Children’s Prom

Giovanni Gabrieli
Sacrae symphoniae – Canon septimi toni a 8
Alceste – Loure pour le pêcheurs
Chamber Symphony – III: Roadrunner
Bach, arr. Chris Willis
Fugue in G, BWV541
Brahms, arr. Iain Farrington
Hungarian Dance No.5 in G minor
The Tale of Tsar Sultan – Flight of the Bumblebee
Romeo and Juliet – Montagues and Capulets (Dance of the Knights)
Gymnopédie No.1
Symphony No.10 – II: Allegro
Candide – Overture

Louise Fryer and Basil Brush (presenters)
Nia Davies and Alan Riley (masked dancers)
BBoy’s Attic featuring MDK
Cordão de Ouro London
Aurora Orchestra
National Children’s Chamber Orchestra
National Youth Chamber Orchestra
Nicholas Collon
Toby Wilsher – Director

Reviewed by: Richard Landau

Reviewed: 30 August, 2010
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

There was a sizeable audience for this morning “Children’s Prom”, with hordes of enthusiastic parents eager to introduce their offspring, many just babes in arms, to music spanning almost five centuries. Louise Fryer – she so dulcet of tone – and Basil Brush (surely irritating only to those adults who have lost touch with their child-selves) offered light-hearted spoken introductions to a diverting programme that was clearly designed to appeal to children’s innate sense of, and joy in, rhythm.

Nicholas Collon arrived after the brass had confidently delivered the wonderful Gabrieli canon, and it was immediately evident that he knew just how to communicate with his young charges. Soon he had them stamping out different rhythms according to their positions in the hall, modifying the volume of their contributions according to his instructions, and, later on, guiding them towards producing a simple fugue to the words “We are in the Royal Albert Hall”. And then we had the authentic fugue by Bach, in a bright and colourful arrangement by Chris Willis – winds, brass, and percussion prominent, xylophones especially so. The overall effect was Loussier-like, and most attractive it was. The young audience clearly relished Brahms’s Fifth Hungarian Dance, as (dis)arranged, as well as the antics of Basil Brush as he mimed its infectious rhythms.

In the Lully piece there was some charming dancing from Cordão de Ouro London, and BBoy’s Attic gave a distinctly modern, inner-city flavour to Prokofiev’s Montague-Capulet confrontation. Here Collon and his Aurora Orchestra, augmented by the National Children’s Chamber Orchestra and National Youth Chamber Orchestra, gave a performance that caught both the tenderness and the pungency of the music.

The masked dancers, Nia Davies and Alan Riley, touchingly conveyed the whimsically sad mood of Satie’s First Gymnopédie, and then the scherzo from Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony proved once again how arresting such music is, even to the ears of the very young. Chris Willis’s Mashup was a deft compendium of all the pieces in the concert, including ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’, with some highly surprising moments such as Brahms segueing into Prokofiev. The kids clearly found the whole thing huge fun. And finally Collon gave the Overture to Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” a suitably zestful reading, with his orchestra offering very committed playing.

The audience then swarmed out of the hall and into the sunshine, a great many of their faces beaming with pleasure. Doubtless some seeds of future music appreciation were sown here, and all credit to the BBC for its contribution to that.

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