On Monday, January 21, 2013, I had the pleasure of seeing Jon Kimura Parker live in concert with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
The evening featured three pieces, “Totem” composed by the VSO’s resident composer, Edward Top, “Piano Concerto in A minor” by Edvard Grieg, and “Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major” by Sergei Prokofiev
The first piece, Totem, was made of three pieces, or “tableaus” named Angst, Rite and Mosh. I personally found it intriguing how the composer could make traditionally sounding instruments sound so bleak and creepy. For example, the violins imitated a slow siren sound, and the percussionists were able to use instruments such as a “thunder sheet” , a drum kit (not found in orchestras!) and an actual siren. However, this is not the kind of music one would usually wind down and relax at the end of the day. This music is better enjoyed live, or as background to a tense movie scene.
After the performance of Totem, the man everyone was waiting for, Mr. Parker, strode out, beaming widely as he acknowledged the audience and took his place at the Steinway piano on centre stage. There were a variety of ages in the audience, from white-haired seniors to young children and teens.
Mr. Parker began the concerto with the famous opening passage, and immediately everyone perked up to listen to a true master create beautiful music. After the finale (the ending bars were so powerful, he nearly stood up while he played them) , Mr. Parker received a standing ovation, and came back to play an encore.
What a surprise! Mr. Parker stated his love for a certain composer named Danny Elfman, then proceeded to play the theme from the popular TV animation, the Simpsons! It was a crowd-pleaser and the audience thanked pianist with another ovation.
After intermission, Mr. Parker left, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra played the Prokofiev symphony. The Orpheum Theatre filled with sumptuous sounds from the Soviet composer.
Although Mr. Parker’s performance was dazzling, it was done all too soon, and I was left wanting more, and wished he could have stayed to perform after the intermission. I hope Mr. Parker (who grew up in Vancouver) will come back soon!