1999 ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE WITH THE KITCHENER WATERLOO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Maestro Orpheus and the World Clock first appeared as a recording (story with music) in 1996. It was issued on CD and cassette tape. The fact that at the time cassettes were still a viable medium for children’s products suggests that the project belongs to the distant past. So, perhaps a bit of history wouldn’t be untoward.
Back in those long-ago days, Joanne Grodzinski owned a music shop, in Guelph Ontario, which specialized in jazz and classical recordings. Robert Pennee worked with her.
Audiences for classical music were waning, and there were fewer music teachers in elementary schools. Joanne saw a need for quality product that introduced classical music to children, and because, in Robert, she had ‘writer on staff’, she saw a means. A means that would complement her organizational and business skills.
They began to sketch out the project, “a story with music,” in 1994.
Unlike today, when it’s possible to produce sophisticated recordings in a home studio, in 1995 production costs were high.
Joanne and Robert were willing to devote hundreds – which in the end turned out to be thousands – of hours to the project. But they needed help with funding. They sought investors and formed a company, Maestro Orpheus Productions. (Today, perhaps the project would be crowd-sourced. At the time, family and friends were the crowd.)
Other help was supplied by Simon Wynberg, the music director of the Guelph Spring Festival at the time, who performed two crucial services: he had a connection with the English Chamber Orchestra (he sometimes served as guest conductor) and he arranged to have them record many of the pieces of music that the project intended to use; he also brought the project to the attention of Mark Stafford, a producer at Jungle Music, and it was through him that the well-known Canadian actor R.H. Thomson became involved, agreeing to perform the role of narrator. Casting sessions found the child-performer B.J. McLellan; and two University of Guelph professors with theatre experience, Marshall Matson and Leslie Marshall, fleshed out the cast.
Almost two years after the initial proposal, the recording entered the market, with national distribution, and appeared to be well-received. Sales were good and reviews were promising. [SEE REVIEWS]
Owing to Wynberg’s enthusiasm, the Guelph Spring Festival staged a production of the work and this was followed a couple of years later by a more elaborate orchestral (cushion concert) version, this latter produced by Maestro Orpheus Productions.
Around this same time, Joanne, who had worked as an elementary school teacher before starting the music shop, got together with Carolyn McMillan, a music consultant with the area Board of Education, to develop a Classroom Teacher’s Guide (download for free here).
Despite all this activity, by 2001/02, the project seemed to have run its course, and both Joanne and Robert had become involved in other activities.
Time-travel to 2021 – twenty years. A period which has seen many changes in the music industry, but also in the book business, including the exponential growth of interest in audiobooks – a period which has also seen Joanne develop a pleasurable addiction to the form. It is her addiction which led to a Zoom meeting with Robert. Which, months later, led to an audiobook version of the CD, an e-book, and a website (this one!)
1997 PERFORMANCE AT THE GUELPH SPRING FESTIVAL