The Los Angeles Ballet Dances the Nutcracker with Garritan Personal Orchestra and Live Musicians
Musician’s Union okays revolutionary use of GPO in providing employment for orchestra musicians
The Los Angeles Ballet, the city's own professional ballet company, will be presenting twelve performances of the Nutcracker Ballet this year. The premiere will take place at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills December 2nd, with eleven subsequent performances across Los Angeles.
If anyone would like to attend the premiere at the Wilshire Theatre this weekend, let me know soon.
22 real musicians will perform in this traditional, yet original, production; along with 32 'virtual' players provided by Garritan Personal Orchestra.
The original score called for as many as fifty-five players, but because of budget and pit space limitations, this was impossible. Rather than cancel the production or play a CD recording ("totally unacceptable for both artistic and moral reasons"), Michael Andreas (musical director) and Julie Whittaker (Executive Director of the Los Angeles Ballet) pondered over the options.
The following is from the Program Notes for the show that tell the story of how this came about:
“It was always understood that Los Angeles Ballet would perform The Nutcracker with a LIVE orchestra. This decision was directed by our mission and the respect we have for our performers, the music and our audience. BUT, almost immediately we found that there was a small problem...small pits! Tchaikovsky’s lush orchestration calls for as many as 55 players and there are few venues in the Los Angeles area that feature an orchestra pit large enough to accommodate this many musicians….I am excited about the Los Angeles Ballet Company's use of the Garritan Personal Orchestra. This use of samples in this major production coincides with our philosophy of providing tools and opportunities for musicians, not a replacement for them. It is fantastic that the Musician's Union saw the benefits of this new technology, and how samples can play a vital role in creating opportunities for musicians. This will also inevitably open up opportunities for others involved with samples.
…the “Eureka!” moment came to Mr. Andreas: “We live in a time that places us at the nexus of talent & technology, so why not use cutting edge technology to fill in for our lack of pit space?” We could fit as many live musicians as practical in the pit and use the latest in sound re-enforcement software to fill in the orchestration. But, this seemingly simple concept presented some profound challenges: Which music program could best accomplish this, and in the few months left before our premier, how could anyone possibly sequence the complete ballet (a process that entails entering into a computer each individual note, phrasing and articulation for every missing instrument in The Nutcracker’s 511 page score)? Also, there were other considerations; how would the musicians take to this, how would it all be mixed and synced and how could we make the Musicians Union understand that for the first time, we would be using this technology to provide musicians work rather than take it from them?
In a stroke of incredible good fortune, Mr. Andreas came across the Garritan Personal Orchestra (GPO) website. The GPO is a computer program that “plugs-in” to any music composition program and is capable of reproducing the sound and performance aspects of every orchestral instrument. While perusing their website, he discovered that they had already sequenced the complete ballet for a small ballet company in Washington State. He immediately called the GPO’s creator, Gary Garritan, and was pleased to find a kindred spirit. As soon as Mr. Garritan heard what LAB was trying to do, he lit up. He explained to Mr. Andreas that when he designed the GPO software, it was never his intention to have it replace musicians. Rather, it was designed to be a tool that would allow students and composers to hear their music as they wrote it and to provide them with a preview of what a live performance might sound like. Upon realizing that his program would be used to provide employment for musicians rather than deny it to them, he immediately offered to assist in any way he could. He donated a copy of the GPO program to LAB along with his profound expertise and the amazing Nutcracker sequences that had been painstakingly programmed by James Ortner, who had spent over three years inputting the bulk of the score using the GPO software and Cakewalk’s Sonar sequencing program.
What you will experience at this performance is the result of the fortuitous collaboration of all of these forces. It is exciting and new. Los Angeles Ballet’s mission dictates that ballet must be experienced in its full glory. Sonically, this means that the audience must experience the music as the composer intended. We will always strive to provide you, our audience, with this level and quality of performance, because you (and Tchaikovsky) deserve no less!
Hats off to Jim (Haydn) Ortner for making this possible after several seasons of sequencing. Thanks for Robert Davis, Frank Spitznagel and Francesco Marchetti for additional sequences. And thanks to the Musicians Union, Julie Whittaker and Micheal Andreas.
About the LA Production of the Nutcracker
Executive Director: Julie Whittaker.
Music Director:Michael AndreasConductor, Eimear Noone
Artististic Directors/Choreography: Thordal Christensen & Colleen Neary.
The LA Ballet production of the Nutcracker has original choreography by Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary, original set design by Los Angeles designer/illustrator Catherine Kanner, and costumes by renowned Danish designer Mikael Melbe. Guest Artists include Paloma Herrera of American Ballet Theatre; Benjamin Millepied, Maria Kowroski, Maria Riccetto and Stephen Hanna, of the New York City Ballet.
This year's Los Angeles Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be performed at Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills December 2-3, moving to Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on December 23-24 and culminating at Alex Theatre, Glendale December 30-31. There will be matinee and evening performances. Nutcracker tickets on sale now. For more information about the Los Angeles Ballet and this year’s production of The Nutcracker: www.losangelesballet.org
About the Musical Director Michael Andreas:
Music Director Michael Andreas is a well known Theatre and Film/TV composer. His stage credits include: Jay Johnson: The Two and Only (currently on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theartre), My Rotten Life: A Bitter Operetta (starring Susan Tyrrell), Christmas Babies, and Don't Hug Me. His film and television credits include King of Queens (CBS, producer main title theme), Married With Children (composer for 7 seasons), Dream for an Insomniac (starring Jennifer Aniston), CBS Early Edition (main title theme), Call Me Claus (with Whoopi Goldber)g, Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist, Phenom, Men Are From Mars/Women Are From Venus, Wheel of Fortune, The Celestial Empire, An Affair of the Heart (HBO) and Christopher Lowell's Interior Motives, and many other films, television shows and interactive media. He received an Emmy nomination for his work on "Heroes for the Planet Featuring Charlotte Church" He also conducted and orchestrated an album for the Beach Boys and many other productions.
Visit the Garritan Nutcracker Page