“The Snowman” by the Grand Rapids Symphony

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by Kayla Sosa | photos by Terry Johnston 

The festive fun doesn’t have to stop after the holidays are over. Those looking for some more joy in the season can join the Grand Rapids Symphony for the one-time only performance of  Academy-Award nominated animated film “The Snowman” on Jan. 4. 

The classic 1982 animated silent film, “The Snowman” will be shown on the 40-foot-screen with a live score performed by the symphony and accompanying choirs. The story is from the 1978 children’s book by Raymond Briggs, with original music composed by Howard Blake.

“It’s all done with pencil drawings, so the animation is really amazing,” said Sean Ivory, co-director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. “There’s no dialogue to really tell the story, it’s kind of like a picture book. The music is depicting all the parts of the story in a really descriptive way.”

A “Winter Story” for the Whole Family

“The Snowman” tells the story of a young boy who builds a snowman that comes to life and takes him on a trip to the North Pole. While Santa makes an appearance, Ivory said the 30-minute show is very much a “winter story.”

Ivory said hearing the performance live is a unique experience. In some of the modern performances where a movie is accompanied by live music, the director is able to get cues from the video. Ivory said “The Snowman” doesn’t provide the director those same signals. 

“It’s electric,” he described. “The conductor has to time everything to line up with the film. There are no signals at all. (Conductor) John Varineau has to just know the film so well that he can conduct. There’s a part where the orchestra has to play a sneeze, the snowman sneezes. All of that stuff has to be timed completely perfectly, down to the microsecond.” 

 Ivory said the show is for the whole family. 

“Even as an adult, I find it to be a really powerful story,” Ivory said. “I think kids and adults can really get into what they’re seeing and hearing.”

Besides “The Snowman,” the program also features the Grand Rapids Symphony performing such wintery melodies as the “Winter” Concerto from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and the “Winter Train Ride” from Prokofiev’s “Winter Bonfire Suite.” 

Pre-concert activities begin at 2 p.m. Children can experience the joy of making music with an instrument petting zoo and make snowman crafts. 

What: “The Snowman” by the Grand Rapids Symphony
When: Saturday, Jan. 4, 3:00 p.m.
Where: DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW
Cost: $15

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