Friday, November 22, 2013

UCD Symphony Orchestra Presents Peter and the Wolf

Ready for some culture?  We were.  The UCD Symphony Orchestra was offering a unique experience right in our neighborhood, so we picked up tickets and headed for the auditorium.

The show of the night was a special children's program featuring classical music (by real classical composers) written for the entertainment of children and families (well... mostly.)  The show was made even more approachable for children with the use of special shadow puppetry to narrate the story of each piece.

The kicker to the story?  All of the concert narration was in Irish- not English.  The only English we heard was the very first "Please turn off your cell phones."  Everything else from then on was narrated in Irish by a live reader.  Luckily, we (and the rest of the Irish audience who didn't speak Irish) had the shadow puppets to narrate the story visually.

Peter and the Wolf Program by UCD Symphony Orchestra
The Program (English side)
First on the program was the Overture from William Tell.  The one we all think of is the opening theme of the old Lone Ranger shorts.  What we hear in Lone Ranger is only the last 'movement' of the overture, and we were presented with the longer version, in four parts.  Each distinct 'movement' had a different shadow puppet storyline.  All of them depicted scenes of country life in the high mountains- presumably the Alps.

The shadow puppets were displayed by a white screen hung vertically and lit from behind.  The puppeteer worked between the light and the screen with a variety of paperboard puppets on sticks and strings with different background scenery.

After William Tell, the orchestra played selections from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens (Cameeya Sawn Sawn- except, don't really finish the "n" sound in each "sawn."  Let the "n" sound get swallowed up by your nose.  French.)  Each movement musically depicts a different animal, with instruments of the orchestra mimicking the sound of each.  The Elephant is a long tuba solo, the birds are a clarinet repeatedly playing two notes to sound as "cukoo!", the swans are slow and graceful strings, and the dinosaur bones are a raucous xylophone solo- sounding very much like tinkling brittle bones.  Shadow puppets of each of these movements delighted the kids and families of the audience.

The feature presentation was the famous Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev.  This piece was written as an educational piece for children to hear and learn the individual instruments of the orchestra in a time when it was important for a young person to be able to identify and listen to orchestra music.  In the piece, a story is told with individual instruments representing characters in the story.  Peter is the string section, the bird is a flute, the duck is an oboe, the cat is a clarinet, the Grandfather is a bassoon, the wolf is a french horn trio, the hunters are trumpets, and the gunshots of the hunters are the timpani bass drum.  The story also includes a narration to be told verbally during the performance of the music.  For this special performance, that narration was all told in Irish- not a word of English.  The shadow puppets of each scene followed the action so all could follow.  The narrator was a talented performer herself, lending proper emotional impact to each scene so the audience could sense the tone of the action if not the language.

After the concert, we went out for a Guinness at a new pub near campus and made it an early night.  Concerts made for kids on a school night can't go very late, after all.

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