From musical pirates to Merlin and Minimalism: Family Day at the Gulbenkian

Well, it’s 3.45pm and the final session has just finished here at the Gulbenkian Theatre in the Worldwide Musical Mother’s Day celebrations here at Sounds New.

Straw Trumpet band

Brass cheek ?

The foyer of the theatre has been thronging with art-workshops, face-painting and wandering school theatre performers throughout the day, whilst inside the theatre auditorium children and families have been introduced to instruments of the orchestra and the wonderful weirdness of Merlin’s Tale, a capella choral singing, modern dance and Minimalism and big band jazz.

Fronted in engagingly jocular fashion by Peter Cook, the Festival’s Education Project Manager, the day began at midday with an a capella choir in a selection of choral-pops, including The Mermaid’s Tale, Teddy Bear’s Picnic and even Finzi’s My Spirit Sang All Day. Next came students of the Christchurch University Orchestra, briskly conducted by Danny Glavin, who burst into a riotous rendition of the suite from Pirates of the Caribbean (to the great delight of many of the children in the audience), Fnug for ensemble and growling and singing tuba, delivered with great charisma by Liam Bradbury-Sparvell; composer John Perfect then took up the baton to lead four soloists and the ensemble through the story of Merlin’s Tale, which saw epic mock-battles out in the theatre seating between tuba and bass clarinet. Glavin then resumed control for a romp through the theme tune to Wallace and Gromit to conclude what had been a very entertaining, crowd-pleasing session.

Big Brand New

Peter Cook conducts Big Band New

The third instalment saw dancers from Dance Warehouse take to the stage, including a rendition of the last section of Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint with live clarinet and recorded backing in Reich’s typical tapestry of interlocking lines; the last session has just seen chaps from Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys and a handful of guest players in ‘Big Brand New,’ conducted by Peter Cook, a mixture of big band and junk instruments that was last seen entertaining shoppers in Whitefriars in town last Saturday.

It’s been a vibrant, relaxed and family-friendly day, with the Gulbenkian abuzz with lots of creativity, and young children finding out about and responding to music and dance, and exploring what today’s music (whether it’s blockbuster film soundtracks or multi-track Minimalism) is all about. And, after all, that’s what Sounds New is all about as well.

Drawing BrassWe’ll be back here again tonight for a concert featuring Julian Joseph. Stay tuned…

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