Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Symphony For Kids" - Canberra Symphony Orchestra - Canberra Theatre - 22.11.09

The brainchild of Ian McLean, and now in its Seventh year, "Symphony For Kids" is an initiative by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra to introduce young audiences into the wonders of music played by a full symphony orchestra.

Perhaps a little older than the target audience, I attended my first "Symphony for Kids" in the packed Canberra Theatre on Sunday afternoon. What a joyous occasion it turned out to be.

With the orchestra pit up, the full orchestra was arranged as far downstage as possible without falling in to the audience. This effectively allowed every member of the audience to feel that they were almost part of the orchestra, which looked very spiffy in black suits and bowties. Not the ladies of course, they wore glamorous black evening wear.

Before the concert began, conductor Ian McClean introduced each group of instruments. He explained how the instrument worked, and its purpose as part of the orchestra. He then invited a musician from the orchestra to demonstrate the instrument.  

Once the instruments had been introduced, Ian then introduced each item. After explaining to his young audience that music had the capacity to allow them to feel various emotions and moods, he gave his young audience a challenge....which was to try and feel the emotion the music was expressing.

He then told them what the music was, and most importantly, why it had been selected. "Morning" from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite" allowed us - helped by some appropriate lighting on the cyc - to imagine a sunrise. We happily imagined our own circus during Kabalevsky' "Comedian's Galop", and felt suitably anxious during John Williams emotive music from "Jaws".

The audience happily galloped their horses around a racecourse during Rossini's "William Tell Overture" and helped the orchestra, who, according to Ian, were too busy playing their instruments to be able to sing, by lustily singing all the words to all the songs from "High School Musical".

By the end of the concert, the majorly pre-school audience, at the session I attended, were almost bursting out of their skins with excitement, and up for the next challenge.  So was I.

Particularly impressive about this concert, was the quality of the music played by the orchestra, and the wonderful rapport between Ian McLean, the audience and the orchestra. The classical selections were just as they had been written by the composers, and the contemporary selections, carefully arranged to display all the thrilling dynamic range and colour of the full symphony orchestra.

Though it lasted only an hour, this concert was a thoroughly memorable and delightful experience, and next year, I, for one, will be rounding up my own grandchildren and as many others as I can find, to share this exciting new discovery. You should too !

Bill Stephens

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