Wednesday, December 13, 2017


National Capital Orchestra
Conducted by Leonard Weiss
John Smiles, Flute
Elizabeth Alford, Harp
Christian Renggli, Cello
Charles Hudson, Narrator
Albert Hall Saturday 9 December

Reviewed by Len Power

How do you capture the attention of young to very young children at a classical music concert?  The National Capital Orchestra gave it a valiant try with their concert that included children’s favourite, Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’.

With the orchestra set up on the floor of the auditorium of the Albert Hall, children were invited to get up close and personal with the orchestra by sitting on the floor between the front row of the audience and the players.  Conductor, Leonard Weiss, had a few tricks up his sleeve to engage his young audience and did it very well.

The first item, Rossini’s ‘Overture to the Barber of Seville’, competed with a fair amount of noise as the children settled down.  Some children were captivated by the music and sat quietly, taking it all in.  Others, of course, had no idea why they were there and behaved predictably.

National Capital Orchestra with Charles Hudson narrating 'Peter and the Wolf'
When the item finished, Leonard Weiss offered the opportunity for one of the children to conduct a short section of the overture.  Young Henrietta was selected and she strode confidently to the podium as if she did this every day.  It must have been a thrill for her to feel the power of the orchestra under her direction.
John Smiles (flute), Elizabeth Alford (harp) and conductor, Leonard Weiss
The next item was the second movement of Mozart’s ‘Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra’ with soloists, John Smiles (flute) and Elizabeth Alford (harp).  The children were invited to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the really nice bits and did so enthusiastically.  Overheard behind me was a young lady who loudly asked about the harp player, ‘How does she know which string to play?’
Christian Renggli (cello)
Christian Renggli on cello then joined the orchestra to perform Honegger’s ‘Cello Concerto’.  It looked a bit of a challenge for Renggli to play with children right at his feet, but he gave a fine, edgy performance of this fascinating work with the orchestra.

The final item and the big attraction for children was Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ which was well-played by the orchestra.  As the narrator, actor/singer Charles Hudson really engaged the children with his fine voice and well-chosen physical movements for each of the characters.
Charles Hudson (Narrator, 'Peter and the Wolf')
Attending a concert such as this at an early age might just be the spark that inspires a young person to develop a love of fine music for the rest of their life.  That hope makes it all worthwhile.

Photos by Peter Hislop

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 10 December.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am Saturdays.