London Philharmonic Family Concert Series. Royal Festival Hall.
Orchestral players in casual shirts, a celebrity presenter and a few classical lollipops - all the ingredients for a family concert.
The London Philharmonic had certainly done its market research for the first in its new series of Sunday concerts of music for nine to 14-year-olds. A Rough Guide to Music Volume One covered the baroque and classical periods, with television personality Tony Robinson having the difficult job of explaining these terms to an all-age audience with varying degrees of musical knowledge.
The choice of an actor as presenter ensured that the linking commentary was suitably non technical, although there were a few slips of the tongue that were mildly irritating. The programme had been carefully selected to demonstrate the main styles of the period. Baroque opera was represented by Purcell's Rondo from Abdelazar, dance music by two movements from the Bach Suite in B Minor, as well as the Bourree and Hornpipe from Handel's Water Music. Haydn's Surprise Symphony illustrated the new symphonic form. The Overture to Handel's Julius Caesar and the Presto from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony were a refreshing departure from the more familiar works usually selected for children's concerts.
The orchestra played Pachelbel's Canon and the audience joined in a round, led by conductor Nicholas Kok. The LP0's education officer Maria Smith explained that although the educational aspect of the concerts was important this had to be balanced against fun and entertainment for parents as well as children. For the older members of the audience, the highlight was the Mozart Concert Aria "Vado ma Dove, 0 Dei", exquisitely sung by the young soprano Deborah York.
After the concert, the children were encouraged to "meet the string family" and to try out violins, cellos and basses. Most went away with the informative broadsheet programme and a colourful magazine.
The next two concerts in the LPO Sunday concert series are Romantic Music (1828-1880) on March 8, 1998, and The Music of the Twentieth Century on May 24, 1998. Ticket enquiries: 0171 546 1600