Tag Archives: Hallé Children’s Choir

Played by ‘real people on real instruments’

There we were, the Hallé’s Andy Ryans and his ‘cost-savers’ who stuff the envelopes. As Andy said, it was his usual speech, but none the worse for that. Most people feel good about being praised, and I’m sure the collected stuffers were happy to be thanked, again, with a concert and some wine and water. You can do worse than to have someone be ‘eternally grateful.’

The Countess of Wessex wasn’t with us. She came a couple of days ago to listen in on the rehearsal. The Hallé now have their brand new rehearsal venue all ready to use.

We, the cost-savers, had come for Saturday afternoon’s Promenade concert Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea! conducted by Stephen Bell and presented by Alasdair Malloy, with angelic singing by the Hallé Children’s Choir.

The audience was an unusually young one, so coughs were not as ‘stifled’ as the programme requested, but who cares? They are the future of the Hallé. We were treated to a selection of watery pieces of music, starting with Portsmouth Point by Sir William Walton, and then Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus. He was so wrong, that Khachaturian. The piece simply oozes water. The Onedin Line people knew what they were doing when they chose it.

Then the choir sang about a trip to Blackpule (Blackpool, by Chris Hazell) and did a fantastic job of waving and being sick (pretend only). Debussy and Britten followed, before a selection of postcards from the wind and percussion sections. It is so nice to see more of the individual orchestra members! My Bolero hero (hey, that rhymed!) played An der Schönen Blauen Donau on glockenspiel.

The tuba player played from Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, although he didn’t actually dance while doing it. (I only mention this because I have seen it done. And I like it.) One of these days I’ll get my tubas sorted from my trombones, too. New York, New York had most of us clicking our fingers. The choir clicked especially well.

Elgar’s Enigma Variations brought the first part to an end, allowing the musicians to ‘come out and play’ with their children. It was a sort of family afternoon. Luckily baby Carrillo-Garcia didn’t regurgitate (sponsors) Vimto over daddy’s white jacket.

Double bass

Titanic (by James Horner) opened the second half, and then there were more postcards, with Jonathan Dove’s musical postcards where the choir sang traditional songs, weaving singing and music together. Not sure what happened to the drunken sailors. I missed them. (I don’t think I fell asleep.)

George Fenton’s music for The Blue Planet on television featured a great big whale, and you could literally ‘see’ the whale in the music. Just as the little plasticine men from The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! were quite visible, if you listened carefully to Theodore Shapiro’s piece from the film.

We clapped so well after all this that we got an extra, with much cheerful booming from the horns. Audience, and choir, participation required lots of arm waving. It doesn’t matter if babies cry. I think we all enjoyed ourselves, and I imagine that quite a few children will want to return.

It was good. And afternoon concerts mean you’re not too tired afterwards. Even with audience participation.

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Last Train to Tomorrow

World premieres don’t happen to me every day. And as Andy Ryans of the Hallé pointed out in his speech to the orchestra’s stuffers on Sunday afternoon, it was a first for our group. I’d been feeling despondent and worried he wouldn’t actually come and make his annual speech, but finally there he was, curtseying no less, and drinking two glasses of gin-free orange juice.

The Hallé did all right – but that doesn’t mean everything is absolutey fine and not worrying! – last year, and would have been stuffed without us. I think that’s what Andy meant.

This was a family concert, and the Bridgewater Hall was teeming with tiny future customers, but this was no Hallé light as far as the music was concerned. The theme was the Kindertransport, and conductor Carl Davis started off with Smetana’s Mẚ Vlast: Vltava, to signify where some of the Kinder came from.

At this point my companion, who shall remain anonymous, dozed off very slightly, but that’s why I have been equipped with elbows, and the situation was soon rectified. The livelier Brother Come and Dance with Me from Engelbert Humperdinck’s – the original one – Hänsel and Gretel, was beautifully sung by the Hallé Children’s Choir, wearing red shirts and really brightening up the choir seats.

The final piece of the first half was a lesson in orchestral instruments (which the stuffers had been deemed as not being in need of), courtesy of Benjamin Britten, assisted by six brand new actors from the MMU. Anyone who needed to know about woodwind or the banging of percussion players now do so. Hopefully this will have provided interesting facts for any newbies in the audience. (And on a personal note, I was very pleased to see Roberto Carillo-García in his original place where I could see him clearly.)

I have a dreadful confession to make. I was feeling pretty cynical about this world premiere thing. I felt that regardless of what Carl Davis’s specially commissioned piece for the Hallé Children’s Choir actually turned out to be like, a polite audience would applaud to order and we would be none the wiser.

Sorry about that.

Carl Davis admitted to being nervous. Maybe he was, but this showman always seems very sure of himself. Today he wore a bright blue coat, except for the second half when he changed into black, which was more suited to the occasion.

For Last Train to Tomorrow the children of the choir came onto the stage, to act as children on a train, and the actors, Amy Cameron, Jack Coen, Lowenna Melrose, Lucas Smith, Sinead Parker and Will Finlason joined them there. Their words as well as the songs were written by Hiawyn Oram.

The actors told the brief story of what the Kinder of the Kindertransport went through, from Kristallnacht until their arrival in England. The choir sang beautifully and with feeling, with the odd solo bringing the attention to individual children and what happened to them. There was nothing new in all this. We have all read the stories, and many of us know it from novels about this period in history.

But that didn’t detract from the effect Carl’s piece had on us. I’m afraid I have to say that after a while I didn’t hear his music, nor the doubtlessly expert playing by the orchestra. That’s because what the children sang and the actors acted out was so strong and touching that you simply had no room for musical excellence.

It is time to eat my words. Not only was this a fantastic new piece and a great performance, more than deserving of honest applause, but the audience had the good taste and sense to know that it required a standing ovation. This went on for some time, which was good, because there is much repair work that can be done with a sleeve in the dark. My cheeks were almost dry when the time came to leave.

I’d like to think that in years to come, I’ll enjoy being able to say I was present at the premiere.

Needless to say, after so much ovation, we didn’t make the five o’clock train home. But it’s good to remember that 10,000 children made it to their train to England. (Carl made a reference to what things are like today. I suspect he wanted to make a point about what has become of us.)