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Vernaculars bring legend to life with 'Dark Side of Oz'

Sometime during the 1990s, a legend arose. It said that a mysterious and wonderful synchronicity exists between Pink Floyd’s landmark 1973 “Dark Side of the Moon” album and the 1939 Hollywood movie “The Wizard of Oz.”
For the first time anywhere by anyone, the Catawba College Vernaculars will bring this legend to life when the student ensemble performs all of “Dark Side” in sync with the “The Wizard of Oz” movie. Open to the public, the performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 27 in Hedrick Little Theatre on the Catawba campus.
Believers in the so-called Dark Side of Oz phenomenon say dozens of magical coincidences take place if you start the Pink Floyd album the third time the MGM lion roars at the start of the movie. Scenes in the film and songs on the album change at the same time, onscreen characters seem to magically move to the beat of the music, and lyrics take on extraordinary meanings.
According to Dr. David Lee Fish, Catawba associate professor of music and director of the college’s popular music degree program, “Live performances of an intricate album like ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ are rare enough. Performing it in sync with ‘Oz’ is unprecedented. The Vernaculars will make history on April 27.”
Catawba is one of the only colleges/universities in the country with a curriculum that fully supports the study of popular music. Accordingly, it attracts talented students from across the country, two of them John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship finalists. The distinctiveness of Catawba’s curriculum and the quality of its student musicians have helped the school land a coveted placed among In Tune Monthly’s “Best Music Schools” for two years running.
The Vernaculars is the flagship ensemble of the college’s popular music program. The group performs a wide variety of current and legacy works in addition to original songs by its student members.
According to Jimm Mosher, director of the Vernaculars, “I’ve had lots of people speak to me about the Floyd/Oz legend. The album and movie sync up so well in places that the singers and actors almost seem to breathe together.”
Jack Murray, Catawba College instructor and well-known area saxophonist, will join the Vernaculars for the performance. “Playing ‘Dark Side’ is a great gig for any musician. Of course, it’s for the school, so there isn’t any money in it, but as educators, just getting to play with students is reward enough. It helps bridge whatever gap that might exist between us and them.”This year marks the 70th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz,” making the Vernaculars performance all the more appropriate. Legendary in its own right, “Oz” is remembered for its memorable characters and as a pioneer in the use of color.
“Nowadays, you can see any color you like in a movie, and televisions eclipse theaters when it comes to watching classic movies.” Fish points out. “So it’s hard to appreciate the full impact of ‘Oz’ on its original audience. In a way, this performance helps make the movie new again.”Mosher speaks to the challenge of the feat the Vernaculars have set out to accomplish. “Dark Side of the Moon” is intricate music, and you really have to use your brain to play it. You don’t want to do damage to such a legendary work.”
General admission for the Dark Side of Oz performance is $1.99. For more information e-mail dlfish@catawba.edu or call the Catawba College Music Department office at 704-637-4345.

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