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Music from Home Alone and Frozen!

Feel the spirit embodied in the music and song of the season

3:00pm Mansfield Theater

Why You Shouldn't Miss It

Our annual holiday concert with orchestra and choir will have a particularly childlike spin, with music from Ottorino Respighi’s Magic Toyshop, Victor Herbert’s musical Babes in Toyland, music from the movies Home Alone and Frozen, plus a young guest conductor for Sleigh Ride.

GFSA Orchestra & Choir Vertical DSC_0197


Ottorino Respighi 1879 – 1936

Magic Toyshop 1919



Ottorino Respighi’s compositional legacy rests on two main pillars. One is his brilliant and evocative orchestral tone poems, particularly the three depictions of Rome, past and present. The other is his reimagining of music from earlier eras, of which the best known are the suites of orchestrations of Renaissance pieces called Ancient Airs and Dances. The fact that neither of these are opera is rare for an Italian: As our 2019 program (for a performance of Pines of Rome) stated:

While he did compose some for the stage, Respighi’s education and career were focused elsewhere: his principal professors specialized in concert works or early music, he himself was an orchestral violist (including a stint in St. Petersburg, where he caught a few lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov), and his steadiest employment came in 1913 with a faculty position at an academy in Rome. Rome was, out of all the Italian cities, the most concert- (rather than opera-) focused, and Respighi’s success would stem from his orchestral works.

While not an opera, The Magic Toyshop was a stage work rather than a concert piece, but it does show Respighi’s interest in older music–if not as old as Ancient Airs and Dances. The GFSA has performed Magic Toyshop once before, in 2002. From that program:


Respighi took inspiration from Italian music of the past including some of Rossini’s smaller pieces such as the Sins of Old Age.
[Note: Gioacchino Rossini made absurd amounts of money as an opera composer, allowing him to retire in his 30s. The Sins of Old Age were pieces in various genres he composed during his protracted retirement period.] He mentioned his interest in using these pieces in ballet to Serge Diaghilev of the Ballet Russe. Within a few months Respighi arranged the music. And on June 5, 1919, The Magic Toyshop was premiered at the Alhambra Theatre in London.

The ballet’s Toy Story-like plot involves dolls who come to life in order to thwart a sale that will separate them. As with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, this plot is largely an excuse for dancers to show off their skills in a series of national dances. For the suite, we visit Italy (Tarantella), Austria (Valse lente), Russia (Cossack Dance), Poland (Mazurka), France (Can-Can), and,
well, the entire European continent (Galop).

arr. Dan Goeller  b. 1973

Gesu Bambino with Sinfonia from
J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio 



South Dakota-based composer Dan Goeller blends two Christmas melodies from very different sources for his setting of Gesù bambino. The carol Gesù bambino (itself a mash-up of an original melody and O Come, All Ye Faithful) was written by Italian-American composer and organist Pietro Yon in 1917. To this Goeller adds the Sinfonia from the second cantata (the one written for St. Stephen’s Day, the second day of Christmas) of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. (It is sheer coincidence that this is the second time this season that Bach’s music has found its way into an arrangement of another melody–see the notes about the music of Tetris in our Game Trax program notes.) Goeller’s pairing of the Yon and the Bach is musically and narratively appropriate: Both works share a gentle, lilting triple meter, and both describe the annunciation to the shepherds at the nativity. 

Victor Herbert 1859 – 1924

March from Babes in Toyland 1903


Kristen Anderson-Lopez  b. 1972
Robert Lopez  b. 1975

Music from Frozen 2013



John Williams  b. 1932

Three Holiday Songs

from Home Alone 1990



Three of the works on this program come from children’s films, and while the films (and their source material) come from very different eras, they share certain plot points, particularly the trope–common to much of children’s entertainment–of terrorizing children. Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland started life as an operetta before being released as a film in 1934 and 1970 (along with multiple TV productions and an animated film). Its plot will sound familiar to those who know A Series of Unfortunate Events: two orphans are entrusted to an evil relative who plots to murder them and steal their inheritance. As in Respighi’s Magic Toyshop, the toys featured in the March of the Toys come to life in a toy store, though in this case they’ve been trained to murder.

At least that’s how it goes in the original operetta. Later versions of Babes in Toyland tone down the intensity, and this gives it something in common with the 2013 Disney film Frozen. In fact, Frozen departs enough from its inspiration–the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Snow Queen”– that comparison becomes difficult. But if nothing else, Frozen’s trolls are much more benign than those of the original tale, the latter of which cheer when humans get mirror shards in their eyes. Frozen and its score proved astonishingly popular, and its biggest hit “Let It Go” won both an Oscar and a Grammy, alongside numerous other awards.

But neither Frozen nor Babes in Toyland can match the violence of 1990’s holiday mega-hit Home Alone. While Home Alone was not a direct adaptation of existing material, director Chris Columbus cited influence from the slapstick physical comedy of the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. Much of John Williams’s score incorporates traditional carols, but the Three Holiday Songs are all originals, including the so-called theme song “Somewhere in My Memory,” which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Leroy Anderson 1908 – 1975

Sleigh Ride  1948



This perennial favorite ends the concert with a youthful guest conductor.



December 3 2023

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