After reviewing Tár, which is about the toxic effect that music can have on a person, I need a palette cleanser. So it is about time to dive into the joy and community that comes from the art of music with Donny Walker’s The Showcase.
From Chicago’s Mind Exchange Music and headed by Donny Walker, Kelly Askam, and Zachariah Jarrett, the documentary is about the process of creating highly collaborative forms of music, crossing a broad reach of disciplines and styles. Participating in the film are Lake County Symphony Orchestra, as well as guest vocalists Sami Wolf, Nikki Morgan, Kaitlin Foley, Alexandra Olsavsky, Diana Lawrence, and dramatist/artist Tara Perry. Writer-director Walker emphasizes “real musicians playing real music.”
Much of The Showcase features complete songs and pieces from the doc’s participants. However, there is also an educational component to Walker’s film. Walker, Askam, Jarrett, and the orchestra’s Maestro Ron Arden, speak about the process of creating, orchestrating, recording, and presenting the featured pieces. They also detail the challenges they faced in producing the final product.
“…creating highly collaborative forms of music, crossing a broad reach of disciplines and styles.”
The appeal of The Showcase is like the independent films we review at Film Threat. The Lake County Symphony Orchestra produces independent music that reflects the values of Mind Exchange Music. The crew works diligently to maintain teamwork and excellence as many personalities are at play — the composer, the artist, the musicians, and even the producers. Everyone has very specific opinions and expectations about their work. They see music as a highly collaborative process while keeping in mind that each song springs from the inspiration of its composer. It’s a many cooks but one head chef kinda thing.
While there are several instrumental pieces, the dynamics change when vocalists are added. Both Sami Wolf and Nikki Morgan have their own unique style. Wolf sings soulful jazz numbers, while Morgan leans a bit on bluegrass and country. As an orchestrator, the accompanying music must remain subservient to the singer while conveying the emotions of their unique performances. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t end with writing, orchestrating, and performing. There’s also an entire set of new problems when you film and record each song. Long days, technical glitches, and acoustics, to name a few.
The Showcase is just that: a showcase for aspiring musicians to come together and do what they love to do by expressing themselves through music. Walker’s film features performers who do it for the love of the art and not the big corporate contract waiting long down the road. The documentary is a joyous celebration that’s a perfect introduction to the process of creating a feel-good film for music fans who want to sit back and enjoy the tunes.
"…a showcase for aspiring musicians to come together and do what they love to do..."