It may be the first of its kind.
Not that the Hartford Symphony Orchestra is claiming such, but its announcement that it’s going to the dogs for a pops concert certainly has a lot of tongues (and tails) wagging. On Saturday, May 20, the HSO will kick off its 2017-18 Pops! Series at Hartford’s Bushnell with “Playing with Dogs,” a salute to our “best friends.”
Not only will the music be canine inspired, real, living, breathing dogs will share the stage with the HSO musicians and HSO assistant conductor Adam Boyles.
“Pops should be fun and provide audiences with amazing entertainment,” said Steve Collins, the orchestra’s executive director, during a chat last week.
To that end, Collins has put together a line-up of “music and mutts” that features 19 “star” dogs, “who” are scheduled to perform agility and freestyle demonstrations, supported by 18 trainers and handlers, Collins said. Filmed sequences and “heartwarming stories of our unique bond” with pet dogs also will be set to music “to reflect the emotional ties we have,” he said. Cameos and special appearances will be made by Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation German shepherds and the University of Connecticut’s mascot, Jonathan the Husky.
Featured human stars will be The River 105.9-radio personality Renee DiNino, as host; soprano Shanice Williams, who starred as Dorothy in NBC’s production of “The Wiz Live!”; and legendary Broadway animal trainer Bill Berloni, who is creative director. A few “audience surprises” are planned. Among the musical entries are Mikhail Glinka’s Overture to “Russlan and Ludmilla”; John Barry’s “Love Theme” and “Two Socks at Play” from the film, “Dances with Wolves”; Stothart’s “The Wizard of Oz” Orchestral Suite; and George Gershwin’s “Walking the Dog.” Also on the bill are Charlie Smalls’ “Home” from “The Wiz,” and the ever popular Overture to “Orpheus in the Underworld,” by Jacques Offenbach.
The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. $66-$25. Saturday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. 860-987-5900, hartfordsymphony.org/tickets
“I think it will be a hoot,” said Maestro Boyles, who freely admitted he’s never shared a stage with a dog — let alone several. “Well, you know the W.C. Field’s line about never performing with kids or animals,” as they are likely to upstage the performer or ruin the scene. “What we don’t want is chaos. But it all looks great on paper. We’ll have to wait to see how it all goes at rehearsal,” he said, laughing (noting he intends to bring his wife and 14-month-old daughter to the warm-up).
Collins said the idea for the event came from Ric Waldman, assistant vice president of programming for The Bushnell. The two were discussing the popularity and success of the HSO’s “Playing with Food” concerts, at which local and celebrity chefs would “cook” onstage to “inspirational” music. (The dishes were prepared backstage and finished on stage on a four-burner induction stove top.) Those concerts had run for four years and the HSO was ready for a new concept. When Waldman suggested dogs, Collins was “all in.”Read Full Article
“My first response was: ‘Yes, let’s do it.’ My second response was: ‘Is this too crazy?’ ” he said, laughing.
Boyles said, “It will be quite the extravaganza — a really unique evening.”