The episode’s title was “Rabbit of Seville,” where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs Bunny through the stage door of the Hollywood Bowl.
Bugs tricks his adversary into going on stage, where their chase is punctuated by the overture to Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” which the LSU Symphonic Winds will perform immediately after Bugs and Elmer exit the screen in the LSU Union Theater on Tuesday.
Associate Director of Bands Dennis Llinas calls the upcoming performance the ensemble’s “Cartoon Concert,” a program that both educates and entertains.
“There are a couple of things at play here,” Llinas says. “I learned a lot of the music in this concert watching cartoons as a kid. There are a lot of people who know these songs from cartoons.”
Cartoons, especially those in the Looney Tunes series, incorporated classical music in their soundtracks. So, in this concert, the Symphonic Winds not only will perform many of these compositions but show where they’ve been immortalized in pop culture through cartoons.
In the final act, musicians will play out their own cartoon to Llinas’ musical arrangement.
“It’s going to be so much fun,” Llinas says. “We’ve never done anything like this before, and the ensemble is having so much fun with it.”
The concert begins with Paul Hart’s composition, “Cartoon,” which captures the sounds of a typical cartoon. The program then moves to the William Walton piece, “Facade Entertainments,” narrated by Lori Bade. Then comes Franz List’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.”
“Everyone will recognize these songs,” Llinas says. “That’s the first part of the program, and during intermission, we’ll be showing cartoons on the stage screen.”
And then comes Bugs Bunny on the run to begin the second half of the concert. The cartoon will play out on the big screen as an introduction to the Symphonic Winds’ performance of “Overture to The Barber of Seville,” which will lead into the ensemble’s 15-minute cartoon skit Llinas has titled, “A Day in the West.”
“We’ll have a police chase, a sleeping man and a love interest,” Llinas says. “And while some of the ensemble members are acting out the scene, the others will be playing the music.”
Of course, this took some coordination.
First, the stage has to be cleared of chairs and stands to make room for the action. And since musicians would be playing their instruments at different times, they had to memorize Llinas’ arrangement.
Then Llinas had to block the storyline as a director would stage a play.
“At one point, we have a villain who takes out the saxophone player with chloroform, so we have to make sure we have someone there to grab his saxophone before he falls down so the instrument isn’t damaged,” Llinas says. “We’ve basically done all of this ourselves, and it’s hilarious.”
And the songs providing the soundtrack in Llinas’ arrangement? Well, get ready for the theme to “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” and Scott Joplin’s ragtime classic, “The Entertainer.” And no cartoon chase would be complete without the Lone Ranger part of the “William Tell Overture.”
And those are just a few of the songs.
“Our costumes will be very simple,” Llinas says. “The ensemble will be dressed in black, as they usually are for our concerts. We’ll have one character wearing a big cowboy hat, and we’ll have some plastic police hats for the policemen. It’s just easy things like that.”
Through it all, Llinas will be gauging the audience’s response. If the concert is a hit, he’d like to make it an annual event.
“I thought about this over the summer, and I did a lot of research before putting it together,” Llinas says. “I watched a lot of cartoons, and I enjoyed the nostalgia. I loved watching the Looney Tunes and ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons while growing up, and that’s where I pulled a lot of the music from.”
But Llinas was careful to choose songs and scenes that were familiar to a wide audience, for even some of his students weren’t well versed in Bugs Bunny’s cartoon legend.
“I had to explain it to some of them,” Llinas says. “So I was careful not to choose music that would be known to only some in the audience.”
In the end, Llinas hopes everyone will leave the concert with a smile and a greater appreciation for the classical music they learned as kids while watching cartoons.