Conductor Bramwell Tovey

Date and Venue 15 October, Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer Heidi Hoff

There are many ways children can learn about classical music but nothing is quite as effective as witnessing a live performance by an orchestra, especially when the lesson is geared towards children.

Bramwell Tovey, Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra shed his serious conductor persona for the undercover Inspector Tovey, part of the VSO Kids’ Koncert series. In an effort to appear incognito, Tovey snuck out on stage dressed in layers of clothing, including three hats, several shirts, jackets and pants and even two pairs of sunglasses! His objective? To find the harmony in music.

Because his audience consisted mostly of children under ten, the musical definitions had to be kept simple and illustrated several ways, all coming to the same conclusion. The orchestra was dissected into brass, string, woodwind and percussion for the purposes of the harmony exercise. The musicians were given the spotlight when demonstrating their various instruments accompanied by Tovey’s very funny narration. It was when the orchestra performed together, however, that the interpretation of harmony really shone through. Pieces like Strauss’ Blue Danube, Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday all illustrated the concept beautifully.

Halfway through the performance, Tovey introduced a barbershop quartet who sung a lovely rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. If that exercise in harmony didn’t get through to the kids, I don’t know what would!

While the Kids Koncert Series is in fact geared towards children, parents might give a thought to leaving the under two set at home. The background noise of crying babies left me wondering what exactly they were getting out of the performance.

Be sure to catch upcoming Kids’ Koncerts including Platypus Theatre: A Flicker of Light on a Christmas Night on December 3rd and Judy and David’s Symphonic Adventure January 14th, 2007.


© 2006 Heidi Hoff