Conductor Barry Silverman has been watching Walt Disney's "Fantasia" a lot lately, and for the most part, he's enjoyed it tremendously. But every time the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" scene comes on, he's had what you might call a syncing feeling.
Silverman, you see, is preparing for concerts tonight and Saturday at Saddleback College in which his Saddleback Symphony will provide live orchestral accompaniment to excerpts from several Disney animated films to be shown on a giant screen above the stage.
He's found it's tougher than it looks not to do a Mickey Mouse job.
"Seeing the ('Fantasia') video, and knowing the (Paul Dukas) music, I'd always known there were cuts--but I had no idea of the extent of cuts needed to make it work," Silverman said.
"I had to figure out what cuts ('Fantasia' conductor-arranger Leopold) Stokowski made," he said. "There were at least 30 in 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' alone--three measures here, six there, 12 over there, and each measure goes by in less than half a second.
"There are sections (that remain) for the brass and strings that are practically impossible" to play, Silverman said. "In all my professional years of playing, I've never played it that fast.
"You can hear mistakes throughout the (Stokowski) recording--they're barely making their parts, and in some places they don't make their parts."
Silverman and his group will nevertheless strive to make all \o7 their \f7 parts in the Dukas music and other famous compositions used in "Fantasia," including Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" and Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony, as well as instrumental passages from "Sleeping Beauty."
The program also touches on Disney's latest hits with songs from "Beauty and the Beast," featuring baritone Stan Nickel and soprano Eileen O'Hern, and "Aladdin." The concert will end with a sing-along version of "A Whole New World" from "Aladdin."
Silverman, 50, served as a percussionist in the 1960s and '70s with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Tel Aviv Orchestra, both under Zubin Mehta. He also played for the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles. He took over the Saddleback orchestra 10 years ago; it's since doubled to 70 members. Two years ago, Silverman mounted a "Hollywood Hits" concert that featured the orchestra and video excerpts from such films as "E.T.," "Star Wars," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Superman," and the present effort grew out of that one.
Along the way, he discovered that keeping up with cartoons is a considerably bigger musical challenge than playing along to Hollywood's big-budget, outer-space blockbusters.
"I wanted to do Bugs Bunny's 'What's Opera, Doc?,' " Silverman recalled, "but they'd used bits and pieces of music such as 'Tannhauser,' instead of complete arrangements. In Disney's 'The Bandmaster,' there's a big chunk of (Rossini's) 'William Tell' Overture, but then it stops for cartoon bits and sound effects. That was not ideal."
"When I did '2001,' I didn't have to time it exactly," he continued. "Same with 'E.T.'--I took the published music from the bicycle scene to the end, and after getting a feel for the tempo, the music fit fine. In the cartoons, the tempo must be exact, measure by measure.
To keep pace, he said, "I had to write in the screen action every few measures. Then I practiced by watching the videos without sound. During the concerts, I can only watch the screen, so I had to memorized all the scores."
Silverman is planning sequel concerts in both the "Hollywood Hits" and "Cartoon Classics" formats.
"I wanted to start with the best examples of the merger of music and video," he said. "But as you start to research, you often find more work, better work, more interesting work. I think we've just scratched the surface."
\o7 * Barry Silverman leads the Saddleback Symphony in "Cartoon Classics," a program of live music accompanying clips from Disney animated film, tonight at 8 p.m. in the McKinney Theatre, Saddleback College, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. $8 to $10. Also Saturday at 7 p.m. (714) 582-4656. \f7