Music review: Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite & Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

Bar Musical Society, Middle Temple Hall, November 2016

It has been a fine tradition of the Middle Temple to put on a concert for children towards Christmas every year. 

The concerts are not confined to members of the Inn and their guests, and we are very happy to have members of the other Inns and their families. In the past, we have had small ensembles performing music aimed at a young audience and, frankly, small attendances.

Last November, with the valuable collaboration of the Bar Musical Society, we were more ambitious and more successful. We staged performances of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. We had a full orchestra, most members of which were the barrister members of the Bar Musical Society. It is remarkable how many barristers and judges are fine musicians – as witness Lord Dyson’s piano recital on 31 January 2016. The orchestra was ably conducted by Nikolas Clarke and led by Damian Falkowski, the Hon. Secretary and Chairman of the Society respectively. The stories were narrated by Sir Richard Stilgoe, songwriter, lyricist and musician – a great actor who was perfect in his role.

The star piece was, of course, the story of Peter and the Wolf. Each character, young Peter, his old grandfather, the panicky duck, the sly cat, the bird, the hunters and of course the hungry wolf, is represented by a different instrument of the orchestra, which gives each of the players a starring role as well as introducing the audience to the distinctive sounds of each instrument. All ends happily at the end, apart from the wolf, of course, and the poor duck.

The concert set a record: we had no fewer than 197 children in the audience, accompanied by about 170 parents and grandparents, members of all of the Inns of Court. It was a sell-out. As I said when I introduced the orchestra, never in the long and glorious history of Middle Temple Hall have we had the pleasure of the presence of so many children.

The concert was a great success. The children, of all ages, listened attentively. After the concert, many came to view the instruments up close, to touch and to try them. In addition to giving pleasure to so many children and their parents and grandparents, the concert raised over £1,200 for the Orpheus Centre, a charity supported by Richard Stilgoe that provides accommodation and support to young disabled adults. A very worthwhile cause.

I am extraordinarily grateful to the players and other members of the Bar Musical Society for making this concert possible, and in particular to Nikolas Clarke for his organising the event. We are aiming for a repeat next November. I remain ambitious: I would like to have a performance of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals – with two grand pianos plus the orchestra of the Bar Musical Society. Please put 19 November 2017 in your diaries. Keep an eye out for the booking dates: book early to avoid disappointment, since I am sure the concert will sell out again.

The next concert for the orchestra is Mozart’s Requiem with the St Genesius Choir and Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K.466 with Varvara Tarasova on 20 July 2017 in Inner Temple Hall.

Reviewer Sir Stanley Burnton is Master of the Music, Middle Temple. www.barmusicalsociety.com

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Sir Stanley Burnton

Sir Stanley is Master of the Music, Middle Temple. He retired as a Court of Appeal judge in 2012 and returned to One Essex Court to practise as an arbitrator.