Animal Musical Magic
Mediterranean Conference Centre
Mainly aimed at children, young persons and those who are older yet still unfamiliar with what makes a symphonic orchestra work, Peter and the Wolf and Young Persons’ Guide to the Orchestra, classics by Prokofiev and Britten remain ideal vehicles for this very purpose. They also remain fascinatingly enjoyable works for the seasoned concert-goer and the young at heart. Like the fastidious composers that they were, Prokofiev and Britten came up with well-crafted and very serious works which at the same time made them accessible with the uninitiated.
Apart from needing a team of experienced performers and able direction, the narrator has to have a way with the particular audience at which these works are aimed. The MCC was packed with children and parents as well as others who went for the fun of it. Sarah Spiteri has the knack of putting any audience at ease and also the ability to hold the attention of the very young. Never talking down to them, she fully involved the children in the process of identifying different instruments and sections of the orchestra. Her way of narrating the story of Peter and the Wolf had the audience completely absorbed in the process of learning about the orchestra while following an exciting and charming tale.
In Peter and the Wolf there was an additional and often humorous touch provided by the “resident Wizard”, artist Pierre Portelli. With his stylised cut-outs projected onto a screen: of Peter, his grumpy Grandfather, the Wolf, Bird, Duck, Cat and Hunters, of meadow and pond, house and gate, the story came very much alive. Individual musicians or groups thereof representing the characters joined with the above in making it all very vivid.
In order to make Britten’s Guide more fun (no visuals here), the members of the orchestra appeared in very informal attire. They wore shirts with white sleeves but the rest of the attire was in different colours: blue for the strings, yellow for the woodwind, green for brass and red for percussion with the director wearing orange. The Britten is basically a theme and variations with the theme being the majestic Rondeau from Purcell’s Abdelazar, expertly worked out and interpreted by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Even with lack of visuals here, the music commanded the attention of the audience throughout the performance.
Earlier on, Ms Spiteri promised a surprise. This turned out to be the narration of her story about a little Bedside clock, one who felt useless. There is a confrontation with the pompous and haughty Grandfather clock but after a friendly hint from a Mantel-piece clock, the Bedside clock, realising he could be an Alarm clock, starts functioning as such and becomes the most important clock in the household because he marks the beginning of every new busy day for the household. The choice of music could not be better: the MPO performed most elegantly the second movement from Haydn’s “Clock” Symphony.