Wednesday, February 24, 2010

eh, what’s up doc?

It’s always nice to go to the symphony and see kids there.  And last Saturday night Powell Symphony Hall was full of kids.  And adults enjoying themselves like kids.  

The event was Bugs Bunny on Broadway.  The Saint Louis Symphony, conducted by Bugs Bunny (via film) and George Daugherty on the podium, played along with classic films starring Bugs and friends.   We learned a little local history too.

Daugherty asked us if we knew anything about Carl Stalling, the musical director for these cartoon films.  He was born in Lexington, Missouri.   Where is Lexington, Missouri, he asked us?    Silence from the audience.   He didn’t know either.   But Carl had, early in life gone to Kansas City (we knew where that was) and met a very young Walt Disney.  He worked with Disney on a couple of cartoon short films.  According to Daugherty he also lived in St. Louis for a while, where he was the organist at the St. Louis Theater.   Do you know where the St. Louis Theater was, he asked us?  Why yes – the same building where we were sitting.  It was renamed Powell Symphony Hall when the Symphony bought it in the 1960’s.  

Carl Stalling didn’t stay with Walt Disney, he went to Warner Brothers and stayed there for years.  He was responsible for the scores of many classic cartoons.   In the 1930’s the principal cellist for the Warner Brothers studio orchestra (which recorded all the music for Warner Brothers films, including the cartoons) was Eleanor Aller.  Aller was one of the first women to become a principal cellist of an orchestra, and she was the mother of Leonard Slatkin, the music director of the Saint Louis Symphony for years.

All of these St. Louis connections were fun but the music was even more fun.   We heard Wagner and Strauss and Smetana and Rossini.  We saw cartoons.  We laughed at Roadrunner.  We felt for Elmer Fudd.   And at the end we heard a rip roaring rendition of the William Tell Overture.  High O, Silver.  Awaaaaaaaay!

This is what we started with and it was fun to watch it with a theater full of people and full symphonic sound (the music is "A Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna" by Franz von Suppé):

Bravo!  (And yes the Symphony played the Warner Brothers theme before every cartoon.  And the th, th, th, that’s all theme.)