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“PHILHARMONSTER” – Frightfully Fun for All Ages

PhilharMonster, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual Halloween concert, offers all the seasonal elements that make for special memories, from costumes to sheer surprises. Every October, conductor Neal Gittleman and the DPO accept the challenge of bringing to a multi-generational audience a family-friendly concert that includes the spookiness of Halloween blended with engaging music and plenty of fun.

While Gittleman often receives credit for launching the event he is quick to point out that “PhilharMonster predates me by at least a couple of years. In fact, one of the things I found irresistible about the DPO was a concert called PhilharMonster – it told me that the organization didn’t take itself too seriously! My challenge has always been to broaden the (repertoire), figuring out how to do a tricky-treaty program every year that’s fresh and has some surprises … it’s a Halloween concert, so it’s supposed to be ‘spooky music.’ But there’s a finite and limited repertoire of orchestra pieces that fit the ‘spooky’ category… It would be very easy to play the same tunes all over.”

Since the DPO’s move to the Schuster Center with its spacious Wintergarden, PhilharMonster has added pre-concert children’s activities. According to Gloria Pugh, DPO director of education, “the Volunteers Association is very involved in PhilharMonster, especially the pre-concert activities…and (the volunteers) dress in costumes for the event.” Pugh added that while the pre-concert activities are fun they are “designed to help the children become acquainted with what they will be hearing during the concert.” The audience has always been encouraged to dress in costumes and according to Pugh “about three-quarters of them attend in costume.”

But it isn’t just the kids who have fun with PhilharMonster. Gittleman and the orchestra members also dress up in their best – and scariest – Halloween costumes for the concert. In fact Gittleman says his favorite part of PhilharMonster “has to be my costume(s) and my annual top-top-secret entrance.” While this reporter failed to lure him into spilling the beans about this year’s plans, concertgoers know that Gittleman’s entrances are legendary and not to be missed.

This year’s musical lineup will include Kleinsinger’s “Tubby the Tuba;” a whimsical piece inspired by a comment Kleinsinger made at a concert in 1941 that “tubas can sing.” While it was not finished and premiered until after the end of World War II, it continues to be a favorite with audiences. The DPO rendition will feature principal tuba Timothy Northcut in the role of Tubby and the story will be narrated by DPO president Paul Helfrich.

Rounding out the program will be a mix of familiar and, at least for younger listeners, not-so-familiar pieces sort of “like your goody bag after trick-or-treat” as DPO marketing director David Bukvic phrased it. The repertoire will include some spooky classical pieces like Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre” and Scarlatti-Jan Bach’s “Black Cat’s Fugue” as well as other more contemporary and lighthearted pieces such as Chan’s “Overture for a Comic Book Hero.”

PhilharMonster will be presented Saturday, October 30 in the Mead Theatre at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets. The concert begins at 3 p.m. but children’s activities start at 2 p.m. in the Wintergarden so plan to arrive early. Included in this year’s pre-concert activities will be a costume contest with three categories: birth to 6 years, ages 7 through 12, and 13 years old and up. Three prizes will be awarded for each category: cutest, scariest and most creative. There will also be an Instrument Petting Zoo, Face Painting, and much more. Be sure to check the DPO Web site (www.DaytonPhilharmonic.com) for details about costume contest categories and rules.

Tickets for PhilharMonster are $19 and can be purchased by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visiting online at www.TicketCenterStage.com. The concert is part of the Dayton Power & Light Family Series which also includes “The Magic Orchestra” with special guest Dan Kamin on Sunday, February 13 and “The Beat Goes On” featuring as guest artists Cincinnati-based Drums for Peace on Sunday, April 3. All Family Series concerts begin at 3 p.m. with pre-concert activities starting an hour before.

For additional information, call (937) 224-3521 or visit www.DaytonPhilharmonic.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Deborrah Adams at DeborrahAdams@daytoncitypaper.com