United Kingdom Various composers, Children’s Classic Concerts with the RSNO – Owen and Olly’s Beastly Bash: Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox (presenters), RSNO Junior Chorus, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Holly Mathieson (conductor), Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 30.10.2016. (SRT)
Owen and Olly’s Children’s Classics Concerts were a new venture for the RSNO last year, but they were evidently successful enough for them to try them again, and this year they combined Hallowe’en with a celebration of the Roald Dahl centenary.
Narrated by our irrepressible hosts, they’re on to something of a winning formula. On the one hand you get some spooky traditional classics, like a truncated version of Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain, and on the other you get some more contemporary works that will appeal to kids. The two major ones of these were descriptive musical accompaniments to two of Dahl’s rhymes. Benjamin Wallfisch’s score for The Porcupine from Dirty Beasts was colouristic and evocative, if rather abstract. More successful (and, according to my 5 and 8 year old companions, the best thing about the concert) was Paul Patterson’s score for Three Little Pigs from Dahl’s deliciously subversive Revolting Rhymes. Patterson creates something that’s more like an old-school film score with sweeping melodies and narrative touches, and I especially liked the musical jokes, such as the phone ringing to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, or Chopin’s Funeral March to accompany Red Riding Hood’s slaying of the Wolf.
The RSNO Junior Chorus sounded bright and clear with their songs (two from the film of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and two from Tom Cunningham’s Tartan Terrors), and we all got up and danced to the Oompa Loompa Song, as well as playing musical statues to the waltz from Khachaturian’s Masquerade.
It was a hoot if you’re already an established music lover but, more importantly, it’s an accessible and fright-free way to introduce kids to orchestral music for the first time. For a start, the programme is varied and lasts only an hour; but more importantly there’s a beautifully relaxed atmosphere, with lots of glow sticks and fancy dress costumes, and nobody minds when the kids make a noise to ask a question of their adult or go to the toilet. Even the orchestra get into the mood by dressing up, the prize-winners being the violinist dressed as The Enormous Crocodile, and the principal flautist who was dressed as a Golden Ticket. I left feeling tickled by the hour-long show, but also by seeing that the kids all around me had clearly had a ball.
Owen and Olly’s Christmas concerts takes place on 4 & 11 December. For full details, see here.