Orchestra Celebrates “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

Free family concert April 13 features original composition inspired by L. Frank Baum’s “American Fairy Tales”

photos of 3 principals in concert

Ruth Charloff, left, will direct the UCR Orchestra in a performance of Tim Labor’s composition in a family concert celebrating “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Actress Johanna McKay will narrate.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The UC Riverside Department of Music will celebrate the magical creations of L. Frank Baum, author of the classic 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” in a free family concert by the UCR Orchestra on Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m. in University Theatre.

Complimentary parking permits will be available in Lot 6.

The orchestra, along with storyteller/actor Johanna McKay, will present music from three generations of Oz productions: the famous 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”; the 2003 Broadway musical “Wicked”; and the 2013 prequel film “Oz: The Great and Powerful.”

Premiering at the concert will be “The Queen of Quok,” composed specifically for the UCR Orchestra by Tim Labor, an award-winning composer and associate professor of music and media and cultural studies. The work is inspired by one of Baum’s “American Fairy Tales” and tells the story of a child king, a conniving advisor and an ill-conceived arranged marriage.

The concert, which acknowledges the 75th anniversary of the MGM classic “The Wizard of Oz,” is made possible by a special grant from Dr. Esther Hays, professor emeritus in the UCLA School of Medicine and a former member of the board of directors of the Press-Enterprise.

“The Queen of Quok” is one of two pieces Labor composed to reflect themes in two of Baum’s American fairy tales.

“Both ‘Queen of Quok’ and the other story, ‘King of the Polar Bears,’ featured forms of revenge that I felt were typically American in tone,” Labor explained. “In ‘King of the Polar Bears’ the revenge is physical, whereas in ‘The Queen of Quok’ the revenge is financial. I was excited at stories that I felt would play equally well to a child or an international adult audience.”

Labor said his music follows the “Peter and the Wolf” approach somewhat in that some characters are sometimes articulated by certain instruments. For example, a young king (clarinet) must save himself from the influence of his evil counselor (bassoon) and the woman who purchases him during auction (oboe).

“I was also influenced by what I consider a ‘Muppet Show’ style repertory theatre approach,” he added. “There are lots of folks who will consider this composition a classical music piece, but in fact it is a theatre piece. It is a composition for narrator and orchestra – not a composition for orchestra and narrator. When the Muppets ‘do’ a classic story, new Muppets are rarely invented for the main roles. Kermit will get a role – Miss Piggy another – and it is in part the mismatch between the ‘actor’ and the ‘role’ that produces the Muppet ‘angle’ on the outcome. As such I am rediscovering the conception of the orchestra in terms of unlimited instrumental stage presence rather than merely as a ‘sound-producing body.’ The latter has in fact produced pretty poor ‘contemporary music’ whose sound-producing capabilities are inferior to technological synthesis/amplification and whose stage qualities seem an expensive cultural luxury.”

The orchestra is directed by Ruth Charloff, who also directs the UCR Chamber Singers and is associate conductor of the Claremont Symphony Orchestra. Creator of the UCR Orchestra’s Family Concert series and other educational outreach projects, she also brought the program “Orchestral Expeditions” to many elementary schools in the Riverside area as a Gluck Fellow of the Arts.

Johanna McKay is an actor, director, and playwright, and a teacher of acting and improvisation. Her acting credits include work at Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Dallas Theatre Center, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and the Hollywood Bowl; her film/TV credits include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “The Naked Trucker Show,” “Mr. 3000,” “The Babe,” and “The Bernie Mac Show.”  For 18 years she has directed at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. She also works for P.S. Arts, a nonprofit group that integrates the arts into underfunded public schools in Los Angeles and Lawndale.

Labor is a sound designer who has worked in Los Angeles with the Open Fist Theatre, Circle-X Theatre Company, Sacred Fools, Theatre of Note, and others. He received an Ovation nomination for the sound design for the Open Fist Production of “Papa” in 2005, and the LA Weekly Award in intimate sound design for Sacred Fools’ “Swine Show” in 2008.  He has also composed classical works for orchestra, wind ensemble, and other ensembles, and recently won the Reno Pops Composer’s Night Competition with “Shakespeare’s World: Olivia.”

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-7847
E-mail: bettye.miller@ucr.edu
Twitter: bettyemiller

Additional Contacts

Kathleen DeAtley
Tel: (951) 827-3245
E-mail: performingarts@ucr.edu

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