February Concerts - February 19, 2016

February concerts will feature video game music, ballet

February 19, 2016
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•  WPI’s musicians are having a busy February. After last week’s concerts at Mechanics Hall and in Spaulding Recital Hall, they are now preparing for two events that could not be more musically different.

First up is the WPI Concert Band’s Video Game Concert this Sunday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m. in Alden Memorial.

The Concert Band’s February concert themes have included Exploration, Silent Movies, and Space, among others.

In choosing video game music for this year, director Douglas Weeks believed that the premise would appeal to the students on stage as well as those in the audience.

“Given the popularity of video games everywhere, particularly on a campus such as WPI, students are familiar with the music,” he says. “They like both listening to it and the opportunity to perform it.”

The music is acoustic, often composed with a “movie score sound,” and designed for large band and orchestra.

As a result, it “lends itself to the types of ensembles we have here,” says Weeks.

The 12 selections are divided by a brief intermission. The list includes music from HaloCivilization IV, and Tetris as well as the “Super Mario Medley.”  The band will also play the main theme from Myst III, the Suite from World of Warcraft and “I Was Born for This” from the Grammy-nominated soundtrack of Journey.

As the band plays, videos will be projected as a backdrop, combining visuals and sound for “unique entertainment in a concert setting,” Weeks says.

Three days later, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m., both venue and musical style shift as the WPI Orchestra takes the stage at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, and a thousand schoolchildren fill the seats for Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” along with “Hansel and Gretel: A Two Part Ballet Series” by Boston composer Larry Bell.

Weeks directs the orchestra along with assistant director Samantha McGill ’09. This is the third year the WPI musicians will perform with the Youth Ballet of Worcester, a collaboration of WPI and Ballet Arts Worcester.

The highly competitive Youth Ballet, for students age 13–19, is the resident youth company of BAW. It was formed “to give young, capable dancers a pre-professional experience for a professional dance lifestyle,” notes the BAW website.

The morning’s performance may be the first theatrical experience for many of the children in attendance, and the Hanover hopes that the blending of “music and movement” will help “cultivate [their] musical taste from the start.”

Certainly, says Weeks, it is a positive experience for audience and performers alike.  “This is an ideal opportunity for students to work in the arts as part of their WPI education.”

– BY LAURA PORTER