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Star Trek Actor John de Lancie to Narrate Sneetches World Premiere at Oberlin Conservatory

Apr. 05, 2012

Andrew Willens


OBERLIN, OH (April 5, 2012) – The Oberlin Conservatory presents the world premiere of The Sneetches, by Lorenzo Palomo, on Tuesday, April 17, at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel. The Sneetches is a symphonic poem commissioned by Dr. Sidney Sobel, an Oberlin parent, and is based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name. It will be performed by the Oberlin Orchestra, with conductor Raphael Jiménez, and narrated by actor John de Lancie of Star Trek.

The event will be live broadcast by WCLV 104.9FM, northeast Ohio’s classical radio station, with host Jacqueline Gerber, and will be free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Please see below for the full concert program. A separate children’s concert will be held on Monday, April 16, at 12:30 p.m. in Finney Chapel.

The Sneetches tells a story of class and prejudice within a community of yellow, bird-like animals.

“Now the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars,” it reads. “Because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches would brag, ‘We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.’ They’d sniff and they’d snort, ‘We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!’”

But after a stranger with a bizarre machine and a clever business model pays a visit to their beachside town, the Sneetches learn the value of tolerance.

The moral message conveyed by this Dr. Seuss tale, Dr. Sidney Sobel says, is so potent that it has been used to defuse racial tensions in war-torn regions of Eastern Europe. In 1998, a few years after the Bosnian War, a NATO commandant worked with publisher Random House Inc. to translate The Sneetches into Serbo-Croatian and distribute thousands of copies to schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Indeed," he adds, "it seemed to have the effect of raising consciousness about tolerance."

This peaked the interest of narrator John de Lancie, who is perhaps best known for his role as the character “Q” in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“There have been few times in our history when everybody seems to be getting along,” de Lancie says, “and we seem to be in a time now that is the antithesis of that. Being part of a work where the intent is to bring focus to the issue of intolerance feels worthwhile – the best shows oftentimes have a strong moral message.”

De Lancie has extensive experience narrating with orchestra, having performed Peter and the Wolf, A Soldier’s Tale, and many other narrated symphonies with conductors and ensembles such as Sir Colin Davis, Vladimir Ashkenazy, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is the son of John de Lancie Sr., the late principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and 8-year director of the Curtis Institute of Music.

"I like it when there’s something that goes deeper than pure entertainment," de Lancie adds. “For Star Trek, I liked the philosophical shows the most. ‘Why do you humans presume to bring the insanity of what you do out beyond the confines of Earth?'”

Others working on The Sneetches also praise it for its moral, as well as aesthetic, attributes.

“This is a very important message for the world,” composer Lorenzo Palomo says. "Everybody has their own right to enjoy life, to show their talents and abilities. I hope that this will help people to understand that we are human beings and we are all equal."

Palomo is one of the world’s premiere contemporary Spanish composers; his music has been performed by such notable ensembles as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Chorus of the Berlin Opera.

He was particularly inspired by The Sneetches' message, he says, because he comes from Cordoba, a city in the south of Spain with a long tradition of inter-religious tolerance. He wrote the entire piece, from theme to orchestration, more quickly than usual, in less than two months.

“I found The Sneetches to be a unique piece of literature,” Palomo says. “Its beautiful poetry, genial words and scenes, and wonderful message of tolerance were an immediate fountain of musical inspiration.”

Musically, The Sneetches is constructed as a call-and-response between de Lancie and the Oberlin Orchestra. Long passages of text punctuate even longer passages of music, which, says conductor Raphael Jiménez, gives the audience an opportunity to construct the world of The Sneetches in their own imagination.

"That's a beautiful time for the audience to think about the story," Jiménez says, "a wonderful opportunity to fantasize and to 'create their own sneetches.' The music ignites the imagination with great colors and great effects, and the entire program of the concert is designed for a fun evening. The audience will have a blast!"

"This is a powerful story about racism," he adds, "and how it affects human relationships - the way we perceive others and ourselves. It's a great opportunity for everybody to stop for a second and remind ourselves that this is a wonderful world and we are all wonderful, with or without stars."


Tuesday, April 17, 8 p.m.
Finney Chapel, 90 N. Professor St., Oberlin
Oberlin Orchestra
Raphael Jiménez, conductor
John de Lancie, narrator

Glinka: Ruslan and Lyudmila
Gershwin: An American in Paris
Tchaikowsky: Symphony No. 4, Mvt III
Palomo: The Sneetches

Special Children’s Performance of The Sneetches
Monday, April 16, 12:30 p.m., Finney Chapel
Please contact for reservations

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