Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is a truly special place to experience a full professional orchestra in action, to delve into the classics as well as appreciate more modern musical forms. The interior is spectacular and the music always magical – what better place to introduce a young inquiring mind to the beautiful world of live music? The Family Concert Series, directed by Alasdair Malloy, has been providing just such an opportunity for the past twenty years, offering a space for the whole family to explore and enjoy the delights of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

On September 30th, this season’s Family Concert Series kicked off with ‘Beat This!!’ billed as an exploration of the percussion section of the orchestra, ‘as they drum up a storm in a pulsing percussive party which rocks and rolls its way along in a riot of rhythm.’ The first time the RLPO has presented just one section to its family audience, LVL couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more. With a pair of maracas and two excited kids at the ready, we marched down to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to check it out!

Before the show begins, there is the fantastically-named Instrument Petting Zoo, which provides the audience a chance to get to know the instruments they are about to witness in action, a wonderful idea that creates a strong sense of engagement. The audience are also encouraged to bring along their own instruments to join in at different parts of the performance. “The idea is to make the whole experience as friendly and welcoming as possible” Alasdair explained to LVL after the show, creating a less formal atmosphere where “fidgeting is welcome” and the audience can really feel part of the concert.

For the next hour or so we are taken on an action-packed whistlestop tour of all things percussion, with Alasdair Malloy explaining to the audience the different instruments, their uses and origins in between a series of pieces that kept the kids’ attention and delight throughout. With famous tunes such as ‘Remember Me’ from the hugely popular children’s film Coco, to the Beatles’ ‘When I’m 64’ interspered with more classical compositions, and my personal favourite ‘Fanfare for Tambourines’, which showcased the surprisingly wide variety of ways a tambourine could be played to such an extent that I will never look at that humble instrument in the same way again! Ending with a rousing, riotous version of ‘Uptown Funk’ that got a few of the kids dancing in the aisles, the whole performance was a truly marvellous introduction to percussion.

LVL had a chance to catch up with Alasdair Malloy after the show and find out some more about Beat This!! and the Family Concert Series, “This was something different – we normally do concerts with a full orchestra but this time we decided to try something new .. it was quite a challenge in many ways as there isn’t the spectacle of the full orchestra on stage, but we thought that by filling the stage instead with percussion, that would be fun! … the idea is of taking the audience on a full journey of discovery”.

The concerts in the series are always strongly themed. “At Christmas I do a show as Santa, we have a Teddy Bear show, which is particularly fun for the younger members of the audience, and in the new year we have a Science Fiction programme including music from Star Wars and Doctor Who”. As another first for the Family Concert Series, Alasdair Malloy will also be directing an accessible, relaxed family concert “making sure things are done in a less formal way, being particularly attentive to people who don’t like loud noise, starting with small groups of musicians and gradually building up to go into how a typical concert would be”.

There are exciting times ahead for the Family Concert Series in the 2018/19 season, with innovative approaches and a passion for opening up the mysteries of the orchestra to the whole family. Alasdair explains, “I always refer to these as family concerts as well as children’s concerts – I love it when I see children chatting to adults during the course of the concert, and I often wonder what in particular has sparked off their imagination at that point – it’s a lovely thing to do!” As an afternoon for all the family combining fun, excitement and education, the Family Concert Series at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall provides an exceptional experience that is not to be missed!

Check out more at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall ONLINE

Find out more about Alasdair Malloy ONLINE

Images Courtesy of Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Alasdair Malloy

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