Live review – Henry Goodman, English Symphony Orchestra / Kenneth Woods: The Art of Storytelling – Lubin from Chelm

David Yang (above, music), Alisa Snyder (illustrations) Henry Goodman (narrator), English Symphony Orchestra / Kenneth Woods

Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth
Friday 4 December 2020 (online)

Written by Richard Whitehouse

Following on last week’s arresting version of The Ugly Ducking, the English Symphony Orchestra continues its series of pieces for virtual storytelling in the guise of an old English tale here given an inimitably Jewish twist to result in the ‘morality’ fable Lubin from Chelm.

While the tale of Lazy Jack might hardly have seemed other than an English story, it works well when relocated within Ukrainian Jewish environs then decked out with Yiddish turns of phrase and Klezmer stylings. The anti-hero Lubin – put to work only at the prompting of his aging mother, who is incapable of holding on to his wages, but who enchants the daughter of Chelm’s wealthiest family – could be interpreted in various ways; that of fortune smiling on those who least expect it, yet are by no means the least deserving, is the most straightforward.

Henry Goodman certainly makes the most of this barbed whimsy, relating the narrative with audible enjoyment as he assumes the role of Yiddish storyteller with aplomb. He is abetted by David Yang’s direct and characterful score, engagingly conducted by Kenneth Woods (who undertook the expert orchestrations) and illustrated by Alisa Snyder with a true appreciation of what line drawings are capable of conveying in this context. A few linguistic ‘curve-balls’ are thrown in, without detracting from the self-effacing directness of the unfolding narrative.

The ESO musicians (shots of whom alternate with the illustrations) play with their customary skill and sensitivity, and the whole production ought to amuse as well as provoke children and adults alike. As usual with ESO, a range of supporting material enhances the total 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