Thousands of children and their families experienced the magnificence of the Perth Concert Hall on Sunday as the WA Symphony Orchestra threw open the doors for its inaugural Open Day. The smell of popcorn wafted through the foyer and children darted from one activity to the next: face painting, make your own instrument, a silent disco, a Kombi Van photo booth and free performances by the WA Youth Orchestra, WASO chorus and Vagabond woodwind quartet.
When we arrived for the Rhythm in Your Rubbish ticketed concert the three levels of the foyer were a riot of happy noise as children explored with irreverential enthusiasm. It’s hard to imagine a better way for WASO to tackle the ‘threshold anxiety’ deterring people from concert halls and classical music than by turning the building into a giant musical playground.
The auditorium might be internationally regarded for its acoustics but my four year old was most awed by the cavernous ceiling and the red glowing aisle lights: “Mum they have alphabet lights on the seats!”
His focus turned to the front as two vagabonds (Danielle Desormeaux and Peter Duschenes from Platypus Theatre) arrived onstage and began playing and squabbling over bits of rubbish. The auditorium of children laughed, clapped and watched entranced for 60 minutes as the two mime artists explored the percussive potential of buckets, bottles, utensils and pipes, accompanied by the lush sound of a full symphony orchestra.
The orchestra under the assured conducting of Christopher Dragon provided musical slapstick (Copland’s Buckaroo Holiday), waltz music (Strauss’ Wiener Blut) and the soundtrack to an animal puppet show (Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite). A highlight was an excerpt from Dvorak’s Cello Concerto played ardently by cellist Louise McKay with the multi-talented Duschenes playing along on a garden saw.
The highlight for my son was when the actors tussled over a foam pillow until it ripped in half. As the actors slept on their pieces of foam the vast concert hall ceiling began to shimmer like starlight. “It’s not time for sleeping,” my son said as he snuggled up and listened to the orchestra gently play Brahms’ Wiegenlied, Guten Abend.