121214 NACO plays Michael Jackson, Ottawa, ON

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I’ve worked with the National Arts Centre Orchestra for years.  It’s a really great job that has offered me a lot of exposure to live orchestral music and the amazing NACO members who play it.  In addition to experiencing this great music on the clock I am fortunate to get complimentary tickets for shows now and then so I tend to get out to at least one or two concerts per season, which is an excellent perk to an already fantastic gig.  

For some reason I usually picked pop shows when it came to selecting the freebies though on December 12th, 2014 the novelty of these concerts finally wore off, perhaps for good.  This show featured a handful of singers and a guest conductor fronting the orchestra through the music of Michael Jackson, and while the material and the playing was obviously top-notch the show fell completely flat.  

The singers were fine, each would be a clear contender on any of those big television talent shows.  The excellent material was arranged well and was played by some of the best orchestral players in the world, and yet it took every effort for me to even feign interest in the concert.  It’s not that the musicians didn’t take the music seriously – though it’s not the most challenging material these are professional performers and they dug into the arrangements with an appropriate gusto – and when the music had to groove the music grooved; these guys can pop things up when they have to.  

To be honest I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy this show; maybe the music felt somehow not worthy of the musicians or on the other hand maybe these sort of musicians just couldn’t do justice to the music no matter how hard they tried, but it was like oil and water, or more aptly like when I saw Adrian Belew play with David Bowie – it was just an awkward pairing of excellent talent.

I’ve seen this orchestra play the music of Queen, Led Zeppelin, James Bond, and so many more to varying degrees of success but I think I might be done with this sort of show.  Maybe it’s best if I stick to serious music when I see serious musicians.  

Though there is this nifty-sounding Star Wars concert coming up that I’d love to be at…

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