” he says. The other soloists are Whitney Claire Kaufman and Aaron Phillips.
“Disney Memories Overture” will open the concert with many early hits, including music from “Fantasia,” Pinocchio” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
The remainder of the program is comprised of two kinds of programming – specific films and thematic groupings, such as “Enchanted Helpers” and “Villains.”
“Each film has its own (musical) style,” Franco says. “At this concert you’ll find, for example, “Sleeping Beauty” is based on the Tchaikovsky score rearranged. In “Princes and the Frog” you get everything including New Orleans style jazz. The title “Hercules Gospel Medley” indicates its musical style.
The power of music to add dimension to film will surely be shown by the medley from the 2013 hit “Frozen,” based on the Hans Christian Anderson story “Snow Queen.”
The concert will conclude with “Circle of Life” from the 1994 mega-hit “The Lion King.”
Franco says the special sensory friendly performance on Saturday is part of efforts to make Heinz Hall more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.
“The Pittsburgh Symphony is a national leader in creating sensory friendly concerts,” he says. “People on the autism spectrum may have problems with sudden loudness, or darkness, but we find a way to make sure everyone will be comfortable, including getting experts involved.”
Preconcert activities will start at 1:15 p.m. for the 2:30 concerts, and will include special programs in different rooms and a meet-and-greet with the musicians.
Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.