Tag Archives: florists

concert review: concerto for florist

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.

Some of the buckes of flowers before the soloist and orchestra took to the stage

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.

The set piece that was constructed during the second movement

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.

Part of the floral creation that was made during the third movement grand finale

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.

At the conclusion of the Concerto for Florist and Orchestra everyone with a cellphone camera had to make their way up on stage to snap some shots of the finished arrangement

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.

music for the eyes

Here’s a fun one: My local community/university orchestra will be premiering a new piece this weekend. Stanford University composer Mark Applebaum has composed a work for orchestra with a special, unusual soloist: a florist.

The Concerto for Florist and Orchestra riffs on the traditional notion of a concerto, where one or more virtuoso solists duke it out musically with an accompanying ensemble. In the new work, the orchestra will play and the florist will…presumably array flowers and leaves virtuostically all over the stage. Some musical concerto soloists have reputations for being high-strung individuals, and to my mind the new piece also riffs on the idea of florists sometimes having a reputation for being just as high-strung.

The work’s soloist will be James DelPrince, Associate Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences with a specialization in Floral Design and Interior Plantscaping Design at Mississippi State University. On his campus biography page DelPrince writes, “The aesthetics of horticulture involve recognition of the intrinsic beauty of plants and flowers along with the practiced skill of floral design and interior plant placement. I enjoy and value the opportunity to bring understanding and appreciation of floral and plant design to people.” And this weekend’s performance–the second time DelPrince has worked floral magic with Mark Applebaum’s music to accompany him–seems like a great way to bring some of that appreciation to a different sort of audience than people looking for something to decorate their wedding.

If you want more traditional fare, the all-concerto concert opens with Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto, with Hannah Cho, winner of the orchestra’s 2009 Youth Artist Competition. Closing the evening will be another “conceptual concerto,” Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, a concerto with no soloists at all other than members of the orchestra, all of whom will have to work pretty hard to play the score.

One of my music profs from many years ago, Robert Erickson, was famous for shutting his eyes when listening to performances. He wasn’t bored; he just didn’t want the visuals to get in the way of truly hearing the music. You won’t want to shut your eyese for Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances.

The La Jolla Symphony performs. Steven Schick conducts.