Music tells the story

March 01, 2007|by KATE COLEMAN

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will welcome the performance troupe Tales & Scales to The Maryland Theatre to present "Just Beyond the Junkyard" on Saturday, March 3.

Classically trained musicians all, flutist Zara "Zadie" Lawler, bass trombonist Neil Parsons, oboist Meaghan Heinrich and percussionist Bonnie Whiting Smith will act and dance and play their instruments to tell the story of Renny Hall, a little girl whose big imagination often gets her in trouble. The troupe will perform with the orchestra on stage.

Tales & Scales, founded in 1986, specializes in "musictelling." Music is the primary force in advancing the action, said Jeff Gruszewski, managing director of the Evansville, Ind.-based troupe.

"It's the key voice in how the story is told," Gruszewski said.

That approach speaks directly to the reason the MSO offers a family concert.

Of course the orchestra wants to introduce young folks to the concert experience and build a future audience, Schulze acknowledged.


"But it's mostly to allow especially young ears to begin to feel comfortable with the language of music. To feel forever that it is their language as well and that there is no divide," she said.

Lawler, who portrays Renny, grew up loving music in a small town outside New York City. She played the piano for a couple of years and played recorder in school. In fifth grade, she chose drums.

"I just thought it was going to be SO fun to get to do all of those cool things and bang on things all the time," she said in a phone interview from Evansville. But she really wanted to be able to play songs, so after about five weeks, she switched to the flute.

Lawler earned her master of music degree from The Juilliard School, made her concerto debut with the Houston Symphony in 1995 and was assistant principal flute of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra until 1998.

She was working in New York as a freelance musician when she heard about the Tales & Scales audition. She thought the job would be a good way to hone her performance skills for about a year and she joined the ensemble in 2000. She's now in her seventh year.

"Playing for children - and this is something that I didn't know until I joined Tales & Scales - is extremely satisfying because they are such an honest audience," Lawler said. "They don't have any social barriers about telling us what they think."

"Just Beyond the Junkyard" is one of three works in Tales & Scales' repertoire this season.

The staging for the piece, composed by Doug Lofstrom, with book by Margaret Ford-Taylor and choreography by Carter McAdams, is complex, Gruszewski said. Action, dance and dialogue must work in harmony with the music.

The audience will have a job to do, too.

"We've got music. We've got stories," Gruszewski said. "But it's really up to the kids' imaginations."

Schulze is looking forward to the performance.

"It will be great fun for audience and, I think, orchestra, too," she said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents "Just Beyond the Junkyard," featuring musical storytellers Tales & Scales

WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday, March 3

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $20 for adults and $12 for children 12 and younger and are available by calling 301-797-4000 and at the MSO box office's new location at 30 W. Washington St. in Hagerstown. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Family Four-Pack discounts offer one free ticket for every four purchased.

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