Review by Judith Caldwell
The final concert in the 5 at the First chamber music series was presented on Saturday afternoon by Ensemble SOL. It was a short concert of excellent music and stories appropriate for children and much enjoyed by the junior members of the audience. Concerts of this caliber aimed at children are very rare and are a truly wonderful introduction to the world of music performance.
Ensemble SOL is an unusual mix of Vanessa May-lok Lee, piano; trombonist Janice Owens, and Quinsin Nachoff on clarinet –joined by Colin Murray as narrator. Lee and Owens are primarily classical musicians while Nachoff is primarily a jazz musician, thus-an interesting mix of genres.
The afternoon began with translated selections from ‘L’histoire de Babar le petit elephant’ read by Murray with piano accompaniment written by Francis Poulenc and performed by Lee. At approximately 30 minutes this was the longest of the pieces …amusing and engagingly read. The music was applicable for children, showing plenty of colour, interest with some fun surprises like the bird sounds at the wedding.
Then, a Paul Harris composition set to two poems; ‘The Cat” by Andrew Carter plus ‘The Mouse’ by Sam Edenborough. This time the music was provided by Lee & Nachoff – played while the poems were read. The first part was very languorous and feline, and the second scurrying and skittering like a mouse.
The Canadian premiere of Christopher Kies’ The Amazing Bone with text by William Steig was next. This was another longish piece that the children absolutely loved. Murray’s narration with music from Lee and Owens took us on a daytime journey of a pig named Pearl who started off in town hearing bells and whistles etc. and then went into the country where she met a talking Bone and together they eluded highway robbers and out-foxed a fox. The music was at times jazzy and sometimes ragtime with walking tunes and even farts from the trombone – much to the kids delight.
The trio of musicians then offered us ‘Selections from Amazing Animals’ by Colin Cowles. We heard a frog hop, buzzy blues, bugs beguine, spiders square dance and a really good rattle snake rag. The music styles matched the animals perfectly and the mix of instruments sounded just right. It was great fun.
The afternoon of delightful music ended with an arrangement of Debussy’s famous “Golliwogg’s Cake Walk”. It was familiar and beautifully played by the three excellent musicians and had the children bopping along in their seats.This was a very enjoyable concert led by three dedicated musicians and read by a most engaging narrator. It was a fitting finale to another stellar season for Five at the First. Their next season has been announced and begins with a Cello Extravaganza on October 19th at Compass Point Bible Church.