They’re called earworms.
An earworm is a tune you can’t get out of your head, one that keeps looping in your brain day and night despite your best efforts. My latest comes courtesy of the Long Beach Symphony’s latest free Sounds & Spaces concert, an interactive multigenerational event the other day at the Main Library downtown.
A quintet of the LBSO’s principal brass players, those fine musicians who most recently displayed their talents in a thrilling performance of Sibelius Symphony No. 2, were the performers. Here trumpets Marissa Benedict and Darren Mulder, horn Joe Meyer, trombone Alex Iles and tuba Doug Tornquist were called upon to tell a musical story called “Fire in the Big Top!,” preceded by a short Gabrieli opener.
This piece, for narrator and the aforementioned brass quintet, had been commissioned by the orchestra in Portland, Maine, from a composer named Delvyn Case and premiered last year. The narration was adapted for the LBSO’s purposes by Sounds & Spaces guru Gary Bovyer, the orchestra’s principal clarinet.
The narrator was an energetic fellow, one Bob Joles, who kept the audience, young and old, spellbound with the tale of a circus in 1906 Long Beach, a fire that rages out of control, an escaped tiger, and two young children at the heart of the action.
Kids in the large and appreciative audience seemed to be really into it, and the musical selections had them clapping along. And then Joles sang this song. It’s called “Golden State Circus March,” and it’s featured in the piece many times. The audience, kids, parents and a few stray adults, enthusiastically sang along. And now it’s my latest earworm.
A week before, this same program had been played at the Belmont Shore fire station. Reportedly the star of that performance had been the station’s bell. At the library, Joles had to ring a little hand bell, so you had to use your imagination.
The setup was a little wonky, but it worked well. Joles and the musicians were on the platform halfway down the library’s main staircase, with most of the audience up on the main level surrounding them, looking down. There were also chairs set up on the lower level looking up. The crowd was a mix of people who had come specifically for this concert and those who just happened to be there and were (we think) pleasantly surprised.
After the concert, kids and their parents were invited to participate in the LBSO’s Instrument Petting Zoo, a feature of the symphony’s well-regarded instrumental programs for many years, and a good time was had by all.
Now if I can just get that dang song out of my head.