A Christmas Cracker Nov 2014   

St James Church, Lower Hutt.  Saturday, 29th Nov.

Treble clefIntro

This concert was the final for the year, and as usual, the second half had a humouresque element

The treble clef at right is etched onto a window in the choir room. It appears to be floating in space, with the Lower Hutt Central Library in the background.

It is easier to take photos at the rehearsal in the afternoon. Here you see a nice mixture of scrolls and bells. 

Scrolls and bells.

The Concert

Each half of the concert comprised a trios of piece. The first began with Bolero and ended with The Thieving Magpie. The second began with the Nutcracker Suite, then the world premiere of  "A Christmas Cracker", and ended with Leroy Anderson's A Christmas Festival.

Ravel - Bolero
This highly popular piece begins with the impossibility of a pianissimo snare drum. (Snare drums were designed to alert a whole regiment.) Anyway, we want to get the rhythm imbedded at this stage so p rather than ppp is fine. The piece builds up by sections sequentially beginning to play. On this occasion, sequence was emphasised by the sections entering stage right, left and mid as required.   Over the 15 minutes of snare beat, the you-can't- march-to-this tap rapped on. The second and wider photo is about a third of the way through, when the celli and wind have joined. It was a great start to the concert. Everyone likes Bolero, even the critics who search for ways to top Ravel's own critique. (See Wikipedia)

Bolero - Lone snare Mid bolero - half the orchestra
Orchestra enjoying The Thieving Magpie. It's a lovely over-the-top piece that Brent described as attracting cats onto UTube.

Thieving Magpie

Second Half

 A  mild change in dress code. Those wishing to wear elf hats are free to do so. Brent however is wearing a  North Pole Wind Sock (Elf Avionics.) Hopefully, it was returned before the pre-flight checks on Santa's sleigh.

HVO are playing The Nutcracker Suite - a Miniature Overture and seven specific dances from the ballet . Each of those dances is a delight in itself. Short but very evocative.

World premiere - A Christmas Cracker

This piece has a simple premise : If the 1812 can have cannons as part of the percussion, then a specially composed piece with a Christmas cracker or two is not a problem. Well, one or two wouldn't be. In actual fact, the performance used 59 crackers, and only enough bought for one practice. Additionally, the composition was by Brent, a nimble percussionist, who had the optimistic attitude that a slow beginning allows time for skills to develop, but the piece needed a cracking pace to be impressive. Which is also true. But how do you watch where the other guys hands are, and look where the next cracker is stashed, and read the music, and the conductor is the composer. Would something crack?

Amazingly, it worked very well.

The intro set the atmosphere nicely. In a charming German accent, the history was explained. The details have fallen through a crack, but Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria probably came in somewhere. His partner looked like he had a hobby making crackers by mining defunct minefields in the Sinai Peninsular.

This was avante garde charge-of-the-crackers-brigade music.

As you can see, (left to right), it worked with precision at the start, and even much of the way through. The prestissimo end seems to show a change of technique where Egypt has suddenly developed the multi-cracker-grab and Germany has developed the "Vot Schweinhund has sviped ze next Kraker" gasp. This merely showed up on photo analysis afterwards. It all seemed to go excellently and ended with a bang.

Cracker mid Cracker end
Barbara timps No percussionist would desecrate the profession by using a cracker to make a noise. This was the source of the cracker bangs: Doreen on her last performance with the HVO.

During the final Leroy Anderson Christmas Festival, younger listeners combed the tossed bangers for hats and toy trivia.

Christmas is for children.
Collecting cracker contents