Not so long ago, I was leafing through the Spring programme for Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre, and came across “Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants”. Nestled between Nicola Benedetti and Perth Symphony Orchestra, this eye-catching title was hard to miss! Billed as a family concert, with music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, I thought it sounded perfect for my own little scallywag – my three-year-old son James.
And so, a couple of weeks before the concert, we headed along to a free SCO musical workshop at Perth Theatre. It was a taster session for the music we would hear at the concert, and a great way to get the kids all fired up for what was to come. We learnt three songs from the show, complete with actions, and James was soon galloping enthusiastically around the studio on an imaginary steed. James was soon galloping enthusiastically around the studio on an imaginary steed! Members of the SCO also encouraged the children to try out various musical instruments which were fashioned in beautiful vivid colours. “Are they valuable?” I asked in trepidation, as James sawed away at a small violin, savouring the resulting screech. “Don’t worry, they’re quite sturdy!” I was reassured.
The concert is based on the children’s book written by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Korky Paul, and was held at Perth Concert Hall. More fun activities were available in the foyer prior to the performance: illustration workshops (with none other than Korky Paul himself), dressing up, and crafts. The whole place was jam-packed and buzzing with excitement. The auditorium began to fill up with a sea of young, expectant faces, bobbing around under their hand-decorated cardboard crowns. By the time James and I settled in our seats we were well primed for this tale of a brave knight, a fearsome giant, and a king with fancy pants.
The SCO ensured we were all wide awake by opening with the rousing overture from Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. The conductor was Holly Mathieson, and the narrator of our story was Chris Jarvis, with music by Paul Rissmann.
Chris was an engaging compere, absolutely in tune with his young audience and wearing a magnificent outfit involving gold trousers, black boots and a red cape. He introduced us to the four ‘families’ of instruments that make up the orchestra: brass, woodwind, strings and percussion. The players stood up singly or in pairs and played a short solo, allowing the children to see and hear each instrument clearly.
The brass belted out a royal fanfare, the cellos performed with a flourish and a spin on their spikes, and the double basses indulged us with the Jaws theme tune. James was transfixed, closely watching every move on the concert stage. It was a great way to acquaint very small children with the orchestra’s components, and it was not wasted on the adults either (so that’s what a vibraphone looks like!)
Audience participation is the cornerstone of “Sir Scallywag”, and Chris took us through the songs and actions that we would need to know in order to embark on this musical adventure. A big screen behind the orchestra displayed the lyrics, and before I knew it, I was casting aside all inhibitions to warble along to the irresistible “Underpants of Glory”. We practised some sound effects for the story’s slumbering king, with half the audience producing a regal snore and the other half a tickly cough. We roared like a giant, wept like a baby (‘boo hoo!’), and attempted a seated dance routine. By this stage, Chris held the crowd in the palm of his hand, and most of the SCO were creased up with laughter.
I was casting aside all inhibitions to warble along to the irresistible “Underpants of Glory”.
Once we were fully rehearsed, the story began: Chris read the narrative, accompanied by the musicians, and the book’s wonderful illustrations lit up the screen behind. I particularly loved the humour inherent in “Sir Scallywag” and the fact that it’s a bit naughty. The king’s bare (not to mention hairy) bottom was displayed in all its splendour, as was the young knight’s worrisome vision of his own decapitated head disappearing down the loo. James sat trance-like throughout, literally on the edge of his seat. The music varied in its tone and speed, but remained vibrant and appealing. There was a happy ending, naturally: six-year-old Sir Scallywag conquered the giant, saved the day and was commended for his courage.
After the performance, we were invited to meet the members of the SCO in the foyer. Chris and Korky were both there too, signing copies of the book and good-naturedly submitting to endless selfies with their young fans. I picked up a flyer for “Stan and Mabel and the Race for Space” to be performed by the SCO in Perth next year. I’m so pleased that there is more to come. This concert was a lovely introduction to the orchestra for young children, and it’s fantastic that our theatre and concert hall have thrown their doors open wide to welcome music-lovers of every age.
For more information on Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall check out their directory page or pick up their current programme next time you are in.
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