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REVIEW: Welsh National Opera Family Concert at Birmingham Town Hall

Face-painted tango dancers on their feet shouting 'Ole!' is hardly what you would normally expect from the audience at a classical music event. but this was the Family Concert by the WNO.

The show exists to introduce the youngest members of our families to orchestral music whilst keeping the adults present well entertained.

Upon arrival, young and old alike are invited to join a treasure hunt, have their faces painted, try on the operatic wigs (which takes 20 years off you, or so I was told!) or take time out on the crafts tables to create some tactile memories to put away for home. All good fun and enjoyable icebreakers.

We were promised the chance to meet the musicians and their instruments but presumably the limited space left in the foyer, coupled with all the other activities, sadly prevented such a joining of the young audience and their entertainers. However, please don’t think the musicians weren't prepared to join in the fun - they took to the stage in flowery shirts, shorts and straw hats ready to go on holiday. One music stand was even regaled in a blown up crocodile ready to head for the swimming pool! 

Yes, the theme was summer. The multi talented presenter, Tom Redmond, brought his superb communication skills plus sense of fun into linking the music from opera, films and classical musical. 

The time flew by as Redmond's original storylines for the music from Bizet, Herold and Anderson allowed the imagination of young and old to flow as the audience were encouraged to dance, shout out and drum along with the fine orchestra and singers.

The Gareth Glyn composition, "Classy Classics”, sung by local school and community groups in front of the composer was a highlight, with many family and friend members in the audience. Watching and hearing the full orchestra using their bodies as percussion instruments to play Beethoven's Fifth was another unexpected delight.

A couple of the pieces were also accompanied by original animated interpretations on a large screen, meaning young and the not so young left the Town Hall into the waiting sunshine with smiles on their faces.

Orchestral and operatic music, with their players, has made itself more accessible to this and the next generation of potential music lovers and we look forward to taking our primary school family members to be welcomed again at the next show.

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