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REVIEW: Dressed to thrill

By David Rogers. July 26, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Who would ever have thought that watching a feather floating this way and that over a small Southern town would be so fascinating? And yet, in 1994, the world was collectively mesmerized by the opening and closing credits of Forrest Gump.

All photographic images by David Rogers exclusively for Blowing Rock News

Where did Jedi Knights and light sabres come from? And if they perpetrated criminal violence by robbing ships at sea in days of old, how did we come to romanticize the very concept of a pirate?

Friday evening’s 32nd Annual Symphony by the Lake in Blowing Rock, hosted by Chetola Mountain Resort and produced by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce with a 2019 theme of “A Journey of Imagination,” was a celebration of human beings’ unique ability to create something out of seemingly nothing.

Through the centuries, creative thinkers challenged paradigms and opened windows into theatres of the mind that we didn’t even know existed.

While some of us apparently received from the DNA gods a higher ration of genetic material permitting creativity than others of us, imagination — especially in today’s increasingly digital world  — knows few boundaries. It can be as simple as a child looking at an empty milk carton and envisioning a covered wagon. We only need to make some scissor cuts here and there, then attach some Oreo cookies as wheels and celery sticks for the falling tongue and neck yoke from which a team of horses will pull.

Much of humanity’s evolution (and improving quality of life) has been driven by creative genius — imagination — from even before Sir Isaac Newton codified the concept of gravity near the turn of the 17th century. Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked more than 500 years before the Wright Brothers tamed the winds of Kitty Hawk, but the original Renaissance Man’s surviving notebooks detail his imaginative thoughts about flying machines, as well as about human anatomy and even the concept of robots.

Through the centuries, creative thinkers challenged paradigms and opened windows into theaters of the mind that we didn’t even know existed.

Creativity has its rewards, of course.

Across the shimmering waters of Lake Chetola Friday night, Director Cornelia Orth’s Symphony of the Mountains — on what can only be described as a true “Chamber of Commerce” evening — perfectly captured the often nostalgic wonder of mankind’s creative abilities, allowing us to mostly relive our fascination through the magic of music from favorite, even iconic movie soundtracks.

To think that it has been more than a half-century since rival street gangs rumbled across the silver screen with a modern-day story of Romeo and Juliet in West Side Story, and almost that long since George Lucas brought to life an epic space opera that stretched our imaginations with Star Wars.

Has it been 16 years since Jerry Bruckheimer first created a swashbuckling movie tale (with sequels) in Pirates of the Carribean? In the hands of Orth and the Kingsport, TN-based Symphony of the Mountains, the soundtrack transports listeners back to 2003 when actors Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush so magically brought us into the pirate world.

Creativity has its rewards, of course. The five (so far) “Pirates” films in the series have grossed almost $5 billion worldwide, with perhaps one or more sequels to come. The Star Wars franchise has done almost $10 billion, according to Box Office Mojo, with at least four more films in the works over the next several years.

In Gump, we sit smack dab in the middle of those filmmakers’ collective imaginations, munching our popcord and sipping our sodas…

Guest vocal soloist, Carla Karst

While swank adventure stories like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean dazzled audiences and took movie-goers back in time (Pirates) as well as into the future (Star Wars), Forrest Gump required a different kind of imagination. The folks adapting William Groom’s already imaginative novel took creative story-telling to near-epic levels. They sweep across time — decades — to detail Forrest’s life-long love for Jenny, the object of his affection.

Using inventive digital technology, the filmmakers have young Gump shedding his leg braces and running onto the field of (arguably) America’s favorite pastime: college football. He runs across America, too, becomes a hero in Vietnam, and shakes hands with John F. Kennedy in the White House. In Gump, we sit smack dab in the middle of those filmmakers’ collective imagination, munching our popcorn and sipping our sodas — and Friday night at Chetola, Symphony of the Mountains rekindled our fascination with that iconic American movie in playing Alan Silvestri’s “Forrest Gump Suite.”

Few soundtracks so immediately transport moviegoers into magical, mysterious worlds of make-believe faster than “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known in India and the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone). Opening with the delicate sounds of a celeste instrument and at times swelling into full orchestral rhapsody, John Williams’ movie score as performed by Orth & Co. helps rekindle the child in all of us, whatever year we were born.

Melissa Tausche (left) soared with the national anthem.

Friday night’s programme opened with a stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” sung by Blowing Rock’s own Melissa Tausche, then included all of the above selections, while also visiting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, the Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, big band sounds, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (guest soloist, Carla Karst), the reverent “Lord’s Prayer” by Albert Mallote, and of course what has become a mainstay closure to Symphony on the Lake, patriotic offerings that finish with John Philip Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever,” replete with a pyrotechnic show.

For the estimated 4,000 (official numbers are still pending) music lovers enjoying the perfect summer evening with picnics, buffets, and spiritual beverages, “A Journey of Imagination” continued the growing legacy of what presenting sponsor Hendrick Automotive CEO Bobby Rice described to the assemblage as, “…one of the premier events staged annually in North Carolina.”

Amen — and Amen.

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