Take Inspiration From Nature Even Though It’s Cold: Hear Randall Tobin’s Wintertime Ballet The Snow Queen

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The Snow Queen sits on her star-spangled throne by Dugald Walker  (1914)
The Snow Queen sits on her star-spangled throne
by Dugald Walker (1914)

It all started with a rose.

The rose was a symbol.

It symbolized the connection between a boy and a girl.

And the reason she ended up in tears had little to do with the boy, and a lot more to do with the Snow Queen.

At one point, the girl would meet an enchantress who would comb her hair

. . . and in doing so, cast a spell that caused her to forget all about him.

The Enchantress and Her Garden by Dugald Walker (1914)
The Enchantress and Her Garden by Dugald Walker (1914)

The girl spent part of the summer in the enchantress’s beautiful garden, and she was very happy . . .

. . . until by chance she saw a rose . . .

. . . that brought all the memory back.

And then she knew what she had to do.

She had to leave the garden at once.

This story written in 1844 was to serve as the basis for a stage adaptation in 1998 that created a wintertime ballet. American producer, sound engineer, and composer Randall Tobin of Theta Media Group would recall,

In September of 1998, choreographer Aerin Holt and technical director Marti Marshall came over to my recording studio and asked if I wanted to compose the music for their new children’s ballet scheduled to premiere in December. Having never done such a project before, having no time to do it, and having no budget with which to pay for such a task, I, of course, agreed! I can’t thank them enough for presenting me with the challenge . . . [which he completed by working several consecutive Sundays–the only time he had . . .]

The challenge was to craft an interpretation through music and dance of seasonal children’s story “The Snow Queen” by Hans Andersen, with its timeless message that friendship, hope, integrity, and persistence can enable even a child to overcome the disappointments, setbacks, obstacles, and realities that we tend to call, for better or worse, life.

The first performances of The Snow Queen turned out to be such a success, the California Contemporary Ballet Company decided to make the production an annual event. Now going into its 20th year, this Tobin-Holt collaboration has been taking the story of a broken mirror, a broken heart, the power of a rose, and the adventures that follow from its origin long ago as a twinkle in the eye of a Danish author to audiences separated from him by a continent and more than a century. But in the grand scheme of things, what is the passage of time, after all?

“The most sophisticated people I know–inside they are all children.”

―Jim Henson

“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.”

―Fred Rogers

If you might be among the children of all ages who care to hear it, Tobin’s scoring evokes and animates episodes such as

4. The Snow Queen Takes Kai Away
5. Gerda Searching for Kai, The River Voyage, and the transition from Winter into Spring
6. The Enchantress and Gerda
7. Her Enchanted Flower Garden; the Discovery of the Rose
16. A Cold Journey through the Forest
18. The Castle of the Snow Queen, where Gerda and Kai Reunite

The varied settings do present a range of terrain and territory of the mind, with Act 2 set partly in the forest and partly in the realm of the Snow Queen. Of course, there’s more that could be said right here, but the rest of that’s been done with music:

 cover to CD of ballet The Snow Queen by Randall Tobin

For more examples of seasonal music that draw from nature, don’t forget about the tags and categories at the top of each post. You’ll want to use this one.

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