In full realization that I am dating myself here, I have great memories of listening to the record of Leonard Bernstein’s rendition of Peter and the Wolf as a child. When I heard that the Oregon Symphony was putting on a production of Peter and the Wolf as part of their kids’ concert series, I was thrilled. And when they offered free tickets to our family to review it – well, I snapped up the chance faster than the wolf snaps up that poor duck.
This was our first “big boy” concert with Grady. He was pretty impressed with himself, and with his surroundings at the beautiful Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. It was a full house – the show was completely sold out. We had seats on the upper balcony. Sitting in row V of the upper balcony, we were about as far away from the stage as we could be, but we could still see and hear everything happening perfectly.
Although Peter got top billing, there was actually quite a packed program, with six selections in all. Weaving all the pieces together was the fabulous narrator and hostess, Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma, played by Pamela Mahon. She set the stage from the beginning, letting the audience know this was not going to be a stuffy old concert. She was spunky, vibrant, and responding to texts from Little Red throughout. She also came out into the lobby after the concert in complete character, which was a real treat (although perhaps a bit startling for Grady!).
Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was not only played professionally by the Oregon Symphony, but also danced professionally by the young dancers of Dance West. They embodied Peter, his grandfather, the hunters, and all the animals skilfully and realistically. The dancer portraying the cat did an especially admirable job, even eliciting a “meow” from my son when he saw her. Although for the most part this rendition stuck to the letter of the score, there was a part about Peter telling the hunters that the wolf was now bound for the zoo that I don’t quite recall from the original….
Following Peter came several light pieces performed by the orchestra and the Pacific Youth Choir. I was so impressed with the Choir’s professionalism from the moment they entered. They were all dressed impeccably and sat with their hands on their knees until they rose to sing. The songs they sang – selections from Friday Afternoons by Benjamin Britten – were light and playful, and their voices matched. They articulated beautifully, letting the audience fully appreciate the humor of the short pieces they sang. They followed these selections by I Bought Me a Cat from Old American Songs by Aaron Copland. This piece, too, was silly, well-delivered, and catchy.
Following the choir, we were treated once again to Dance West performing selections from Mother Goose Suite by Maurice Ravel. They danced the stories of Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Laideronnette. While all three were danced impressively, Laideronnette was a show-stopper. There were close to two dozen performers on stage, all vibrantly dressed and dancing in unison. The acrobatics of the lead dancer were breathtaking and effortless. I wish I had thought to take a picture, but I was too enthralled by the performance!
The show ended as it began, with a short piece by the orchestra performing solo, conducted by Gregory Vajda. Of course, they played fabulously, filling the Schnitz with loud, vibrant, triumphant notes that left everyone humming and tapping their feet.
All of the selections for the concert were well-chosen. With the exception of Peter, no single piece was longer than a few minutes, and they all told stories – from Beauty and the Beast to a story of cat singing tiddle-dee-dee. The length, variation, colors, and gorgeous sound coming from the stage kept our family enthralled. And our family was not alone in being captivated by the performance. Although probably half the audience was under the age of 10, there was surprisingly little shuffling and murmuring. And the concert ended with a rousing round of applause, much deserved by the orchestra and all the other young artists as well.
The Symphony has two more concerts coming up especially designed for kids: “Happy Holidays” on December 18, and “Castles and Wizards” on February 26. If this performance was any indication, it is bound to be a memorable, enlightening, and entertaining hour. Tickets start at just $10, but do go fast!
Ali and family were given complimentary tickets to attend the “Peter and the Wolf” performance on behalf of PDX Kids Calendar.