Danny Elfman visits DC for world premiere of ‘Suite for Chamber Orchestra’ in free Capitol Hill concert

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Danny Elfman in D.C. (Part 1)

He’s best known for scoring Tim Burton movies like “Batman” (1989), “Edward Scissorhands” (1990) and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), in which he also voiced the stop-motion character Jack Skellington.

Next week, Danny Elfman visits the District for the world premiere of his “Suite for Chamber Orchestra” performed by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, May 4 at 8 p.m.

“This is a brand new piece,” Co-Artistic Director & Bassoonist Gina Cuffari told WTOP. “The piece is in four movements, and it’s very typical Elfman. … When I hear ‘Danny Elfman’ I think ‘Edwards Scissorhands,’ ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ kind of that zany, quirky, busy, fun, cartoony music, but ‘Batman’ and a lot of his other film music really shows a wide range of what he can do, the kind of colors, melodies and textures.”

The original piece was commissioned by the Library of Congress, along with additional funding by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, which will host future performances of it.

“What I think is really interesting about this piece is that you’ve got both of those roads, you’ve got a little bit of ‘The Simpsons’ in there, but you’ve also got some really beautiful rhapsodic writing similar to ‘Batman,'” Cuffari said. “It’s scored for strings, so violins, violas, cellos, basses and one of each woodwind, so we’ve got a flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon, then a few brass instruments, a trumpet, French horn, then percussion and piano.”

Approximately 30 musicians will perform live at the church on Capitol Hill at 3rd and A Street, Southeast.

“A lot of scoring by composers in the orchestra setting sets the brass as the doom and gloom, the sustain, maybe the heroic passages. But Elfman writes very playful brass parts,” Co-Artistic Director & Trumpeter Louis Hanzlik told WTOP. “They’re very alive with lots of notes, not just necessarily playing fanfares, so I really appreciate the spin that he’s put on the brass writing to make us more of an intricate part of the string and woodwind parts.”

After the new Elfman piece, the audience will also hear American violinist Chad Hoopes play Felix Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64,” followed by Jannina Norpoth’s fresh arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” all performed by Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which was founded in New York City in 1972.

“This year is the 50th anniversary or Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which is monumental,” Hanzlik said. “It was founded by a group of chamber musicians who were interested in playing chamber music, such as string quartets, within a larger orchestral setting, which means that the players lead the rehearsals and the performances — not a designated conductor. … Orpheus performs without a conductor and has done so since its founding.”

Tickets are free to the public.

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Danny Elfman in D.C. (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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