SYMPHONY Orchestra. That's Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
The WSO paid homage to everyone's favourite secret agent Friday night with a program celebrating the 50-year legacy of iconic spy James Bond. The three weekend concerts, titled Bond & Beyond and led by guest maestro Michael Krajewski, also feature Broadway star Debbie Gravitte, a powerhouse vocalist who proved why she deserved a Tony Award for her performance in Jerome Robbins' Broadway.
Here's a seasoned pro that knows how to sell a song, belting out lyrics with her rich, burnished voice...
Krajewski currently serves as principal pops conductor of the Houston Symphony, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. This concert also marked both his and Gravitte's first appearance with the WSO.
Created by English author and former spy Ian Fleming, Bond continues to capture the imagination, living on in celluloid as well as novels. Generations of movie buffs have thrilled to special agent 007's spy antics and dashing ways since 1962, including his seemingly endless cache of gadgets and steady parade of "Bond girls."
The program opened with a surprisingly subdued orchestral arrangement of the classic James Bond Theme, sans raspy guitar licks. The title track From Russia with Love fared better, providing the first taste of Bond film composer John Barry's lushly sweeping themes that showcased the WSO strings.
Krajewski set up each of the program's 13 numbers with deadpan wit and levity, even quipping he had viewed all 23 Bond films the previous day in preparation for the show.
Then it was time to hear Gravitte perform her first song: Diamonds are Forever. Here's a seasoned pro that knows how to sell a song, belting out lyrics with her rich, burnished voice and acting the part; even toying with her own sparkly bling to underscore her message. The charismatic New York-based singer also appears to really enjoy herself onstage, and therefore, her listeners do, too.
We also heard the singer's fluid delivery of The World is Not Enough, with carefully shaded nuances during her performance. She later treated the mixed-generation crowd to Stephen Sondheim's ballad Sooner or Later from the film Dick Tracy, a number perfectly suited to her expressive ability to bring her material dramatically to life.
Every WSO season seems to have a wacky music moment. Assistant principal bass Andrew Goodlett showed he plays a mean cellphone, as well as his instrument of choice during Concerto for Cellphone, cleverly arranged by James M. Stephenson. Holding up an array of carefully synchronized phones to a microphone, with their respective ringtones echoed by the orchestra, this vaudevillian work for the modern age put the "beyond" in the show's title.
A bewigged Gravitte took the stage after intermission to sing Secret Agent Man, treating the crowd to some nifty dance moves as she kicked up her heels in white go-go boots.
Krajewski also led the players in a "shagalistic" Soul Bossa Nova, a.k.a. the theme from Austin Powers, including a groovy light show.
As expected, the celebration of all things Bond received a standing ovation, with cheers and whoops by the enthusiastic audience.
The concert repeats tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.