Elvis Has Left the Building
Jack Delaney, director of bands and conductor of the Meadows Wind Ensemble, admitted that he's always wanted to say, “Elvis has left the building,” so maybe that's what inspired Friday evening's eclectic program. The Meadows Wind Ensemble performed pieces by Michael Davis, Benjamin Easley, Frank Zappa, Leonard Bernstein, and Eric Whitacre at the “Elvis Has Left the Building” Concert on October 16 in Caruth Auditorium at Meadows School of the Arts.
Many of the evening's tunes were familiar to a large majority of the audience. The first piece was called “Vegas Medley” by Michael Davis and Benjamin Easley and included of “See See Rider” (traditional), “I Can't Help Falling in Love with you” (Gibson), and “Suspicious Minds” (James). The Meadows Wind Ensemble featured guest artist Kraig Parker, “the ultimate image of Elvis Presley”, who has shared his talent with audiences from Las Vegas to London.
Gary Foster, a music theory professor at Meadows, said, “The Elvis segment was great entertainment: Parker had the charisma, voice, and costuming to be quite believable. . . The entire program was quite a treat!”
During “Vegas Medley,” Elvis donned three scarves, wiped the beads of perspiration off of his face and chest, and then gave the scarves to women in the front row of Caruth Auditorium. The three lucky ladies were flustered; however, one bold woman kissed the King right on his lips!
“Dead Elvis,” a piece written by Michael Daugherty to tell the story of a rock star who is ultimately destroyed by the lifestyle he leads, was performed acoustically and featured an Elvis-wigged Russell Riding on bassoon. Riding is a second year graduate student and a member of both the Meadows Wind Ensemble and the Meadows Symphony Orchestra. After Riding's performance with its unusually high and low notes, conductor Jack Delaney remarked of the bassoon, “That instrument wasn't made to do these things.” The audience applauded accordingly.
Selections from“West Side Story” (Leonard Bernstein) were conducted by Christopher Westover (M.M. Instrumental Conducting '10), the Wind Ensemble assistant conductor. “I thought the atmosphere was completely electric and was truly unique,” Westover remarks. “The concert was on the eve of my 25th birthday and with the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, the MWE gave me the greatest birthday present I have ever received. Each and every audience member made the concert experience magical.”
During “Godzilla Eats Las Vegas” (Eric Whitacre), the audience was entertained by a video of Las Vegas projected on a giant screen next to the orchestra, depicting a story in which Godzilla tries to destroy the city, stomps Wayne Newton, Frank Sinatra, and Liberace, and is ultimately destroyed by three “Elvi” (which according to the program is the plural of “Elvis”). The Wind Ensemble intertwined humor and incredible musicianship throughout the entire concert, but in this piece they were especially vibrant. In one section of the song, pianist Adam Jordan played music reminiscent of a piano bar and the rest of the ensemble stretched or chatted; a few musicians even got up and put money in an empty wine glass on Jordan's piano. I was not alone in laughing aloud; much of the audience was entertained by the casual manner with which the MWE approached this piece in particular. Cherie Rhodes, an audience member, remarked, “By far, Godzilla Eats Las Vegas was the best piece of the evening for me. The thought and preparation that went into that piece, from the accompanying video to the ensemble adding the vocal sound effects, were fabulous!”
The night ended with another Elvis appearance. This time Parker sang “My Way” and transported the crowd back to the times of the King. At the very end of the evening, the performers received a standing ovation as Parker exited the stage, and Jack Delaney said with a glimmer in his eye, “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building!”