December 4, 2013
VSO Plays Special Arrangement of ‘The Nutcracker’ Created by VSU’s Springfield
VALDOSTA — When Linda C. Chase’s Dance Arts dancers take the stage for their 41st annual production of “The Nutcracker,” they will spin and glide and leap to a special arrangement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s mesmerizing and magical score.
“My special arrangement of ‘The Nutcracker’ is actually a reduced orchestration of all the music for the ballet,” explained David Springfield, director of the Jazz Studies Program at Valdosta State University. “The original music by Tchaikovsky was written for a large, full symphony orchestra of between 70 and 100 musicians. My reduced arrangement will be performed by 27 musicians of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.”
This is the fourth year the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra has partnered with Chase and her Dance Arts students. Dr. Howard Hsu, VSO music director, said that it was Dr. Doug Farwell, VSO principal trombonist and executive director and interim head of the VSU Department of Music, who facilitated the partnership.
Springfield said that it was Hsu and Farwell who asked him to create a new version of “The Nutcracker” score specifically for the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, a score that would hopefully be more musically satisfying for the musicians, dancers, and audience alike. In years past, the symphony orchestra played a pre-existing reduced arrangement of the music.
“I began working on my arrangement back in May,” said Springfield, “and finished at the end of October. Because the ballet contains nearly two hours of music, it was quite a large project. It involved not only making all the musical decisions but also inputting the music into a computer program and then printing and copying the conductor’s score and parts for all the instruments.”
“Since Tchaikovsky’s music is so well-known and iconic,” he continued, “this is not a radical re-arrangement of the piece. It was actually like a puzzle where I had to take this wonderful music and make it work for the smaller instrumental forces of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.”
Because “The Nutcracker” is so popular and is performed so frequently all over the world, Springfield noted that special or reduced arrangements of the music are quite common due to the size of the performing ensemble, size of the venue, and available budget for the performances. He said that all of these factors apply to the upcoming Dance Arts performances, particularly the limited capacity of the orchestra pit at the performance site, Mathis City Auditorium, which will accommodate no more than 27 VSO musicians and their instruments.
“If I have done my job well,” Springfield said, “the result should be recognizable and satisfying for everyone involved.”
Performances of “The Nutcracker” will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, at Mathis City Auditorium, 2300 N. Ashley St. Tickets are $12 for the two evening and the Sunday performances and $10 for the special narrated Saturday matinee. Reservations are required. Visit NutcrackerValdosta.com for more information.
Springfield has played the piano for more than 30 years. In addition to his position as director of VSU’s Jazz Studies Program, he directs the VSU Jazz Ensemble and teaches jazz piano and courses in improvisation, jazz arranging, and jazz history. A member of the Department of Music faculty for 11 years, he enjoys helping his students become better musicians by sharing his knowledge and experience with them. He also plays trombone.