Virtual Christmas?

Volume CIII, No. 1January, 2003

Bill Dennison

When the orchestra assembled for this year’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular, there was an uninvited guest in the band. Brett Sommer and Music Arts Technology had installed a “virtual orchestra” setup that included a computer and synth programmed to play along with the orchestra on two major musical numbers. The problem as reported by orchestra members was that it didn’t “play along” with the orchestra. “Suddenly we would hear these parts being played completely out of step with us,” said one orchestra member. “You couldn’t control it,” said another. “You hit a key and it takes off, regardless of what was happening on stage or what the orchestra was trying to do.”

It got so bad that the show’s musical team and management decided it had to go. On Dec. 2, the VO was taken out of the Christmas show to the relief of everyone involved.