CBSO: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Reviewer: Skylar Mabry

Conductor: Bertie Baigent

A first-time visitor to the Birmingham Symphony Hall will be easily struck by the immensity and grandeur of the concert venue. This fantastically beautiful building may seem imposing, but with hundreds of children present it becomes a very lively, exciting, warm place. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra presents a refreshingly relaxed and interactive event with its Family Concert: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Using Benjamin Britten’s piece of music of the same name as a structure, the orchestra introduces each section of instruments and encourages the audience to interact and respond.

This fun family concert is aimed at ages 5-14 but is enjoyable for all ages (adults included). This performance seems to have attracted a lot of families with children under the age of 5, who were invested for the first 30 minutes or so but struggled to focus through the full hour. Despite the inevitable wiggles that come when young children are asked to sit still for too long, this concert makes a mostly successful attempt at keeping the audience engaged.

The concert breaks up Britten’s piece, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and allows each section of instruments to play their featured part in the 1945 composition, to speak about the instruments in their section, and to play another piece of music with only the instruments in that section. This gives the audience a great opportunity to listen closely to what makes each instrument special.

This concert is presented by Catherine Arlidge MBE, who is usually a violin player in the orchestra but eagerly steps out to engage and delight the audience in this concert. She is assisted by whimsical projections which help cue the audience to respond and share fun facts about the music and composers throughout. Arlidge starts off strong with the woodwind section. A very enthusiastic bassoonist speaks about the section, they then play John Williams’ Nimbus 2000 from the Harry Potter films, which garners heaps of excitement from the young crowd. Another standout section is percussion with their rendition of Stinkin’ Garbage by Ed Argenziano – it’s quite unexpected to see a line of metal bins on such a prestigious stage. This piece maybe gets the most applause because it’s a little silly but it’s also precise, challenging, and thoroughly impressive.

This concert features a range of music from the late 1800s to the 1990s, written by a range of composers. It gives the audience a simple yet informative insight into each of the sections and instruments of the orchestra, including a lesson in conducting, and encourages the audience to laugh, shout out, and build appreciation for the orchestra. The musicians’ enthusiasm for their instruments is contagious – there may even be some future orchestra members in the audience.

CBSO’s Family Concert: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is a fun, informal, cute introduction to the orchestra and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Reviewed on 25 February 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Fun approachable orchestra

Show More
Photo of The Reviews Hub - Central

The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
The Reviews Hub