ORLANDO — Sometimes conductors like to spice things up a bit, Albert George Schram noted, to cut loose and tackle something new.
That’s exactly how Schram felt on Saturday afternoon, about an hour before the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra launched into a program of Latin music, an opportunity to demonstrate their rich musical diversity, the conductor noted. It was something, he added, that the Orlando Philharmonic’s musicians have been eagerly looking forward to.
“We have an afternoon of great Latin music,” said Schram during a pre-concert talk with the audience at the Bob Carr Theater. “It used to be if a conductor would look for a good Latin charge, it was hard to do. But that world has totally changed, and that is because of some great artists who have emerged.”
One of the most impressive, Schram added, is Arturo Sandoval, who was born in Artemisa, a small town on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba, and began studying classical trumpet at the age of 12 — who would go on to become a protégé of legendary Jazz master Dizzy Gillespie and a Grammy Award winner in his own right. The renowned classical musician was in Orlando on Saturday to join the Orlando Philharmonic on stage at the Bob Carr.
Sandoval, who performed an afternoon and evening show with the OPO, told the first audience they were getting a great bargain.
“You’re so lucky,” Sandoval said. “Here you get all this energy. The people who show up at 8 o’clock, they’re going to get what’s left.”
The show was divided into two segments. Schram led the OPO through six Latin-themed pieces, including a song by Hollywood composer John Williams that was used in the “Star Wars” film series, “Cantina Band.”
“I’ve picked some of my favorite arrangements of great Latin songs,” Schram said, adding that this show gave his musicians an opportunity to demonstrate what they could do with “the incredible use of rhythm. Percussion — percussion is one of the main ingredients, and it is so vital and intense.”
The John Williams piece, he acknowledged, was not, strictly speaking, a Latin piece — but they could certainly make it sound like one, he added.
“Well, maybe it’s not all Latin, but it’s somewhat related,” he said. “We have a little piece from ‘Star Wars,’ believe it or not, because it really cooks, and I like it a lot, so I said, ‘Why not’? It’s also a real challenge for the orchestra to play. It’s quite virtuosic.”
Another song chosen for the first half was “Tico Tico” by Carmen Dragon, which as Schram noted is a Brazilian tune whose meaning is sometimes confusing to those outside of Brazil.
“I call it ‘Little Tick, little tick’ in translation, which of course is really wrong,” Schram said. “It is the name of a little bird I have never heard of, a Rufous-collard Sparrow,” a reference to the bird from Mexico.
“So now you know,” Scram added. “Talk about Trivial Pursuit.”
Schram was also thrilled to have been given an opportunity to perform with Sandoval.
“I had not met him until yesterday,” he said. “The man is quite legendary, and he is an incredible trumpet player. He’s got a hot band behind him, and they are extremely gifted.”
In-between songs, Sandoval talked about how challenging the trumpet was to master as an instrumental.
“When you open the trumpet case, the first thing the trumpet does is put a middle finger right up to your face,” Sandoval said. “Dizzy used to say, ‘The trumpet is going to win tonight.’ ”
When he first started to study music, Sandoval added, that wasn’t his preferred instrument.
“My first initiation wasn’t the trumpet,” he said. “My first initiation was the piano.”
But in his town, the piano was considered something that girls play, he said, and people thought there was something funny about boys who play the piano — so he went with the trumpet instead.
“Now I’m going to play the piano,” he said, as he sat down at the keyboards. “I hope you like it — and if you don’t, I’m sorry about you, because I’m going to have some fun.”
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