A key part of its commitment to encouraging young musicians, the GSO has for many years run family concerts to give children an early taster of classical music. Guildford Borough Council used to run some of these events in the old Civic Hall with the GSO as the resident orchestra, and used to attract audiences of over 800. Following the closure and eventual demolition of the old Civic, the orchestra has determinedly kept the flame alive, often at its own expense: ticket prices are deliberately kept low to attract as many families as possible, with the orchestra subsidising the events from its other concerts and funds.
In 2014, the GSO gambled on its belief that a large audience for these concerts was possible, and decided to hire the much larger – and more expensive – Guildford Spectrum. The result surpassed expectations, with audiences for the 2014 and 2015 Family Concerts, both held in Guildford Spectrum, touching the 700 mark. Sadly the strong desire to build on this runaway success has had to take a brief hiatus, owing to a shortage of available dates at the venue this year, but we are nonetheless delighted to be performing the 2016 concert in St Catherine’s School, Bramley, whose wonderful new concert hall was much appreciated by the audience in February’s Young Artists’ Concert.
The Orchestra’s musical director, Darrell Davison, has been staunch in his support for children’s music over many years. Inheriting the mantle from his father, who for many years ran the Arthur Davison Family Concerts at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, Darrell continued the tradition, packing out this much-loved venue four or five times a year, with the Croydon Symphony Orchestra as principle orchestra, supplemented by guest appearances from his other orchestras, including the GSO.
Format and Age Range
The concert is usually around an hour in length and based around a theme (Toy Stories, Fabulous Myths and Stories, It’s Magic…) to grab the children’s imaginations and get them thinking about the pictures being painted by the music. The programme features around half a dozen short pieces from famous classical composers, and a longer piece with a narrator (e.g. Peter and the Wolf).
Actor David Leonard, who won rave reviews for his wonderfully villainous drag performance as Miss Trunchbull in the West End musical of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, has been a regular narrator for the orchestra over recent years. As well as giving short introductions to the pieces and explaining the story behind them, the conductor will also give brief tour of the orchestra and get players to demonstrate the different sounds.
Typically, the concert attracts children of primary school age and their families, but slightly older children, particularly if they are learning an instrument, will find plenty to engage them. Pre-school children and babies are also very welcome, and can be noisy and clap along without anyone batting an eyelid!