GRSO to perform ‘Fantasia’

GVL / Courtesy - Terry Johnston 
Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra

Terry Johnston

GVL / Courtesy – Terry Johnston Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra

Claire Fisher

Accompanied by Mickey Mouse, dancing animals and mythical creatures, the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra will perform selections from “Fantasia” in concert the weekend of Nov. 13 in the DeVos Performance Hall.

As part of the Fox Motors Pops Series, the symphony features pieces from both Walt Disney’s original 1940 “Fantasia” as well as “Fantasia 2000.” During the concert, the animation will be played in high definition for the audience to watch while listening to the orchestra.

“This a good opportunity to come downtown experience some of the greatest music ever composed along with some masterpieces of animation,” said GRSO communications coordinator Samara Napolitan.

At this concert, full-time college students have the opportunity to sign up for a “student passport” and purchase tickets to the event for $5. Napolitan recommended that students arrive when the doors open at 7 p.m. to make sure they get a ticket.

Grand Valley State University professor Richard Britsch, a horn player for the GRSO, said the pops concerts – a series of popular music – are a great way to get people interested in the symphony. He said recently there has been a trend of orchestras performing soundtracks to movies, while the movie plays in the background for the same reason.

“It’s a way to get people to come into the concert hall and experience the symphony orchestra,” Britsch said. “It’s a new way of listening to the music. People can enjoy the cartoons and the scenery that’s going on, but also really get a chance to listen to the music and hear the intricacies.”

Napolitan said getting the community interested in classical music was one of the reasons “Fantasia” was created.

“It’s a great gateway into classical music,” Napolitan said. “‘Fantasia’ was originally created to expose audiences to these works of music. It’s serving the original version of Walt Disney’s vision, presenting (‘Fantasia’) a new way with a live orchestra on stage.”

One of the interesting things about “Fantasia” compared to other movie soundtracks, Britsch said, is that the animation was created to match the music instead of the music being composed to fit the action in the movie. He said he hopes the audience takes the opportunity to watch the movie and listen carefully to the music.

“In this case, for ‘Fantasia,’ the music came first and then the action was added later,” Britsch said. “The important thing is not just to enjoy the visuals of the movie, but really listen to what the orchestra is doing, because there’s some beautiful stuff going on.”

For Britsch the experience of performing live music with the movie means making sure that they stay exactly in sync. To accomplish this, the orchestra members wear earphones with a click-track to keep them in tempo. For the audience, he said the live nature is a way to experience the music in a more intense way.

“Live music has always got the element of actually hearing the music, everything is there in front of you,” Britsch said. “It can be like a recording, but you’re listening in high definition in an actual live orchestra concert. You’re facing a stage that’s 75 feet wide, it’s got 85 people spread out throughout that stage and the music is going to be coming from all different places in the orchestra.”

Napolitan said the live music is a way to be active in the arts community in Grand Rapids and she hopes students come out to see the performance.

“It’s a way to be involved in the community and experience the culture of Grand Rapids,” Napolitan said. “It’s a fun thing to do on the weekends with your friends, this a pops concert so it’s a little bit more casual that our traditional concerts, so you don’t have to get totally dressed up. It’s a fun thing to do for a night on the town.”

Britsch said music can be a great way for students to escape their busy lives and experience music as a different form of communication.

“You have to take time to listen, away from some of the brutal stuff that’s going on in our world,” Britsch said. “Music is a form of communication, it touches a different area of our living. Music is like a nourishment for the soul; it’s a way to slow down and hear something that’s going to touch you in a different way rather than just simply listening to a lecture or watching a game or watching a movie.

“Music itself is something that’s going to reach inside you and wash through you and you’re going to hear things that are going to touch your soul in a way that words or visual can’t.”

Performances of the “Fantasia” concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Nov. 13 and 14 and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 15. For more information, visit