Last Friday morning we saddled up the double buggy, and headed off down into the tube en route to the latest LSO St. Lukes concert for 0-5 year olds. I attended with two musician friends of mine and their daughters, one aged 2 and one aged 4. I of course had my now nearly 3 year old, and my 1 year old. I have attended these concerts before, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for a fabulous show…
…On arrival we met in the cafe. This is one aspect of the venue that is not ideal when with little ones. There is a lift to descend to the crypt where the cafe is situated. Once you get down there the tables are difficult to navigate with buggies, and there were no high chairs. I had come prepared with food for myself and my little ones, and it is very unusual and accommodating of the venue that you are able to do this. It is also advisable to do this, because the food available in the cafe is limited to a few sandwiches, not particularly child friendly, and an array of cakes and muffins. There is an announcement that the show will be starting shortly, and then a slight crush in lift to ascend back for the performance, but plenty of warning and time to deposit the pushchairs in the designated area (behind the musicians) and take your seats.
We took seats in the plastic chairs to the sides of the carpeted square that was awash with the under 5s, and awaited the concert. We knew the concert had started when the children in the room fell quiet(ish) and joined in with a clapping sound being led by the superb Vanessa King, and she proceeded to direct them with body music and voice through a captivating sequence of dynamics. Animatuer and french horn player Vanessa then went on to introduce the five musicians with her: Lion (Piano), Crocodile (Drums), Tuba (Elephant), Penguin (Violin) and Monkey (Trumpet). Each was hidden around the audience with their instrument, they were introduced as an animal, and proceeded to the stage with their instrument, and respective animal hat or puppet.
I believe the animal theme was linked to the story, and I have to confess that I have no idea what the story was, as a number of my party in their excitement began to ascend the tiered seating towards the back of the hall, and were being chased by an officious usher. We relocated ourselves to the top of the tiered seating and had the whole back row to ourselves so we let our little ones dance around in front of their seats every time they heard the music, and they had a thrilling experience of hearing the highest quality musicians live, and being able to express themselves as only toddlers know how. Even Nicholas was holding on to the back of the seats in front and shaking his booty while squealing with delight.
Vanessa has a wonderfully lilting and engaging style and she is a natural animateur. She manages to communicate with the children on an individual and a group level, she keeps the story moving forward, and conducts the ensemble. She does all this seemingly effortlessly and clearly enjoys herself. The first time I came to one of these events I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t a larger ensemble as the body of sound would be an amazing experience but for that we are able to go to local and amateur orchestras. The more I have attended the LSO St. Lukes concerts the more I realise that the small ensemble, with different instruments each time, really enables the children to become familiar with the timbre and characteristics of each instrument and experience the different combinations of sounds. They can see and hear each instrument and its personality, and accept it as a character in the tremendous story telling of Vanessa. The calibre with which this is done is second to none.
From our new vantage point at the concert we were able to survey the whole scene. Many of the 0-5s were succumbing to the music not to mention the interactive directions from Vanessa throughout the story, and they were getting up and dancing. This one particular usher who had chased our littlies on the stairs was trying to field small people in military style. She had her action man eagle eyes scanning the room and at the slightest flicker of movement off the carpet she practically commando rolled over to prevent them from leaving their confined space, and this appeared to be taking the edge off things for all those poor parents who then had to try and prevent their offspring from adventuring and exploring in this enticing new environment. When I have attended previously the children had been free to wander as long as they didn’t go onto the performance area, and personally I think this would significantly improve the experience if they were once again free to do so.
For many years now I have been passionate about the importance of live music and live musicians, and this began back when I was doing my initial teacher training and I realised that even children as old as 10 and 11 were struggling to name instruments in pictures let alone connect them with their sound. I believe that children should experience live musicians and live music performances as it has so many benefits, and the earlier children begin to do this the sooner it can become a regular part of their lives.
And so to sum up, these LSO St. Lukes Family concerts are tremendous, wonderful and give early years children a high quality musical experience which at £1.50 per head (under 1s free) is incredible value. Spoiled slightly by an over enthusiastic usher, and slightly under par cafe facilities but more than made up for by the amazing Vanessa King I would give these concerts a resounding 10 out of 10.
Posted by: karen