Whidbey Island Orchestra to feature “boo-tiful” music

— Created October 19, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

There may be no better way to get into the spirit of the Halloween season than by enjoying a performance by the Whidbey Island Orchestra. Luckily, there are two opportunities to enjoy some “boo-tiful” music – Saturday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland. Guest conductor Gabriela Garza will lead the orchestra through “Burton’s Halloween Fantasy,” featuring music from the films of Tim Burton.

“Knowing that [Danny] Elfman’s scores are beautifully crafted and perfect for the occasion, I thought that narrowing down the repertoire to an evening of Tim Burton’s films’ music and adding a narration of the films would be very entertaining for our audiences,” said Garza, adding she worked with WIO musical director and principal conductor, Cynthia Morrow, to select the pieces for the program.

“[Cynthia] offered as well to create the narration for the concert, which is fantastic,” she continued. “We settled on presenting Burton’s films in one half, and additional great pieces in the second half of the concert.”

“The narrator for this concert is my husband, Gary Hattal,” explained Morrow. “He, of course, will be attired in a wizard’s costume. We also have Jeff Befiglio, one of our violists and a new board member, playing ‘Boris,’ the Boris Karloff character for ‘Monster Mash.’”

There will be other surprises during the performances as well.

“We’ll have several teenaged interpretive dancers from the senior class of Island Dance Studio opening the program by performing ‘Danse Macabre’ by Saint-Saens,” Morrow described. “The Luigi Jazz Dancers, led by choreographer Daunne Zinger, will appear during the program as well. We don’t want to spoil the surprise by revealing how or where, but they are chillingly awesome!”

Garza said she thinks adding elements such as narration and dance can only add to the frightening fun of the program.

“I think having narrations for concerts is a fantastic way to add one more artistic element to a program,” she shared. “What I enjoy the most is the story-telling part of the evening and how audiences are not only engaged through music, but through the tales and stories that we tell. I think that the more we can engage the imagination and captivate the senses of our audiences, the better.

“Working with other artists and adding different arts into the orchestral world is one of my biggest passions,” Garza continued. “I often like to incorporate narration, dance or visual media into my orchestral concerts.”

Whidbey Island Orchestra’s strings, flutes, percussion and piano will wind their way through music from such Burton films as “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Beetlejuice.” Other pieces will include the likes of “Batman Theme” and “Danse Macabre,” by Saint-Saens, as Morrow mentioned.

This is Garza’s first appearance as guest conductor for Whidbey Island Orchestra, although she has served as the organization’s assistant director in the past. A Mexican conductor now living in the U.S., Garza recently completed her doctoral studies at he University of Washington. She is the music director for the Poulsbo Community Orchestra, artistic associate at Seattle Youth Symphony and is the manager of the Seattle Conservatory of Music.

Garza said she has enjoyed putting this program together so much, she can’t pick just one favorite piece.

“Each of the pieces has its own character and spirit, so it’s definitely hard to choose just one, so I’ll choose two,” she said. “My personal favorites are ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Themes from Edward Scissorhands,’ both for the lyrical qualities of certain passages and the emotions that these two can easily evoke.”

In any performance, however, it all comes down to one thing, Garza said – connection.

“I certainly think that audiences are more receptive to an orchestra concert if the program and repertoire are chosen carefully to depict a story, or a theme, or present something meaningful in a way that they can feel related and connected to,” she explained. “It’s all about connection.”

Costumes are welcome at either of the performances. Tickets to the Oct. 29 concert are available at wicaonline.org. More information about Whidbey Island Orchestra can be found at whidbeyorchestras.org.

“Get your favorite costume (or not!) and come join us,” Garza encouraged. “I’m sure you’ll be singing along and enjoying every second of this concert.”