Classic case of animal magic

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Sheffield children are about to meet Stan and Mabel, a music-loving dog and cat, courtesy of the musicians from Music in the Round.

An adaptation by MiR’s Children’s Composer in Residence, Paul Rissmann, of a picture book by Jason Chapman, will be performed by the 11-piece chamber group Ensemble 360 at a concert at The Octagon.

It will be accompanied by colourful projections of images from the original book, narration from Polly Ives and active musical audience participation. Aimed at families and school groups as an introduction to classical music, the concert also has piec es by Rossini, Mozart and Delibes.

When Stan and Mabel discover their flute-playing neighbour has disappeared they set off on a journey to search for her - only to find that she has gone to judge The Best Orchestra in the World competition and that they’ll be forming an amazing animal orchestra of their own.

It is the sixth adaptation by Rissmann for Music in the Round and follows previous family concerts, Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants, The Lion Who Wanted to Love and The Chimpanzees of Happytown. The latter earned him a 10th Anniversary British Composer’s Award.

The family concerts in an informal and accessible atmosphere form part of Music in the Round’s mission to extend the audiences for chamber music, both at home in the Crucible Studio and in parts of the country otherwise poorly served for classical music.

Polly Ives, also Music in the Round’s education and outreach manager, explains: “Paul and I meet up each year, often in a children’s library or bookshop and sit in a quiet corner surrounded by a pile of books and try and decide which ones would work well.”

A story about the formation of an animal orchestra would seem to be a gift. “Not just that, the characters themselves are very appealing to children. Each one has its own musical theme and adventure and journey with a moral lesson about taking part and joining in and playing with other people.”

The response has proved something of an eye-opener. “It’s quite funny having it on at the same time as The X-Factor,” observes Ives. “I thought these five, six and seven-year-olds might not know what an audition was or the idea of judges’ criticism and praise but of course it’s very familiar to them.”

Additions to the MiR children’s repertoire are Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Igor the Bird Who Couldn’t Sing.

“We’ve found there’s such a niche for it. Everyone is saying there is not enough quality music for children. They’re all familiar with Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of Animals but they’re looking for something more.”

After the concerts on Saturday and Monday Stan and Mabel will be performed for three Sheffield primary schools on Tuesday.