Get to Know Special Guest Mary Chapin Carpenter

Editor’s note: Mary Chapin Carpenter sings with the Kansas City Symphony and guest conductor Vince Mendoza at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Learn more.

Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Russ Harrington.
Mary Chapin Carpenter. Photo by Russ Harrington.

1. Tell us about how you and Vince Mendoza started on this journey of orchestra shows. Did he come to you with the idea, or did you reach out to him? How long did the process take?

I first heard Vince’s work more than a decade ago, when I was performing at one of Don Henley’s fundraisers for Walden Woods. Vince was the arranger of all of the songs, and they were so beautiful, lush, evocative… I remember standing on the side of the stage and in that moment making a wish that if I could ever do an orchestral record, Vince would be the composer/arranger that I would love to work with. From that moment on, it took many years for it to come to fruition. We reached out to him when we felt we had the means to pull this project off. The phrase “worth the wait” comes to mind; I have never been so happy to wait so long for something so life transforming and artistically satisfying.

2. What are the some of the differences of performing with an orchestra versus a smaller ensemble? What do you appreciate about each format?

Playing with my 5-6 piece rock band is quite different from playing with an orchestra, as is fairly obvious.  But I love doing both and have discovered how many different skills are required to perform within each incarnation. I had to learn how to sing live with an orchestra, as well as to sing with an orchestra in the studio of course. I liken it to surfing; you have to stay atop the wave, recalibrating constantly … you don’t want to over-sing and lose all of the nuance and emotion, and you don’t want to under-sing and get swallowed up by this enormous wave of sound … so you learn how to listen to everything, follow your conductor, and know your own voice and it’s resonance within the orchestra. Having great monitors helps a lot! I appreciate being able to do many different things as an artist, the notion of being “nimble” enough to present my music in so many different settings is something I treasure and appreciate every day.

3. What type of response do you receive from fans from these symphonic concerts?

I have felt so grateful for the response we have received… I am always aware that no doubt there are a number of folks in the audience who are unfamiliar with the material, and so I always want to try and provide some brief introductions to the songs, to at least offer some context. It is always a pleasure to do this and it gives me a chance to bring a little bit more of myself into the more formal environment of a concert hall. Presenting the music last year from Scotland to New York to Los Angeles and back was the thrill of a lifetime.

Songs from the Movie album cover.
Songs from the Movie album cover.

4. Do you have a favorite moment or song from the “Songs from a Movie” set? If so, which one and why?

I do not have a favorite moment, as the set truly is a sum of its parts. What made this project in particular so challenging and satisfying was the fact that I was culling songs from so many years of recordings. Basically, these songs came from many different lives… Vince was the alchemist, the magician if you will, who made them all sound as if they originated from the same time and place and put them in musical settings to bind them to one another. It was extraordinary to hear the finished work, and to feel how the songs all connected to each other.

5. When is the last time you performed in Kansas City?

I last played there with my old friend Shawn Colvin a few years ago. It was a memorable evening!

6. Are you looking forward to performing within Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with the Kansas City Symphony?

I can’t wait… the Kauffman Center [for the Performing Arts] is one of the most glorious venues I have ever had the privilege to play, and I cannot wait to present our music there… a dream come true.


Mary Chapin Carpenter sings with the Kansas City Symphony and guest conductor Vince Mendoza at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 8, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Tickets start at $40. To purchase, call the Kansas City Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online. To learn more about Mary Chapin Carpenter, visit her website.

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A little history on ‘Fantasia’

By Butch Rigby, founder of Screenland Theatres

Editor’s note: The Kansas City Symphony presents Screenland at the Symphony: Disney Fantasia Live in Concert on May 15-17, 2015. Learn more.

Walt Disney released “Fantasia,” his third feature-length cartoon, in 1940. As with previous projects, innovation played a key part in the life of the film. Disney originally intended to release the iconic Sorcerer’s Apprentice as a “Silly Symphony” short, but when costs ran so high that it could never recoup its investment, he decided to build an entire feature film around the short subject  — and “Fantasia” was born. The full-length film contained eight separate vignettes, each featuring a piece of classical music. Disney first approached prominent conductor Leopold Stokowski about the project at a Hollywood restaurant, and the conductor quickly embraced the idea. Stokowski’s enthusiasm for the concept ultimately led him to work on the film for free, and the Philadelphia Orchestra performed the music for seven of the eight segments on this first-ever stereo movie soundtrack.

Disney's Fantasia

Though recognized as a masterpiece today, “Fantasia,” which was released in a road show traveling 13 cities, faced financial challenges from the beginning. Early reviews were mixed, the war in Europe had cut off the profitable European market, and Disney had to set up each theatre with a special $85,000 “Fantasound” system. Film production and distribution company RKO Pictures allowed Disney to handle this project on his own for the most part, calling it a “longhair film.” Despite great runs, it struggled to be profitable. After years of editing, restoration, remastering and re-releases, the film finally made a “profit” when it returned to theatres in December 1969. Since then, it has achieved both critical and financial success while becoming a beloved classic for generations of audiences.

Fantasia

Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, first suggested the idea of a sequel to the original film in 1974. He finally pitched it to Disney Chairman Michael Eisner 10 years later, and production for “Fantasia 2000” began in 1990. A long period of what was then groundbreaking animation using computer animation laid over traditional hand-drawn cells resulted in a 1999/2000 IMAX exclusive release.

The film actually reuses The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from the original, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor James Levine providing an updated symphonic background. The film has received generally positive critical review.

Walt Disney felt sound in movies was so incredibly important that he blazed a trail with the first stereophonic motion picture ever made. Yet, we will respectfully do him one better — with a live soundtrack. Feast your eyes and ears on Disney’s Fantasia Live in Concert as the Kansas City Symphony makes this an experience you will never forget…


Disney Fantasia Live in Concert

The Kansas City Symphony presents Disney Fantasia Live in Concert for three concert experiences on May 15-17, 2015, in Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Tickets start at $35, with youth tickets from $25. To purchase, call the Kansas City Symphony Box Office at (816) 471-0400 or select seats online.