RSNO Children’s Classic Concerts: Magic and Monsters: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, RSNO Junior Chorus, Jean-Claude Picard (conductor), Devised and presented by Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 01.11.2015 (SRT)
This is the first of the RSNO’s Children’s Classic Concerts I’d been to. Not knowing what to expect, I brought along my two godchildren, aged 7 and 5, and they loved it. It’s a great audience-building tool, introducing children to the concert-going experience in a safe, noisy and interactive way. Our irrepressible hosts, Owen and Olly, guided us through a series of tunes, such as the theme from Harry Potter, or Gnomus from Mussorgsky’s Pictures, and, importantly for young audiences, gave us something to do for each number, such as look for the Gnomuses hiding in the orchestra, or spot the Headless Horseman riding across the stage. We even danced to Thriller in the final number, and the Gruffalo himself put in a special guest appearance. I especially enjoyed the story of Misterstourworm, the musical tale of a young boy who, with the aid of a Kelpie, slays an enormous sea serpent. The RSNO Junior Chorus joined in too to provide some of the songs (and to show us how to dance properly at the end!).
Everyone had the opportunity to dress up, and nearly all the kids did, with a few adults too. (I did my bit as a pretty half-hearted Hogwarts teacher.) I was really charmed to see how much the orchestra threw themselves into it, too. The temptation is to put out the B-team for a gig like this, but I recognised most of the regular players on stage and, hearteningly, they all dressed up too. We had a pirate in the violins, a (prize-winning) zombie doctor and a couple of ghosts and skeletons, to name just a few, and I especially liked the nuns who had taken over the flutes. Even the conductor, Jean-Claude Picard, had dressed up as a Star Trek character (get it?), and some brass players managed the pretty considerable feat of playing through a mask. A great concert for its key audience, and played, of course, with typical panache. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder why all orchestras don’t do this.