George Schlatter, creator of the late 60s/early 70s classic TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, recently said this about entertainer Tiny Tim of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” fame: “One time we filled his dressing room with flowers and he came out crying because he said we had killed the flowers!”–Quoted in the Los Angeles Times
Well, I didn’t cry, but by the end of the world premiere performance of Mark Applebaum’s Concerto for Florist and Orchestra many flowers had given their lives in the name of art. I wrote a quick post last week about this odd little bit of music theater that was going to be played by the La Jolla Symphony with florist soloist James DelPrince. Saturday night I went to the concert.
Over the course of three movements the solo florist arranged flowers manically while the orchestra plunged into a score that had some really strikingly beautiful passages as well as some butt-kicking moments. In one of the movements the strings slid around in quietly dissonant clouds of sound while tuned gongs sounded above the clouds. In another the orchestra bounced along on tricky rhythms, egged on by the percussion. And at the end the ensemble pretty much fizzled out in an orchestrated dissolution of the music. All this time the florist attacked buckets of raw floral material and stabbed the stems into bricks of green florist foam.
While all this was happening I kept withing the florist would disappear so that I could just concentrate on the music. I’m sure there were others who’d have preferred the orchestra take their dissonant chords home and let the florist arrange away in peace. Whatever. In the end it wasn’t much more than a stunt. Still, the stunt pretty much filled the hall, and the piece got more applause than you’d have experience downtown at the more staid symphony.
Before the concert the composer had a chance to speak, and said something like how he was bored of a lot of regular music and that he’d “rather fail in an interesting way than succeed at doing something normal.” So yes, I think he managed to fail interestingly.
As far as the floral creations, they were nice enough, but I think I’ve seen much more compelling avant-garde arranging done. Just think of the amazing Japanese ikebana creations that you can see every now and then. The arrangements reminded me of the monster showpiece “cakes” that you see assembled on the reality TV subgenre devoted to cake decorating and cake decorating competitions. They’re always impressive because of the sheer size and fragility, but so often the ideas behind the cakes just seem trite. Sorry. I sound like such a snot sometimes.
So, are there any reality TV shows devoted to florists? Florists working with stressed people trying to prepare for a wedding? Or dealing with grieving families after a loved one has passed on? Or working with the hapless bachelor trying to impress the new love interest with a pile of so many dead roses Tiny Tim would be bawling? If Bravo or Lifetime suddenly comes up with one, remember you saw the idea here first.