April 17, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 14

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    Musicians will interpret lyric rhymes of Dr. Seuss’ famous stories May 3

    By Seth Sanders
    News Office

    He wrote Gerald McBoing Boing, about a child who speaks in sound effects, as well as some of the best-selling children’s books of all time. And at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 3, University musicians will perform the sounds of Dr. Seuss’ best-loved characters at Seuss and So On, a special family concert.

    Colorful, vibrant characters and the beat of language were always central to Theodor Seuss Geisel (who was not, strictly speaking, a doctor–he studied for, but never completed a Ph.D. at Oxford University). He influenced the ways children learn, simply by writing things they would like to read. “Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, and to be entertained and delighted,” he said.

    Much of his appeal was always in the music of his words. In 1936, on a sea voyage to a vacation in Europe, the rhythm of the ship’s engines inspired him to come up with And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was promptly rejected by nearly 30 publishers with which he shared it. Finally, a friend published it for him.

    In 1954, Geisel’s publisher read a Life magazine report on illiteracy among school children, which stated that children were having trouble reading because their books were boring. This inspired him to ask Geisel to write a book using the 250 words he thought first-graders needed to know. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 words, published The Cat in the Hat to instant success.

    But Seuss went even further in succeeding with surreally stripped-down language: In 1960, publisher Bennett Cerf bet Geisel $50 that he could not write an entire book using only 50 words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham (for which Cerf never paid the $50, though Seuss made many times that in royalties).

    [green eggs and ham]
    At the Saturday, May 3 concert in Mandel Hall, the Music Department shows their commitment to engaging children in art, offering musical interpretations of Seuss’ works, along with a variety of other animated pieces. Wayne Gordon, conductor of the University Wind Ensemble, and Barbara Schubert, Senior Lecturer in Music, who also is the Music Director and conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra, will conduct the program.

    “It is so important for us to share the excitement, energy and emotion of a live orchestral performance with our listeners, young and old,” said Schubert. “Our Seuss and So On concert is a good example: a way for us to reach out to our community and provide an enriching and entertaining afternoon of music for listeners of all ages.”

    The University Symphony Orchestra will perform Robert Kapilow’s Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. Kapilow’s piece is “the most popular ‘family music’ since Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” according to the Boston Globe.

    The Star-Ledger wrote: “Green Eggs and Ham dispenses entirely with the saccharine sentimentality that drips from so many kiddie scores. In its place, Kapilow offers a breath of fresh air–perky theater music, spiky, piquant modernism a la Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, silly quotes from pop and classics alike, jazz bits, soul bits, you name it. Every time you turn around, Kapilow is pulling another rabbit out of another hat. There’s so much going on that our intrepid little concert-goers have no time to get bored.”

    Joining the University Symphony for this work are narrator Jabari Rayford, a principal scholar at St. Sabina Academy on Chicago’s South Side, and soprano Gwendolyn Faasen of Grand Rapids, Mich.

    Also on the program will be works by Cailliet and Copland. The University Wind Ensemble will present Ives’ Country Band March and actor Albert Hague’s song The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, which was written for the immensely popular Chuck Jones-animated TV cartoon.

    Children will be able to see other musical characters come to life as the performers present an instrument “petting zoo” at 3 p.m. Musicians will be stationed around the Reynolds club, showing kids how the instruments look, sound and work.

    Tickets are $6 general admission, $4 for students, or use a Da capo Card. Tickets will go on sale Monday, April 28; more information is available by calling (773) 702-9075.