OTTUMWA — Music can tell stories, no matter how young the audience is. In fact, Saturday’s performance by the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra was aimed at young listeners.
The symphony performed “Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67,” a children’s tale symphony written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936.
Each instrument represented a character. The flutes were the birds, one oboe was a duck, the clarinet was the cat, the bassoons were Peter’s grandfather, French horns symbolized the wolf, bass and drums symbolized hunters’ guns, and string instruments represented Peter.
Michael Boudewyns, a professional actor and performer, played the part of the narrator and all the characters. He was no stranger to performing Peter and the Wolf as this was his 127th performance.
Boudewyns used humor, engaging the children and parents, using high pitches for Peter and the ducks and lower pitches when playing the grandfather and wolf. Instead of using toy guns or hand guns to represent the hunter guns, Boudewyn used a toilet plunger which had most of the audience in roars of laughter, especially for one kid.
“You don’t really shoot a toilet plunger,” Tobias Wilkening said laughing.
Kathy Wilkening, his mother, laughed with him and said she and Tobias regularly attend symphonies. “We try to go to all of them,” she said. “It’s important for kids to get that exposure to classical music. It’s a great way for anyone — kids and parents — to become more educated and gain culture.”
Prokofiev was inspired to write the composition because of his love for children’s imaginations and story telling. He also wrote the symphony for the Moscow Children’s Central Theatre with the intent to introduce children to the different instruments played in orchestras.
SEISO decided to do just that by first giving children a short lesson on the sounds instruments make. Musicians demonstrated the sounds of oboes, flutes, violas, violins, harps, percussion and more. Music Director Robert McConnell said it was essential for kids to distinguish the sound of the instruments and emotion throughout the story, from the time Peter opened the gate to the time the wolf entered the meadow.
At the end of the concert, children got the opportunity to take a look at all the instruments and talk to the different musicians. It made an impression, as some children left the theatre humming and re-enacting scenes.