Music director Daniel Hege and the Wichita Symphony were joined by mime artist Dan Kamin to present “Charlie Chaplin at the Symphony” on Friday night in the Century II Concert Hall.
This concert was in the orchestra’s popular “blue jeans” format, a relaxed environment where even the performers are casually attired.
A tireless devotee of mime, Kamin has parlayed his passion into a one-man industry, performing for corporations and on college campuses in addition to his work in concert halls and theaters. Kamin has also furthered the art through his teaching which has included extensive work with actors Johnny Depp in the making of “Benny and Joon” and Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Charlie Chaplin.
The first half of the concert was devoted to “The Classical Clown,” a symphony in comedy. This work, created by Kamin, weaves mime performance with classical music in a farcical story plot. The orchestra played with spark and energy and the pacing of the program was excellent, beginning with Mikhail Glinka’s “Overture to Russian and Ludmilla.”
As the story unfolded, the conductor was required to come off the podium and interact frequently with Kamin, and Hege excelled in this role, even displaying an attractive baritone voice as he crooned part of “Smile,” a song by Charlie Chaplin. It is hard to imagine many music directors so apparently comfortable with these duties.
As the whimsical plot unfolded, Hege would retake the podium, the orchestra poised to spring to life with rousing and moving renderings of nine additional pieces following the overture. With a great diversity of selections ranging from “The William Tell Overture” to Satie’s “Gymnopedie #2,” this program served as an excellent showcase for the Wichita Symphony’s abilities.
Following intermission the orchestra accompanied the showing of two classic Charlie Chaplin films, “Easy Street” and “The Immigrant.” The recently composed scores by Grant Cooper capture the spirit of the silent film era well and were very well performed by the orchestra. Trumpeter David Hunsicker played with a great sense of style and ease, as he has since joining the orchestra this season. Kamin provided additional entertainment and context for each film making for an enjoyable and informative evening.
“Charlie Chaplin at the Symphony” will be performed again as part of the WSO’s Classics Concerts season on Saturday at 8 p.m.. and Sunday at 3 p.m.