Review: Christmas concert sows classical seed early

Ulster Orchestra associate conductor Christopher Bell in festive mood on Saturday


The Snowman

Waterfront Hall


I HEARD the Tipperary-born composer Frank Corcoran say in an interview this week that appreciating classical music didn't come naturally to Irish people; that maybe some Celtic gene prevented us from ‘getting' it.

I think I know what he meant; however, the key with all such things, as underlined by the atmosphere of unfettered fun at Saturday's Ulster Orchestra performance of The Snowman, is get 'em while they're young.

If you don't know it, The Snowman is one of those rare beasts: a children's film that's aimed squarely at younger children. There's no clever-clogs humour, no scariness; it's just a simple story about a little boy on a magical adventure told with artistry and wit.

Aside from an on-screen introduction by a very blow-dried-looking David Bowie (the film dates from 1982) prior to the animated film proper, and ‘that song', forever associated with Aled Jones, there are no voices: the only sound is the musical score, played wonderfully, on this occasion, by the Ulster Orchestra.

With many members sporting Santa hats, some in Christmas onesies and a percussionist in what looked like a bear suit, the orchestra were clearly out to enjoy themselves at least as much as us. Conductor Christopher Bell set the tone with a fetching festive outfit and an enthusiasm that was infectious.

A programme of music before the screening included a very jaunty Jingle Bells, a Frozen sequence that had girls in the packed Waterfront taking their own flights of fancy and a full-audience-participation madcap dance routine, Consider the Penguin.

The atmosphere at what was very much a family affair ranged from rapt – especially when boy and snowman left the ground to the strains of We're Walking in the Air, sung by Belfast schoolboy Ciaran Purdy – to raucous, when outsized white balloons descended into the auditorium from the balconies.

Even if you don't have the classical gene you surely have a gene for craic – and this event, now in its 12th year, was simply, if you'll excuse the non-classical parlance, great craic.


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: