Today (the week before Christmas) the Charlottetown Festival announced plans to re-orchestrate Anne of Green Gables-The Musical, a plan which will see the orchestra reduced by six musicians, from 19 to 13. This is devastating news – news that could have an enormous impact on my life as I know it. For the last 22 years I have played trombone for this production. I have rarely subbed out. I have always imagined doing this until the day I retire, and I can’t believe that there is a possibility it may be over. The Charlottetown Festival has been my bread and butter, my single biggest source of income, and something I truly love doing. Having this work every summer is what has given me the freedom to be a musician on PEI – to do what I want to do, where I want to do it. Losing this job would change my life – I would either have to do something else for a living, or move away from PEI. It is ironic that now, as I pursue a doctorate in performance – the most advanced form of musical training – I may no longer be able to survive as a musician.
But there is a bigger picture here. This is not about me – or even about six musicians – losing our jobs. People lose their jobs every day; it is just part of business in our current economic climate. No, what is at stake here is the artistic integrity of the Anne of Green Gables production itself. Only a year ago the Charlottetown Festival invested in a new “re-imagined” production of Anne of Green Gables, complete with new choreography and sets, in an effort to make the show even better. Why take a step backwards now? To save money, of course. But of all the possible ways to save money, why target the music? Well, music is ephemeral and intangible – you can’t see it or touch it or hold it in your hands and marvel at the skill that went into its creation. At first glance, it may appear to be superfluous – a little extra icing on the cake. But the truth is that it is as integral to the artistic quality of the show as the choreography, the sets, the costumes and the lights – surely the title of the show gives this away: Anne of Green Gables-The Musical. And orchestration matters: imagine watching a movie – Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, even Titanic – with only 13 musicians (or worse, an electronic keyboard) providing the soundtrack instead of a full orchestra. Music is an essential component in providing emotional impact – even gamers know this; witness the current trend for video game productions to include a soundtrack recorded by a live full orchestra. As one producer says:
The only reason to use a live orchestra in a game soundtrack would be to make the game better than if you had not used an orchestra; to make the game more immersive, more engaging, more fun than if it didn’t include the orchestra. And on the business side, it would be helpful if you could sell enough units to pay for it. . . . But, then you might say: “Of course a live orchestra would make our game better, but we can’t afford it!” Well, my goal . . . is to communicate just one thing: In order to make a game that would truly be better due to using an orchestra, can you really afford not to use one? – Jack Wall
An audience attends musical theatre for more than simple entertainment – part of the experience is to be “immersed” and “engaged”, to be emotionally and spiritually enriched and uplifted. The music is an essential part of this. Audiences know the importance of this too – they are a lot smarter than it would seem they are given credit for. And one of the big attractions for the Anne of Green Gables production at the Charlottetown Festival – the one thing that sets us apart from anything else in the region – is our 19-piece orchestra. Audiences know that they can come to Charlottetown and experience something special – something they can’t experience anywhere else – something the Charlottetown Festival promotes as a “Broadway calibre production”. As a national cultural institution (and one that has received increased federal funding recently) that “showcases the best in Canadian visual and performing arts“, the Confederation Centre of the Arts “is the result of a dream shared by all Canadians – to create a place where our country’s history and multicultural character is celebrated, and where the talents of its people are nurtured and showcased“. If their goal is to provide quality programming at a national level, they need to aim to maintain the musical quality of their flagship musical production. 13 musicians do not an orchestra make.
And what about the wishes of Norman Campbell (the composer) and his wife Elaine, two of the co-creators of Anne of Green Gables-The Musical? Years ago the orchestra was reduced to its current size of 19 – a size that was believed to be the absolute minimum required to do justice to the music. Before he died, Norman made it very clear that his wish was to see the orchestra preserved, and Elaine did her best (before her own death) to see that this wish would be upheld – by donating a large sum of money to the Charlottetown Festival specifically earmarked for the purpose of maintaining the orchestra. I guess now that they are dead, their wishes no longer matter…
Below is the press release that was issued this morning. What do you think?
For Immediate Release
Centre plans to re-orchestrate Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ in 2012
(Charlottetown, PE – December 19, 2011)- After presenting a successfully re-imagined Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ last summer, the Confederation Centre of the Arts is planning to re-orchestrate the music of this flagship production in 2012. The re-orchestration work will take place in the spring and will be presented for the 2012 season of The Charlottetown Festival.
“Ensuring that we preserve the magical theatre experience that audiences have enjoyed for many years is of the utmost importance. Although the musical score for Anne of Green Gables has been altered over the past 47 years, we have never made a change to this extent.” says Anne Allen, Artistic Director of The Charlottetown Festival.
This change in the score will mean the musical can be presented with a reduced orchestra. The current orchestra includes 19 musicians. The re-orchestrated score will require 13 musicians.
“The opportunity in re-orchestrating is that should we decide to tour Anne, this reduced orchestra size would make it more feasible. The reduced orchestra size will also allow for some contemporary changes and flexibility.” adds Allen.
The change will also allow The Charlottetown Festival to keep theatre ticket prices reasonable for visitors and Islander’s alike according to Confederation Centre CEO Jessie Inman.
“We want to continue to offer a first class, affordable musical theatre experience,” says Inman.
The contract to re-orchestrate the musical will be assigned in early 2012.
Anne of Green Gables – The Musical™ is sponsored by MacLean Construction and plays selected dates from July 3 to September 26, 2012. Tickets for the hit musical start at $20 and can be purchased at the Confederation Centre Box Office, toll-free by calling 1-800-565-0278, or online at www.charlottetownfestival.com
The Charlottetown Festival major sponsor is APM. Media sponsors are The Guardian, CTV, Ocean 100 and K-Rock.
Tracy Stretch, Communications Manager, Confederation Centre of the Arts
902-628-6135 | 902-314-5966
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.confederationcentre.com