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A Festive Feast with the Hallé reviewed

Maria Roberts goes to the festive family concert and loves its planned anarchy

Published on December 15th 2010.


A Festive Feast with the Hallé reviewed

When I told my son’s grandmother we were going to see the Hallé family concert at the weekend, she said; “Ooo, you’re getting posh”. Which, given I’m pretty salt of the earth, was pleasing. My 12 year-old son, Jack, is no stranger to cultural trips out but he was dubious about this one. He was curled up for a warm lie-in when I woke him with our plans for the day: “We’re going to a concert, you need to get up,” It was 9am. “Have a shower, and wash your hair.”

Well-prepared members of the audience joined in by shaking whatever they had to hand: bells, tambourines; in our case a hand full of coins (Dan) and the chain of a pocket watch (Jack). At times Andrew Gourlay conducted the orchestra with a wooden spoon, and Alasdair Malloy, tapped an impressive beat on a saucepan.

In my mind there was something about taking a trip to see ‘an orchestra’ play ‘classical music’ in a big shiny building that made me think we should check ourselves for nits, have a bath, and wear clean clothes.

“Who are we going to see?” asked Jack.

He was expecting me to say a band like, say, Kings of Leon: “The Hallé.”

“And who are the Hallé?”

“An orchestra.” He groaned at me. “A very famous orchestra. And Dan is coming.”

Dan is Jack’s good friend from school, who happens to be a talented trumpet player. I thought it’d be beneficial to have someone musical around when it became apparent that there wouldn’t be any big guitars and skinny jeans onstage but big drums, and a double bass. Dan was thrilled because a member of the Hallé had visited school during the week.

Jack wore a pinstripe suit, and I donned a fur coat, a fair amount of slap, and blow-dried my hair. We were a little late; it wouldn’t have been a Roberts’ day out if we had simply strolled into the Bridgewater Hall and decently collected our tickets. No, we ran in, heels clattering, breathless and skidding all over the foyer in search of our tickets.

I’m glad we did because as we entered the auditorium, the audience was already in full swing swaying along to ‘Deck the Halls’. The Hallé was dressed as cooks - and kids in fancy dress were dancing around.

In the stalls, parents and children wore Santa hats, and reindeer horns on their heads, little girls dressed as Cinderella, boys dressed as superheroes, toddlers danced by the stage, and teens slouched over the arm rests as babies were bounced on seats. I’d expected something more decorous, but the arrangement was pleasantly laid back – and full of fun.

The presenter Alasdair Molloy easily led the audience through well known sing-a-long hits: ‘White Christmas (Berlin)’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Winter Wonderland’, at other times the Hallé played as the audience listened: ‘The Skaters’ Waltz (Waldteufel’ and ‘Dance of the Mirlitons’ from The Nutcracker.

Well-prepared members of the audience joined in by shaking whatever they had to hand: bells, tambourines; in our case a hand full of coins (Dan) and the chain of a pocket watch (Jack).

At times Andrew Gourlay conducted the orchestra with a wooden spoon, and Alasdair Malloy, tapped an impressive beat on a saucepan. The highlight was when 12 children (their defining feature being they were wearing Santa hats) were invited on stage to take part in a revised version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, with a cooking theme: so… “twelve hot chestnuts, eleven chocolate Santas, ten chipolatas…. six Christmas puddings, five Brussels sprouts (forte)… three plates of ham, two mince pies, and one turkey in some gravy…”

During this number, the kids stole the show and not least the tiny boy - who must have been no more than three years-old - who won over the audience by belting out, “One turkey in some gravy Mwah,” before each time running off the stage to see his mum.

Perhaps the lights could have been lower, the tone more magical and mysterious, and the Hallé could have played longer versions of the pieces; all of which would have killed the gregarious joy that had been created with such splendour.

Still this family concert was a perfect start to the feast of Christmas; a simple, noisy, entertaining afternoon out – you’ll leave wanting to play an instrument. I’m already plotting a trip to Forsyths to purchase a cello.

Tickets: adults £15, children £9. Box office 0161 907 9000. www.halle.co.uk

The next family concerts are:

Sunday 27 March, 2011, 3pm. The Hallé’s Heroes and Villains (kids can dress as superheroes).

Sunday 1 May 2011, The Hallé’s Bridgewater Beach Party, (kids can dress in surfing gear)

Before each workshop an interactive workshop takes place (10am-2pm on the day) aimed at children aged 6 and above. Here kids can play instruments and create music based on that afternoon’s theme, kids should take a packed lunch, and bring their musical instrument if they have one. (12.50 per ticket, 40 places)

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