Themed Music

(or: It Probably Made More Sense in Italian)

Symphony, chorale put on “King” of a show

Sue Langenberg, Rockford Register-Star, 3/22/2010

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra invited Rockford’s Mendelssohn Chorale to share the stage at the Coronado Performing Arts Center on Saturday evening.

Rockford’s in northern Illinois, about an hour each from Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, and Dubuque, Iowa.

Figure 1: The Phantom Regiment Drum & Bugle Corps, also from Rockford, Illinois.

It was part of the Classic Series themed “God Save the King.”


So I did a little research. “Themed” seems sort of intuitively okay, but this usage is awfully strange. The adjectival form “themed” of the noun “theme” used in conjunction with an adjective or noun, and almost always after a hyphen, e.g.:

The girl’s princess-themed birthday party…
A dinosaur-themed miniature golf park…

...is becoming more common in the entertainment industry and related fields, but is slow to find acceptance in common usage and among grammarians. “Themed” as past tense (of a verb “to theme”) is pretty rare (92% of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel were against it), but it works, I guess. Would you say, “I themed my daughter’s birthday party.”? I wouldn’t.

Anyhow, I thought that was interesting. Perhaps, I mused, I’m dealing with a real wordsmith here, someone pushing the boundaries of English usage and up on the latest trends. What a treat!

With about 150 musicians on stage, although the estimates ranged, it was a compelling event to experience the full potential of home-grown talent performing a classy concert in a sort of musical heaven.

Ah, well. Not so much.

That sentence needs a brain transplant.

Figure 2: Steve Martin, 1983.

Even though the estimates (of attendance?) ranged [sic], the classy-ness of the concert was compelling. In a musical heaven, in Rockford, Illinois, sort of.

Three esteemed composers, Felix Mendelssohn, George Frideric Handel and Joseph Haydn, were saluted in the program.

Saluted…by having their music performed, one surmises.

They were historically connected by birth, death and professional accomplishment, said RSO musical director Steven Larsen.

All three were born, died, and composed music? I’ll give you that. No wonder he’s the music director!

While all three were born in German-speaking countries, they produced the majority of their works in England.

Haydn produced the majority of his works in England?

No. No, he did not.

That is silly. That is a silly, silly thing to assert; and by “silly I mean “false”.

Because I know you read the Wikipedia article on Haydn (see below), so you should know that he lived in Austria for his entire life (1732-1809, right, music students?) and made two trips to London (in 1791-92 and 1794-95).

Moreover, the program selections had a celebratory feel at the dawn of rebirth and renewal, a special rite of spring with each “Alleluia.”

I can’t decide if “program selections” or “dawn of rebirth and renewal” is more deliciously redundant. Just “dawn of rebirth” alone is precious. Because, you know: classical music, first day of spring. That kind of thing.

Handel’s Coronation Anthem from “Zadok the Priest” was composed for all vocal ranges and full orchestra.

I think “all vocal ranges” means “chorus”? Also, Zadok the Priest is an awesome name. For a thing.

Choruses from Handel’s “Judas Maccabeus,” an oratorio in three acts, were performed next after Larsen made light of the actual text that may or may not connect to contemporary appreciation.

Wow. This must be translated from Italian or something (“made light of”? Like: illuminated? Ridiculed? What?).

The text—the actual text—may or may not connect to our modern “appreciation”, appreciation being what it is these days.

Special guest tenor Geoffrey Agpalo and baritone Gerard Sundberg joined the orchestra and chorale to reign supreme.

Reign supreme?

Agpalo, who sang in selections from "Judas Maccabeus," began his singing career in lighter musical venue, but changed his focus to operatic roles.

Make sense. Lighter musical venue is a great place to cut your tooth.

He was an intriguing presence while Sundberg seemed to reign in pure form with his beautiful and clear voice.

There’s “reign” again. Is this about the way the concert is themed?

Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 in D Major, “The Clock,” was performed in the typical four movements with the rhythmic ticking featured throughout.

That’s a relief. Nowadays, what with their new-fangled ideas and ankle-revealing footwear, those upstarts and whippersnappers often perform Haydn 101 in however many movements they dang well please.

A prolific composer of symphonies, string quartets and sonata form, Haydn is placed at the forefront of the classic period with Beethoven.

What? “A prolific composer of…sonata form”? Not String Trios? Piano Sonatas? Piano Trios? Oratorios? Sonata form? Where did that come from?

[Wikipedia]: He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these genres. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form.

Ah, well.

There you go then. Good fuckin’ work.

With many more chapters of musical history since that era of the 18th century,

Chapters are on the what now? And which era of the 18th century?

…the contemporary ear might be more tuned to…

Lady Gaga?

Figure 4: The selfsame and aforementioned.

…such testosterone-rich composers as Sergei Prokofiev…


…or as emotionally satisfying as Peter Tchaikovsky.


By contrast, Haydn might seem lightweight in a perpetually happy 2/4 meter.

Final Exam, a Play in One Act. By Sator Arepo

Theory professor: All right, the last question on the exam is, “Explain 2/4 time.”

Ernest Music Student [writing furiously]: 2/4 is a simple duple time signature indicating that the tactus is the quarter note, and there are two quarters per measure. Metrically, the hierarchical structure puts more emphasis on the downbeat, whereas…

Theory professor [interrupting]: What’s all this? This is all wrong.

Student: What?

Theory professor: We were looking for “perpetually happy.”

Student: What?

History professor: Pfft. Haydn was a lightweight.

Theory professor: I know, right? Prokofiev, now that dude had balls.

Student: What?


This symphony hearkened to the symphonic language and genius of the era that laid the foundation for composers yet to come.

What? It hearkened to the language that it used?

Haydn has been frequently referred to as the “father of symphony,” a historic position along the way.

A historic…position…along the way? That’s awful and means nothing.

The Mendelssohn Chorale singing Mendelssohn finished the program in all the glory of vocal and symphonic power.

Okay? At least I understood that.

Selections from “Elijah” also featured Sundberg with the chorale under the direction of MC’s Martha Bein.

Who else was “also featured”?

Also featured were concertmaster Rachel Handlin, flutist Scott Metlicka, oboist Debra Freedland, bassoonist Karl Rzasa, horn player Becky Asher and trumpeter Mark Baldin.


While Larsen always acknowledges an awkward applause here and there between movements, he found himself gesturing the final moment that seemed to say, “that’s all folks,” in good humor.

He gestured...the final moment? Wow.

At least the review was grammatically well-themed, as it were.


Gustav said...

I prefer my Hadyn played with every 9th note omitted and played together at the end as a separate work accompanied by sampled marmot cries.

And, I think Sean Connery would be perfect for the role of the Theory Professor.

環遊世界 said...


Gustav said...

According to Google translation:

Around the World said ...


AnthonyS said...

I vote for Olympia Dukakis for the history professor.

Sator Arepo said...


Alex Ross has this:


Phantom Regiment, w00t.