The Calliope & Baby Elephants – Henry Flurry

Sonoran Winds Concert

3 PM on Sunday, September 25, 2022
2 PM pre-Concert Talk
Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
1100 E Sheldon, Prescott, AZ

 

Anybody who grew up in New Orleans is well familiar with the calliope. It is a keyboard instrument that resembles an organ, yet the notes are produced by steam whistles. The Steamboat Natchez is a majestic paddle wheel steamer that usually docks in New Orleans. Multiple times a day, you’ll hear echoing through downtown a miniature concert of music played on the Natchez’ calliope.

The first notes of a Natchez calliope concert are really out of tune. As the steam warms the pipes, individual notes crawl closer to being in tune. While the intonation continues to improve, the instrument never quite reaches that destination. Yet, the charm of the Natchez calliope music always brings me back to my childhood.

Henry Mancini found a (well tuned) calliope just the right instrument to use in his Baby Elephant Walk, a piece whose arrangement for wind quintet you’ll hear on Sunday. Mancini is best known for his film music, particular The Pink Panther (also heard on Sunday). He is uniquely clever in his jazz-influenced melodies, harmonies, and orchestration.

Baby Elephant Walk was written to accompany a short scene when the woman protagonist of the movie Hatari! walks a trio of baby elephants to a watering hole across a stunning African landscape. Mancini was inspired by his interpretation of the elephants “walking boogie-woogie.” The piece is based on upon a standard 12-bar blues harmonic structure – one of the fundamental foundations of jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

This unscripted scene is one of the most charming moments in the movie Hatari!, and Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk adds to the playfulness of actress Elsa Martinelli and the elephants. Watch the scene below to hear the calliope, the catchy melodies, and the blues harmonies.

When you listen to Baby Elephant Walk on the Sonoran Winds Concert, you’ll enjoy the many ways the variety within the woodwinds creates this same playfulness. Tickets are available through AZPhil.org.

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