We’ve taken our children to see plays, musicals and ballets before – but we’d never taken them to see an orchestra perform.
An orchestra seems like a totally different form of entertainment – much less visual of course, and all about listening. Would our energetic 9- and 7-year-old boys be able to cope with two hours of orchestral music?
Well, we wanted to try it out.
In Middlesbrough Town Hall, which is local to where we live, the Royal Northern Sinfonia were performing “Music from the Movies.” We reasoned that if any classical music would interest our kids then it would be movie soundtracks. We were not disappointed.
The Royal Northern Sinfonia performed music from 15 blockbusters including Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
I’ll confess that even as a 34-year-old, I had never seen an orchestra perform before and I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not a musical person and wouldn’t even be able to name all the different instruments in an orchestra. I felt slightly awkward during the first number – what does one do during this? Not dance or clap along that’s for sure – but very quickly I realised…
You watch and anticipate.
You get to know the different musicians and parts of the orchestra – the strings, the brass, the kettle drums and cymbals – and before you know it (whether musical or not) you start to learn where to look when. You recognise the iconic movie soundtrack, and you start to identify which instruments are making the distinctive sounds that you know so well; and then you simply marvel at how all the musicians work together to create a song which is an utter masterpiece.
Honestly, watching the Royal Northern Sinfonia, is absolutely mesmerising.
We really enjoyed watching the conductor, Stephen Bell, lead the orchestra in perfect harmony, and we loved his brief yet insightful commentary in between songs.
There was a free pre- show talk before the performance, but we opted out of that, reasoning that it would be too much for our children to sit through. I think that was the right choice, but if we ever go to hear the Royal Northern Sinfonia perform again (child-free!) then we would definitely go along to pre-show talk too.
The performance that we saw was 7.30-9.30pm which is past our boy’s bedtime – our 7-year-old would usually be fast asleep before the start time. We supplied them with plenty of sugary snacks to keep them alert and we even let them spin their fidget spinners during the loud songs. I must say that I was really proud of them – they engaged with something totally new, really well. I’m hoping that it may have inspired them to keep practicing the Star Wars theme tune on the piano, something that their piano teacher is getting them to work on at the minute.
The Royal Northern Sinfonia are the UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra. They are based at the Glasshouse International Centre for Music in Gateshead (previously known as The Sage) but they perform across the UK and world. They headlined the BBC Proms festival and have performed with Maximo Park, Sam Fender and Self Esteem. In short, they are very good and well worth seeing!
They will be performing in Middlesbrough Town Hall again on 26th April and 23rd May, this time it will be music by Mozart. Click here to book.
In the Glasshouse, the Sinfonia have along list of performances coming up, click here to check out dates and prices. The performances that have caught my eye for families are Home Alone and the Snowman. Both are coming up in December 2024, where the Sinfonia will play the soundtracks in perfect timing with the movies on the Big Screen. How magical is that?