Writer: Based on the books by Julia Donaldson
Composer: René Aubry
Conductor: Terry Davies
Reviewer: Laura Stimpson
Animations based on books written by Julia Donaldson are becoming a Christmas tradition, thanks to the BBC having released a new one, aired on Christmas day for the last few years. What a great opportunity presented at Christmas time by The Orchestra of Opera North, to introduce your little ones to an orchestral concert, playing the original score by René Aubry combined with these animated films that are so dear to their hearts.
The concert begins with Conductor Terry Davies introducing this young audience to the instruments of the orchestra, the concept of them playing in different styles and creating ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ motifs. They spend just the right amount of time sharing some basic musical knowledge with the audience.
Then the main event begins. The story of The Highway Rat, a rat who steals from anyone who crosses his path, he prefers sugary treats but he’s quite prepared to take leaves of ants just for the sake of stealing them. The victims of his theft outsmart him, and he comes good once he’s reflected on his crimes.
The music in this piece is quite a treat for the young audience. There’s lots of tension, sadness, happiness and a party at the end, so the musical variety certainly doesn’t disappoint.
After an interval, we move on to The Gruffalo’s Child, the sequel to Donaldson’s most popular work, The Gruffalo. The Gruffalo’s Child heads out to the Deep Dark Wood meeting all of the favourite animals from the Gruffalo, however this time, in search of the Big Bad Mouse. She comes across a very small mouse, who cleverly outsmarts her through the use of shadows.
It is potentially easy to underestimate the difficulty of this undertaking by the Orchestra of Opera North, seeing it as merely a group of musicians playing along to a film. However, to keep in precise time with the film is a challenge, carried out with great precision by conductor Terry Davies.
All in all, this performance is a great alternative to the usual offerings at Christmas and a perfect way to introduce children to live music and orchestral instruments without having to go to a formal classical concert. Thank you to the Orchestra of Opera North for bringing music to youngsters and making it accessible to all.