dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Opera and classical music for children
This two-hour introduction to opera and music is the first time Welsh National Opera has held a family concert in Birmingham. Taking place on a baking hot Sunday afternoon, just after the England World Cup game, it had a good deal to compete with and yet Town Hall was filled with adults and children of all ages.
The programme was designed specifically for young children with a series of short pieces, many of which would be familiar to families, but also introducing some more challenging numbers to keep the audience on their toes.
It was presented by tenor Wynne Evans, who has sung with WNO on many occasions but is arguably better known as the moustachioed singer in the Gocompare adverts. And he was the perfect host - affable, friendly and informative while remaining informal, he was as ready to make jokes at his own expense as at the audiences'. One such highlight was watching Wynne being lathered and then lathered again ready for a shave by soloist James Cleverton as the Barber of Seville.
The tone of the whole event was light-hearted with conductor Timothy Burke also joining in the fun – particularly on some numbers which involved audience participation. This included Burke pretending to be poorly from eating too many ice creams in the interval so that some children could volunteer to conduct Rossini's William Tell Overture. And it also involved a rather less willing dad pulled up onto the stage to hit the bell during Sousa's Liberty Bell.
There were tunes which children would know such as Hedwig's Theme from The Harry Potter Suite and the theme from the film Jurassic Park. But the company was also keen to promote its tour of Mozart's Magic Flute which comes to Birmingham next March so the audience was treated to soprano Samantha Hay as an evil Queen of the Night and Samantha joining baritone James Cleverton for the Papageno/Papagena duet.
To prevent children, and adults, losing interest, WNO had installed a huge screen above the stage which presented animations to match some of the music and singer Fra Fee brought a bit of Disney with The Circle of Life from The Lion King and Evermore from Beauty and the Beast.
The decision to include six local school choirs performing the Jungle Book Medley was also a smart decision as it ensured a packed audience full of relatives eager to watch their children perform at Town Hall.
Introductory events like this Family Concert are a great and lively way to introduce young children and their parents to classical music. They break down barriers and create familiarity so that younger people are more willing to step into the theatre or concert hall to watch a full opera.