So, who killed the composer?
That was the question that was on everyone's mind who attended the Utah Symphony concert Tuesday night. Actor Mark Gollaher donned a detective's trench coat and fedora and interrogated the different sections of the Utah Symphony.
He questioned the strings, the brass, the woodwinds, the percussion and concertmaster Ralph Matson about the death of all the popular composers Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and the rest.
The symphony sections answered the investigative questions by playing selections from a score penned by (living) composer Nathaniel Stookey. In doing so, the symphony as a whole fell into the sinister trap of introducing itself to the younger audience members.
"The Composer Is Dead" is an educational project by Stookey and author Daniel Handler, who is better known as Lemony Snicket, author of the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books.
Gollaher took on the Snicket narration with ease and caught the writer's ironic and wry dark humor. The young and older audience members enjoyed the performance and learned a little more about the symphony.
By the way, the culprit was David Cho, the Utah Symphony's assistant conductor. Cho led the symphony sections that highlighted Gollaher's narration but was found guilty of "butchering" a number of composers. Strangely enough, Cho was also found guilty of keeping those said composers alive by making sure the symphony performs those composers' music.
All in all it was a light, fun and educational production.
The second half of the evening featured Cho in another role a musical medical examiner.
Cho emerged in a white lab coat and donned a stethoscope and white rubber gloves and, through a little lecture, dissected the 1919 version of Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite."
After highlighting a few sections and summarizing the story of Ivan and the Firebird, the symphony then performed the dynamic suite in its entirety.
When the music hit the rousing finale, the audience could do nothing but applaud loudly and stand for an ovation.With family programs such as "The Composer Is Dead," the Utah Symphony shows that it not only can have some fun but also recognizes how important it is to introduce culture and art to young people.