The Halle Orchestra presented a wonderful American-themed programme alongside children from schools in Manchester, Cheshire and Derbyshire at the Bridgewater Hall. The Halle's French horn player, Tom Redmond, rallied the children with his energy and explanations of the orchestra and the pieces that they would be hearing.
The orchestra, conducted by Jamie Phillips, opened the session with Leonard Bernstein's overture, Candide, and interspersed songs and pieces which the children (and sometimes parents!) took part in. The highlight for me was the call and response section between the orchestra and children in the Mambo from Bernstein's West Side Story Suite, which saw the children playing along, finger-clicking and shouting a mixture of 'hey' and 'mambo'. It was full of energy, and wonderful to see the Bridgewater Hall filled with such energetic music!
From samba dancing to Star Wars
The contrast with the next piece could not have been more marked; an excerpt from Barber's Adagio for Strings, which calmed the children before more audience participation through song and dance. After a wonderful explanation of the themes from the recent Star Wars film and how they linked to themes from previous films (and a fantastic Yoda impression by Tom Redmond), the orchestra performed Rey's theme from The Force Awakens.
Opportunities to sing
One Education’s Beth Relton led the children with a vocal warm up and a couple of songs; “Ai Caramba Samba” (Out of the Ark Music) and “In New York City's Streets”, the latter being a premiere composed by Halle Education Manager, Steve Pickett. Perhaps my personal favourite piece of the event followed this premiere - Soul Bossa Nova - which saw Tom Redmond energising the whole audience, and even some members of the orchestra, getting them up on their feet and dancing away as the music continued.
The session ended with a live composition based around the idea of minimalism and building a piece in layers by splitting the children into different groups and including body percussion, singing and making sounds. This was followed by Bernstein's On The Town: Times Square. Everyone had a wonderful time, and it was lovely to sit among proud parents as they watched their children perform in a famous concert hall in the heart of Manchester.
Watch out for information about the event programme for next year!