What if you were to imagine the sumptuous splendor of Disney’s most seminal animated works, combined with the foremost group of musicians, whose excellence of musical execution is second to none?
You would get LACO (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra) at the Movies: An Evening of Disney Silly Symphonies at the 1926-built Orpheum Theatre in the Broadway Theater District of Los Angeles.
And so on the evening of Saturday, June 4th, a crowd of over 1,200 people bore witness to one mystical moment after another – a transcendent amalgamation of sight and sound, punctuated with love and care. Granted, though many in LACO have worked with and continue to partner with Disney in the studio, there is no substitute for the live experience.
Six-time Emmy Award-Winner, Mark Watters, was on hand to conduct the orchestral scores to seven Silly Symphonies between 1929 and 1939, including “The Skeleton Dance,” “Flowers and Trees,” “Three Little Pigs,” “The Country Cousin,” “The Old Mill,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “Music Land.”
The first thing to transform observers into a state of awe were the sweet-sounding details, and the flawlessness in which they were attended to. For instance, sounds that may have seemed difficult to emulate with an instrument, like bird whistles and chirps, were actually produced by the percussion section.
Such meticulousness reminded those in attendance of the complexity and utmost timing between the human tune-makers and the automated projection of visual images. This was manifested in the black-and-white production, “The Skeleton Dance,” the very first of the Silly Symphonies to not only be produced, but directed by Walt Disney. Accordingly, every time the skeletons would dance or use each other’s spines as xylophones, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra would be right on point with each vertebra and skeletal vicissitude.
In “Flowers and Trees,” arguably the most heartwarming of the Silly Symphonies, audience members saw the incredible and creatively depicted commercial short of how two trees defy a black-rooted adversary before joining in holy matrimony. “Music Land” has a similar premise of forbidden love – but this time with enlivened instruments who meet halfway between the “Isle of Jazz” and the “Land of Symphony” in order to unite on the “Bridge of Harmony.” Consequently, every time an animated violin, saxophone, or tree played a harp, its human counterparts on stage would aurally bring the shapes and contours to life – live and in the most resonant of colors.
Furthermore, in “Three Little Pigs” “The Old Mill,” and “The Ugly Duckling,” the orchestra did a superb job of building to crescendos, and conveying the suspense of opposition, whether in the case of a big bad wolf, rough-and-tumble weather, or parental rejection.
With regard to the latter, the music that underscored “The Ugly Duckling” was oftentimes subtle, though conducive to the cockles of the heart, even when the horn was used to delineate the cacophonous quack of the unwanted duck (who turns out to be a swan) in relation to his melodious but negligent family.
Another high point happened during “The Country Cousin,” which is about a provincial mouse who can’t quite abide city life. For example, amid the last few frames, the musicians remained ordered within the proceedings even when highlighting disorder. In particular, they beautifully rendered the clutter of audio entropy when the country mouse is feverishly attempting to evade a cavalcade of cars on the street.
All in all, the night proved over and over again — via the collaboration of instrumental sound and visual dynamics courtesy of Disney – that the animated films many of us grow up on are not without an uncanny fastidiousness and precision. Unequivocally, it is with such grand group efforts that magic is made, the senses are gifted with lasting memories, and lives are forever touched.
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