tue 23/07/2024

Family Total Immersion: Lift Off!, BBC SO, Glassberg, Barbican review – 50th anniversary tribute to Apollo 11 | reviews, news & interviews

Family Total Immersion: Lift Off!, BBC SO, Glassberg, Barbican review – 50th anniversary tribute to Apollo 11

Family Total Immersion: Lift Off!, BBC SO, Glassberg, Barbican review – 50th anniversary tribute to Apollo 11

Varied and dynamic event given input here from receptive young critics

A musical moon-age daydreamBBC

This family concert – “Total Immersion: Lift Off!” – was basically a small-scale rerun of this year’s CBeebies Prom, that one entitled “Off to the Moon”.

The Prom had a space theme, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and this Barbican concert just came in under the wire, still in the anniversary year, even if the commemorative events from the date itself, back in July, now seem distant.

The CBeebies Prom was more celebrity driven, notably with Justin, aka Mr Tumble, dominating proceedings. This time round, Faith Omole (pictured below by Dom Graham-Hyde) was master of ceremonies, just as high energy, leading the kids in actions and songs, but not quite dominating the same way. That allowed the music more prominence, and a greater proportion of the running time. Some lighting effects were used to keep the children’s attention, but otherwise the music was mostly unadorned, and listened to attentively by the near-capacity audience: the format seems to work! This was clearly an orchestra concert with compère, rather than a children’s event with orchestra. Even so, the players got into the swing of things. There was a great visual gag when Omole imitated the weightlessness of orbit, and the players all began waiving there instruments in the air as if they were floating off the ground.

Faith OmoleConductor Ben Glassberg was straight man to Omole’s hi jinks, playing along with her trip to the moon story, but putting more emphasis on announcing work titles, and even the musicologist in me found that a bit pedantic. The BBC Symphony Orchestra played well, though there was little to challenge them here. John Adams’s perennial Short Ride in a Fast Machine could have used some more rhythmic focus, and Glassberg took Fanfare for the Common Man at a surprisingly slow pace, a performance of gravitas where this audience would surely have appreciated more drive. The Doctor Who theme came as a surprise; by some unnamed hand to open with several minutes of atmospheric orchestral effects before reaching the tune.

Hans Zimmer’s Earth was a BBC commission, part of the Ten Pieces education project, but until now only performed at the CBeebies Prom. It is conventional film-score stuff, but it’s well crafted and certainly involving, so it was good to hear it a second time. The piece calls for a children’s choir, and the huge forces that were assembled at the Albert Hall in the summer were here replaced by the considerably smaller Finchley Children’s Music Group. They did an excellent job though, confident, well-tuned and with beautiful clear tone. And to conclude, the last few minutes of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. More of this would have been welcome, but it made for a rousing conclusion, and was welcomed back by the still enthusiastic audience as the encore.

Now to hand you over to our guest critics for the afternoon, Elsa (aged 9) and Cornelius (aged 7):Elsa and Cornelius

What did you like about the concert?

Elsa: That they took the best pieces of classical music and put them in a children’s concert. It was very interesting.

Cornelius: I really liked the Doctor Who part, because you thought it was just like classical music, but then it suddenly changed to Doctor Who.

What about the presenter?

Cornelius: She was very funny.

Elsa: She was very good, she remembered all the words. And the thing where she pretended she was going to stop talking but then kept carrying on all the time, that was very funny.

Did you like the light effects?

Elsa: Yes. The lights went all over the room.

Cornelius: They kind of looked like stars. It made the music better.

How did it compare to the CBeebies Prom?

Elsa: There was more music. It didn’t have as many presenters. I think that is good, because it means you can really enjoy the music without the distractions, without all the presenters dancing round all the time!

How many stars would you give it out of five?

Elsa: Four stars

Cornelius: Four stars

Four stars it is.


'You could enjoy the music without distractions, without the presenters dancing round all the time!' (Elsa, aged 9)


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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