Theater Spotlight: Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra performs Disney classic

Performance: “Disney FANTASIA — Live in Concert”
Presented by: The Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra
Location: Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton
Running: Nov. 8 at 7:30pm.
Tickets: Starting at $29. Available at Fox Cities PAC website.

Nearly three-quarters of a century has passed since Disney released “Fantasia,” featuring powerful classical music set to breathtaking animations. This weekend, audiences will be able to re-discover the timeless music paired with original animations.

The work lives on today through follow-up movies, video games and concerts. When the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra takes the stage this weekend, “Fantasia” will come to life once again as professional musicians set music to a selection of animations from the Disney classic.

“I’ve viewed the videos dozens of times,” says music director Brian Groner. “The more times I look at the movies, the more I find the animations inspired and quite special.”


The musical performance will feature popular pieces from the 1940 and 2000 editions of “Fantasia” to give audiences a taste of both versions.

“I’m very excited to be playing this performance,” says concert master Yulya Smead. “Everyone knows the music by ear and from their childhoods. The pieces are also very fun to play and the styles change quickly.”

After growing up watching “Fantasia” and loving the music, principle French horn player Bruce Atwell says he is eager to perform the pieces for an audience.

“I’m a big fan of the ‘Fantasia’ movies,” says Atwell. “I like the first ‘Fantasia’ more because it’s what I grew up listening to.”

Although musicians say they are excited to perform the famous pieces, it will be a challenge to put on the two-hour performance.

Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, March 4, 2006

“There’s a lot of music to learn,” says Atwell. “We’re playing excerpts we wouldn’t normally play in one concert. There’s also a bunch of solos for the French horn which aren’t usually in one performance.”

As if the pieces weren’t already a challenge, Groner discovered the “Fantasia” animations do not match up with the songs in their original forms.

“After listening to the 1940s version, I realized they did not play at a steady tempo, which creates an interesting challenge for us,” says Groner. “By adding audio to video, we have to adjust how we perform to match up with the animations.”

To solve this, the orchestra will practice using the varying tempos and Groner will use headphones during the performance to make sure all of the timing is correct.

“I’ll mostly be wearing headphones while leading the orchestra,” says Groner. “There will be a click track in one ear and an audio recording in the other.”

Smead says the performance is perfect for all ages and a good way to introduce children to classical music.

“We’re trying to attract interest for many different ages and serve the community,” says Smead.

— By Haley Walters

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