RSNO Christmas Concert The Snowman at The Usher Hall, Edinburgh, conducted by Gregory Batsleer, was as good a sign as any that Christmas is only a few days away as the orchestra brought to life in music the now classic and much loved 1982 animated film screening behind them – “The Snowman”. The original 1978 book by Raymond Briggs was of course wordless and the film is different in not only having new scenes added, but also a narrator. Here, our narrator was the excellent Jamie MacDougall. The Snowman film is perhaps best known to many for its song “Walking In The Air”. This afternoon, this song was performed by our “snow boy” Charles Lloyd. Putting everything together, this combination was simply a classic “Christmas show”.
Getting into the spirit of the season as much as the young and old members of the audience, the members of the RSNO abandoned the all too often serious face of music to put on the party hats and tinsel with some going even further and becoming either penguins, or characters from the “Toy Story” films. Christmas of course requires its Christmas music and songs, and these ranged from traditional carols with audience singalong to our narrator and presenter Jamie MacDougall channelling his inner Andy Williams on “It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas”. In the midst of all this light hearted humour, and the odd ”Mexican” with a huge sombrero making his presence obvious, there was still in the music the real reason why we celebrate Christmas as the traditional carols, Aaron Copland’s “Variations on a Shaker Melody” and the wonderful intricacies of music by Bach were all brought to life by the RSNO. All of this though was perfectly counterbalanced by the anarchy of “The Penguin Song”
Christmas events like this one are important, not only because they are part of our traditions, but also because when an orchestra like the RSNO decides to have a little bit of fun with music on-stage, this completely takes away any barriers that might be there between them and their younger audience. It is important that from an early age children see something like the RSNO as simply playing music and that no matter what music they are playing, that all music is for everyone to listen to without any perception of elitism.
Review by Tom King