The PEI Symphony and Barachois
Review by Treva McNally
There was hardly an empty seat in the Confederation Center when the Prince Edward Island Symphony Orchestra presented its Pops Superspecial! in February with special guests, Barachois. Following a decision to present the pops concert in the winter instead of the fall, the Symphony enjoyed a sold out show during what is traditionally the lowest attended month of its concert season, and the audience enjoyed a heart-warming performance during one of the grayer months of the year.
A pops concert is just that-popular music performed by a symphony orchestra and it is a treat to listen to it. If you're not a fan of classical music, you might think you don't recognize the featured music, Peer Gynt Suite No.1 by Edvard Grieg and Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 by Franz Liszt, but both pieces have both been in the scores for many movies, including The Majestic, Moscow on the Hudson, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. These familiar melodies make for very enjoyable listening and the audience responded appreciatively as the Confederation Center was filled with the beautiful rich tones of sixty skilled musicians. The orchestra was led by James Mark, Professor of Music at Mount Allison University and Conductor of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra. His warm personality and obvious pleasure in what he was doing spilled over to the audience who enjoyed his interaction with them.
The guests for this concert were Barachois and before the concert began, it was difficult to imagine these foot-tapping Acadian performers being backed by a symphony orchestra. But from the moment they joined the orchestra on stage, the resulting electricity was felt by both the audience and the performers. Many symphony goers had never seen Barachois perform, and many of the Barachois fans in the audience had never been to a symphony and both audience groups were impressed by what they saw and heard. The Barachois members are excellent musicians, but being backed by the Symphony added a depth which enhanced their distinctive sound. At one point, when Chuck Arsenault was singing an old sixth century French song, he turned to the symphony musicians behind him and looked amazingly at them because the result of his voice blending with the orchestra was so effective. He later jokingly asked the symphony musicians if they wanted to go on tour with Barachois.
Barachois received a standing ovation at the end of its performance, and the Symphony received a sustained ovation that brought its conductor back for extra bows. They all deserved the ovations-it was a first-rate concert.