The sold out audience in the four tiers of seats at the Kennedy Center rose to their feet with a roar on the afternoon of February 12, when the world premiere of the orchestral adaptation of the book, The Man with the Violin, ended.
Behind the orchestra was a large wide screen on which was projected imagery created by Dusan Petricic for the book on which the concert is based, animated by the Montreal production studio, Normal. Smaller vertical screens flanked the NSO on either side.
Michele Norris, host of NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ and an Emmy-award-winning journalist, narrated the story. According to Mary Gordon, National Editor at the National Arts Centre, Michele “was wonderful. She inhabited the characters she was playing — wide–eyed as Dylan, and tired and exasperated as the mother. The timing of her words with the score worked beautifully.”
The original music was composed by the Oscar- and Grammy-winning Anne Dudley. Michael Stern conducted. Joshua Bell (of course) played the part of ‘the man with the violin’, dressed (of course) in jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap — as he was the day of the famous Washington Post experiment at L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station ten years ago. Again, according to Mary Gordon, “The music is beautiful, lyrical, and a real showcase for Bell.”
I owe a big thanks to Mary, who first brought The Man with the Violin to the National Arts Centre’s attention, which led to this co-commission with the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. I also thank Geneviève Cimon, the NAC’s Director of Music Education and Community Engagement for championing the work, and Daphne Burt, the NAC Orchestra’s Director of Artistic Planning, who was the driving force behind its production and saw it through to completion. “I think its essence,” says Mary, “the soul of the book, comes through very well in this orchestral version.”
The Canadian premiere of “The Man with the Violin” is scheduled to take place at the NAC in Ottawa on December 20. I hope to see you there!