There was a wolf in the concert hall, not the grey wolf of Prokofiev’s original script, but a blue one, puppeteered by No Strings’ very own Lisa Buckley, a leading TV and film puppeteer who took a quick break from the set of CBBC’s LazyTown in Reykjavik, Iceland, to be with us. A wolf, and an incredible orchestra with just short of 100 exceptional players.
The event: Harrogate Symphony Orchestra’s summer concert, organised by viola player Flick McKee and conductor Bryan Western, with a matinee for children, and an evening performance for adults. Played at both, in the beautiful Royal Hall, Prokofiev’s spell-binding Peter and the Wolf.
The sell-out matinee, kicked off with Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, attracted children from all over the region who had made and brought along their own puppets, which they animated as by turns, Peter, the Grandfather, the Bird, Duck, Cat, and of course Wolf, made their musical appearances.
It was hard to say who enjoyed Wayne the Wolf’s performance more – the children, or the adults during the evening performance, whose programme included Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens, Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, The Pastoral.
After the shows, Lisa told us: “What an amazing day this has been! My husband Bob Fappiano and I made Wayne about 18 years ago for a children’s TV pilot – this is his first outing since and it has just been a privilege to be part of this incredible orchestra’s performances. I knew Wayne would get a good reaction from the kids, but I wasn’t prepared for this. It’s something I would really love to do again in a year’s time if we can get the orchestra to agree – they’ve been so incredibly generous supporting No Strings in this way.”
HSO conductor Bryan Western even brushed up his own puppeteering skills, with at one point a baton in one hand and Hettie the chicken (devastated she wasn’t written into the original score) on the other. “I think this marked the first time in Harrogate that a concert has been specifically created with children in mind,” he said, “so it felt very natural to support a cause such as No Strings, which helps so many children around the world through highly innovative and creative means.”
More than £3,000 was raised at the June 22nd matinee alone, with proceeds, including sales of t-shirts designed by Wayne’s proud parents, yet to be counted for the evening performance.
No Strings founder Johnie McGlade, having just returned from the Syrian border to be at the concert, added: “We cannot thank Bryan, Flick, and all the wonderful people who make up the orchestra enough, as well as people from our own team like Lisa and Els Coolen who travelled to support us.
“Events like this make a huge impact on the work that we’re able to do by providing core funding to get us out to assess new projects, and support work that’s ongoing. It was a huge amount of fun, but it was also a very special event, with wonderful music. Everyone I spoke to in the audience said they’d loved the whole thing, even the mayor!
“We were sorry that our patron Hugo Speer couldn’t be at the event because of film commitments, but the stand-in narrator, Oliver Longstaff, was simply excellent. We’ll certainly keep in touch and let the orchestra know how their efforts are affecting the children we work with.”