Animal Inspiration (KC Metropolis Review)

By Christopher Gage
Mon, Nov 14, 2016

Composers have often looked to the animal realm for inspiration. On Friday night, the Kansas City Civic Orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Michael Mapp, presented a concert comprising animal-themed works as part of their pops series, with a few surprises and special guests to keep the evening interesting.

The orchestra opened with “Hoe-Down” from Aaron Copland’s Rodeo, familiar to many as the music accompanying commercials for beef. While the themes were clear and energetic, this piece was the weakest on the program: several parts had intonation or rhythm issues, and the percussion section lagged after all the grand pauses. The musicians seemed more at home in the next program selection, “Baby Elephant Walk” by Henry Mancini, from the movie Hatari! Afterwards, as a special treat, Mapp played tenor saxophone while concertmaster Carol Chatelain conducted the theme from The Pink Panther. Both pieces had an easygoing, stylistic swing that worked especially well for the orchestra and the space.

Meteorologist and local celebrity Bryan Busby joined Dr. Michael Mapp and the Kansas CityCivic Orchestra in a concert featuring works about animals, culminating with a fun performance of Sergei Prokoviev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

Selections from Le carnaval des animaux (Carnival of the Animals) by Camille Saint-Saëns had a twist: instead of listing the movements in the program, Mapp, after each movement, asked the audience for guesses as to which animal was being spotlighted. The first two selections, “Hens and Roosters” and “Tortoises,” received a mostly mezzo forte performance and lacked direction; the most successful movements were subsequent ones with fewer players. Jason Fuerst, for instance, gave the piano solo in “Kangaroos” a lovely sense of expression, easing into the grace notes to emulate the hopping, halting nature of a kangaroo’s gait; during the famous movement “The Swan,” cellist Hyerim Mapp played a gorgeous solo, full of elegance and life.

Bryan Busby, chief meteorologist for KMBC-TV, narrated Sergei Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf. He brought many special touches to his role, including a convincing duck voice and some extra theatrics, which the audience appreciated. The orchestra gave an excellent performance of this piece, especially flutist Mary Holzhausen, who played the musical role of the bird. The pièce de résistance of the evening, the Prokoviev capped off a concert that the near-capacity church appreciated and enjoyed immensely.

Kansas City Civic Orchestra
A Musical Menagerie
Friday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Atonement Lutheran Church
9948 Metcalf Avenue, Overland Park, KS