I went to a performance tonight by the Spaghetti Western Orchestra, and I couldn’t recommend them more. If you live in or anywhere even remotely near Kansas, Arizona, or east Texas, you have GOT to see them over the next couple weeks. It’ll be the best 90 minutes you spend all fall! I’ve put a video at the end of this post to help whet your taste.
Here’s how their webpage describes the show:
The Orchestra rides into town, with a wagon train of instruments, to perform all the classic Ennio Morricone music including; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon A Time In The West and For A Few Dollars More.
With a fistful of humour and a bucket-load of fun, the orchestra underscores these brilliant musical adventures: all the sound effects of the iconic spaghetti western movies - every punch up, gunshot, and jangling spur - is recreated using coat hangers, cornflakes, nail clippers, rubber gloves and other ingenious ‘instruments’ pulled from their saddlebag of tricks.
It really was something else. These five Australian guys come on stage in white makeup to accentuate their faces from even the back of the room and in complete old west costume. For the next hour and a half, they play Morricone’s famous themes on a wide array of instruments – some traditional, like a trumpet, a drum set, and a bass; some fun, like 6 Jew harps and a theremin; and some absolutely zany and absurd, including the aforementioned corn flakes (that was fun!) and a “Kitchen Knife with Sharpening Steel Latchbolt Sound Effect.” One delight was the use of a small tree to rustle the leaves and bang the bass drum. But, my absolute favorite was neither the tree nor the therepin – it was the voices, truly a divine instrument. These guys really know how to grunt and yah-yah!
It may sound crazy, but it worked – the music was MASTERFUL. And the performance art element really heightened the show. In between some songs, they would read scripts, affecting wonderful American accents while pretending to be in an old western bar or around a campfire. The lines were often humorous and accompanied by little gags and jokes. These routines helped keep the show from being 90 minutes of straight music, thus putting the audience more in the mood for the music when it did come. And the lighting, oh the lighting! Absolutely stunning. The performers were backlit by fun colors and shadows that really helped set the mood. The lighting director was as much a performer as the musician-actors themselves.
Seriously, see this show if you can. I’ve never had so much fun at a performance. The Dartmouth audience gave the group three standing ovations, the first coming before the final song was even over. And the end, oh the end! The audience participation element during the encore was GREAT, I left on such a high. Who know 700 people could sound that good singing, “Ya ya ya!” or “Wah wah wah!” (You'll see what I mean at the end of the video below!) :D :D :D :D
Here’s a clip from YouTube. But as you watch, please remember – the mood in your room is being set by the angles of your windows and the furniture array, not by the lighting from the massive movie screen behind the performers, and the audience participation of someone sitting alone at their desk just isn’t the same as being surrounded by 700 delighted toe-tapping, hand-clapping hummers.
Also, if you’re interested, here are the program notes from tonight’s concert.
The show did prompt me to make both a political observation about one of the presidential candidates, as well as a Freudian observation about myself, but I will hold off on making those observations for a couple days – the show was amazing enough that it deserves a simple laudation with no distractions.