Classical Sparks in the Park was on, but I’m not sure of who it was aimed at for there was less classical there than usual this year.

Classical Sparks in the Park

I’m not sure who this years Classical Sparks was aimed at this year. The supporter ASB was doing hip hop, there is an excellent summary of the performances from the library, which says that the orchestra is doing a space opera theme this year, and the Topp Twins were appealing to a lower class of entertainment.

ASB started things off with their Hip Op-eration advert that showed several times throughout the performance. It had us all wondering why a hip-hop inspired advert from ASB for a stage challenge that happened halfway through last year was showing.

The first half

The Topp Twins MC’d the evening and are entertaining, but compared with the symphony orchestra, their act grates like fingernails on a chalkboard by comparison. Sure the Topp Twins are skilled and are entertaining in their own special way, but it all seems to be somewhat out of place when the purpose of the evening is to enjoy classical music. It all has me wondering if my expectations of the event are unrealistic and out of place.

We got to see some up and coming music talent from some kids who went up to perform a piece from Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 4. They did okay but their playing skills still needs lots of refinement, to the point where all I could think of towards the end is that the teeth of the CSO performers must have been grating throughout their performance.

Hot-air balloon

After a few more pieces from the CSO of the Adagio from Sparticus and Hoedown from Rodeo, during which a seemingly unscheduled hot-air balloon appeared from the city, followed by a lovely performance of Gabriel’s oboe headlined by Adelina Orwin. In the oboe performance the balloon with around 16 people gave us quite the special moment when it passed very low directly overhead of us and the stage. Everyone in the balloon was waving at us, with us in the audience cheerfully waving back. We got to see directly up in to the canopy itself as it passed less than a stones throw above us, and a vast number of photographs were taken by all around before they fired up again and hopped on over to a further-on area of the park in which to land.

This was followed by the Strauss’ Waltz from the Blue Danube – which is an incredibly graceful piece. Then for contrast we get the yodelling pair from the Topp Twins, followed by them using hubcaps and a lagerphone throughout the Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka. Sure they were having a lot of fun and their heart seems to be in the right place, but for me their act wasn’t as enjoyable as it would have been enjoying the orchestra performing the piece by itself.

The second half

The second half had The Outwits present The History of Music in NZ. I haven’t seen much of them before, but they appear to be a group of clowns doing air-guitar with blow-up guitars. Much of what they sung refered to many New Zealand themes, but for the most part it was unintelligible and distracting, and had some of us just saying “thank god that’s over” by the end of things.

They were bookended though by some excellent performances of Star Trek pieces from throughout the years, and The Cantina Band from Star Wars, but then the Topp Twins took things over for petty much the remainder of the show.

The songs that the Topp Twins did were interesting, with Honkey Tonk Angel (a tribute to Patsy Cline), Palomino Moon, and Untouchable Girls, but you could tell that the CSO weren’t being stretched or challenged at all in their music playing. Half of the orchestra had nothing to do, and the remainder were just running on auto-pilot with slow western music they were playing, by comparison to their other performances.

After an interesting  Huapango performance, we had a prize draw followed by the Topp Twins doing Holy Cow which involved audience participation on their cue, but we had no idea where to come in because their cue was right on the mark. What is normally supposed to happen is that the audience is cued a beat or two beforehand, but without that we have some people who already know their performance shout “holy cow” at the same time as the cue, and when the rest of us see the cue and the shout happen on the same beat, we realise that the time to act has already passed and it all just ends up a mess.

The fireworks

After all of this there was genuine enjoyment in enjoying the fireworks to Star Wars pieces of the Throne Room and End Title. The fireworks were some of the best I’ve had the pleasure to experience, and their finish left you breathless and gasping in wonder.

So did I enjoy the evening? Overall the answer is no. There were too many distasteful parts – but through careful edited removal of what was not enjoyed, it can be said that the evening was a great success.