King of the Swingers – Lively RSNO Big Band & Dance Show

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Children’s Classic Concerts with the RSNO – Owen and Olly’s Christmas Swingalong: Devised and presented by Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox, Dancers from the Manor School of Ballet , RSNO Big Band, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 11.12.2016. (SRT)

Owen and Olly’s Christmas concert in Edinburgh this year featured the RSNO Big Band, who I’ve never come across before but I’m told are a pretty longstanding ensemble. Consequently, the programme featured lots of swing hits played with lots of flair (In the Mood, for example), and also lots of specially arranged Christmas music. If you’re not used to hearing them played that way then it didn’t stop them being fun, even though they suited Santa Claus is Coming to Town quite a lot better than Silent Night.

Our typically irrepressible hosts kept the afternoon going with high energy and lots of audience participation, which the busy audience was very keen on. We sang along to a medley from The Jungle Book as well as some traditional Christmas songs, and we had a dance to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. As I’ve said before, they’re an appealing pair on stage, and they ensure that the fun and the music sit side by side. My 8 and 6-year old companions, for example, said that the best bit of the concert was when Owen got hit on the nose by a snowball and fell over. Not very musical, perhaps, but the slapstick will make them want to come back for more.

They’re also very able percussionists (“We’re not just a pair of idiots who shout and jump around!”) which they demonstrated in various numbers, most colourfully during the Jungle Book medley while dressed as Baloo and King Louie, and they played the glockenspiel rather than the celesta for the Sugar Plum Fairy in Les Brown & Eliot Murray’s swing version of the Nutcracker suite.

The contributions from the Manor School of Ballet felt a bit tacked on this time around, and there wasn’t as much storytelling as they’ve done in the past but, like I said, it makes the kids want to come back for more, and so a seed – a love of live music – is sown.

Simon Thompson

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