Two days at the Liverpool Philharmonic this week and two very different, but equally pleasant, experiences.
This Art Deco gem on the edge of the city’s Georgian quarter is a place I’d wanted to visit for a long time, but suddenly I had an opportunity to visit twice within 24 hours.
Both trips were for vastly different-style concerts.
First, the Santa’s Sleigh on Hope Street Concert on Sunday, with two real reindeer to greet the clearly excited children bedecked in Christmas jumpers and festive deeley boppers. I was with my 10-year-old child, who was unsure what to expect.
She thought the reindeer were cool. I did surreptitiously glance at her and noticed that she was clicking her fingers along with the music at one point. It was a proud moment and I hope she didn’t see me.
The atmosphere was really great, with a sense of fun, with children of all ages. There was a tiny baby in front of us, who may have fallen asleep midway.
The orchestra were mostly wearing Christmas jumpers and the conductor Michael Seal, the associate conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was dressed as a giant Christmas pudding. This did not detract at all from the power of the music even when watching the back end of a festive pudding.
The MC was a lively Santa Claus, whom I initially thought was Ken Dodd, but I realised he had a Scottish burr to his voice. There were lots of interactive elements to this concert – with Mums, Dads and Grandparents being asked to stand up by MC Santa at various points, and lots of singing along and using festive hand gestures.
I found myself jingling car keys in lieu of sleigh bells. It was all jolly good fun and the crucial thing is it introduces classical music to young children in a way that is palatable and speaks to them. Additionally, there was the young choir singing on stage so the youngsters in the audience can look at them and aspire to take up singing. Children should watch live orchestras play music. They are the audiences of the future.
The second event was the Christmas Carols by Candlelight the following night, with the Mozart Festival Orchestra musicians dressed in Baroque-style period costume. Candleabras were dotted around the stage which was flanked by large Christmas trees.
The audience was mostly adult but there were a smattering of children dotted around. I took my 16-year-old daughter, and we’d enjoyed dinner together at Lunya in Liverpool beforehand.
There was also an interactive element, where the audience were invited to join in the carol singing at times. I found myself inadvertently in a competitive sing-off with my neighbour in the audience, as my eldest daughter sat next to me, gently cringing.
There were favourites such as Good King Wenceslas and lesser-known carols like It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, ending with the triumphant Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
What is so great about the Liverpool Phil is its outreach work with schools and the community, which has been running since 1940. It offers learning events for youngsters from three upwards. It’s something I’ve written about previously, with musicians going into schools in parts of the city and encouraging children to take up instruments.
It has two venues – the Art Deco Grade II listed Philharmonic Hall, recently refurbished, which seats almost 1,800 people and the less formal Music Room
Don’t leave it as long as I did to enjoy a concert at The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
Oh, and Doddy IS appearing at the Philharmonic on December 28. It promises to be a long night!