Kile Smith (music), Gemma Whelan (narrator), English Symphony Orchestra / Kenneth Woods
Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth
Recorded 30 July 2020, available online from Friday 16 April 2021
Written by Richard Whitehouse
The English Symphony Orchestra reaches the concluding instalment of its series for virtual storytelling with one of the most appealing fairy tales – The Bremen Town Musicians, here given in a discreetly updated version which preserves its salient narrative and robust charm.
Maybe through its specifically German setting, what is among the more life-enhancing tales by the Brothers Grimm has never enjoyed the popularity of various other such stories (those who remember an enticingly illustrated version published by Ladybird in the 1960s would no doubt disagree!). The more reason, then, why it should not find renewed currency today – not least with the assistance of this online rendering, which has been vividly and imaginatively illustrated by students from Chadsgrove School in the Worcestershire town of Bromsgrove.
The story is breezily and resourcefully told by Gemma Whelan, assuming a variety of accents and intonations to differentiate those characters – donkey, dog, cat and cockerel – who defy imminent demise to become travelling musicians on a journey to Bremen that (at least in this version) they never reach. Their travails and unlikely victory over a band of rural robbers is underpinned with a score by Kile Smith whose echoes of Stravinsky, Hindemith and lesser-known but worthwhile figures such as Walter Piston is effectively geared to events at hand
The ESO musicians play with style and assurance, while Kenneth Woods ensures poise and humour – not least in several meaningful ‘wrong entries’. The overall presentation is sure to win this story new friends and, as usual, a range of sundry material enhances the experience.
You can watch the concert on the English Symphony Orchestra website here
For more information on the English Symphony Orchestra you can visit their website here
For information about Auricolae, visit Kenneth Woods’ website here