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A mime of a good time
To open its 80th season, the Port Angeles Symphony takes the silent route, hosting the Magic Circle Mime Co. and its show “The Listener.”
The comedic duo of Maggie Petersen and Douglas MacIntyre has worked together more than 20 years in theatrical works for orchestras across the U.S. and around the world, including the The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the National Symphony Orchestra several times.
Conductor Adam Stern, going into his eighth year, has worked with the mimes as associate conductor for the Seattle Symphony a few times for other children's shows.
“From the word 'go,' I always loved what they do,” Stern said. “They honor the music and have a lot of fun.”
Serving as protagonists of sorts for the symphony's performance on Saturday, Sept. 22, the mimes change the evening of music into an introductory lesson helping the audience learn about the music, the orchestra and the art of listening.
“The Listener” is scripted and Stern said it shows how people can more intelligently listen to symphonic music. He'll interact with the mimes throughout the evening, including a part where one mime completely silences the orchestra.
“I have to literally scream to get noise back,” Stern said.
Music is handpicked by the mime troupe and features Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 39,” which Stern said turns into a silent movie moment, Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture” from “Candide,” selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker,” Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” and Johannes Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture."
Both MacIntyre and Petersen have backgrounds in theater and instrumental music and incorporate that into presentations such as their newest show, "Orchestra from Planet X,” which explores the impact of the New World on the music of the orchestra.
With past shows, Stern said the Port Angeles Symphony slowly is seeing more younger people attend its performances.
“It's a slow process and tends to happen after a show like (“The Listener”) where there are some kids who really like it,” he said. “Even if they come back once or twice then we've done our jobs.”
In his time with the symphony, he finds the group remains strong with a loyal audience base and an influx of new listeners.
“I'm not doing anything radical. I introduce new music along with tried-and-true-favorites,” he said. “With the upcoming season it's hard for me not to be biased because I'm only programming music I'm hopelessly in love with.”
He finds “The Listener” is a good complement to the orchestra and doesn't compromise the symphony's integrity.
“In our way, the symphony is creating a way to appeal to a wide array of people and at the same time not do it in some crude way,” he said.
Stern said there's bad news about symphonies across the U.S. closing doors, cutting salaries and audiences falling off but rather than resort to gimmicks, he plans to stick to music.
“Play the best music you can and that's the best way to get back on track,” he said.
About 70 people make up the Port Angeles Symphony. To see its full concert schedule, visit www.portangelessymphony.org.