Family fun and musical memories

Stories, Legends + Fairy Tales (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

The Courier-Mail Piazza

October 25

One of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s greatest strengths is the versatility of its performance program, which was certainly on display at its “Stories, Legends + Fairy Tales” family show. With former Playschool presenter Noni Hazlehurst as narrator, audience members are led in music through a range of legendary stories, with both the format and mode of presentation catering to its audience of little ones.

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Musical segments are but snapshots of up to five minutes length and are introduced with explanation of the nature and purpose of the different instruments to be showcased. (“French horns are the very curly instruments”) And from the moment the event opens with the familiar melodies of Peer Gynt’s flute-filled ‘Morning’ and then the dramatic ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, it is clear that the audience is engaged with many conducting mid-air along with Conductor Nathan Aspinall. Similarly, Prokofiev’s romantic ‘Cinderella Waltz’ featuring the entire string section, sees audience members swaying in their seats.

Although much of the fairy tale content is of traditional type, with the inclusion of extracts from works such as the Hänsel and Gretel opera by German composer Engelbert Humperdinck, not everything is European in origin as, mid-show, focus moves to an Australian context with an extract from John Antill’s monumental work “Coroboree”. This perhaps shows the symphony’s versatility more than any other of the morning’s moments as aboriginal sounds are created though clapping sticks and contrabassoons act as didgeridoos to evoke spiky Australian bush imagery.

Things return to the familiar with performance of French composer Paul Dukas’ symphonic poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, made forever famous in the 1940 Walt Disney animated concert film. Instantly recognisable, its percussion-filled opening is a delight to Fantasia fans, proving the unrivalled power of music to evoke emotions and memory of a film perhaps not seen by adult audience members for decades.

With beautiful music, tell of how lighter and louder instruments can emote pieces and recount of fairy tale teachings of the consequences of bad behaviour, “Stories, Legends + Fairy Tales”  is a show that only delivers musically but talks to (rather than down to) children. As such, it makes for a magical morning of family-themed culture and it is wonderful to see young people being so imaginatively engaged by the arts through its experience. In whatever show guise, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra is reliably impressive, offering something for everyone in each year’s program and there are surely many families already filled with anticipation for November’s “Symphonic Santa” Kiddies Cushion Concert musical tribute to the festive season.

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