He has terrible tusks and terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws… and he was being dragged up the steps of the Perth Concert Hall by a toddler.
It was the WA Symphony Orchestra’s Gruffalo concert and one boy had brought his stuffed Gruffalo teddy along for the show. The concert hall was buzzing with children flocking to see Julia Donaldson’s best-selling book The Gruffalo brought to life on a big screen with live music by the orchestra.
The story follows a little mouse walking through the forest and deflecting a fox, an owl and other predators with descriptions of a terrifying monster. Turns out the Gruffalo of his imagining is real and the quick-thinking mouse has to find a way of tricking him too. The animated version of the book includes a squirrel family as narrators, and the sequel Gruffalo’s Child flips the tables and tells the story from the point of view of a small Gruffalo girl.
My family embarked on the trip with great excitement. They love getting a taste of the concerts mum is always going to for work, and WASO’s kids concerts are a great place to start.     Conductor and orchestrator Terry Davies introduced the sections of the orchestra and the musical motifs associated with the different animals: the flute for the owl, the percussion for the fox, the tuba for the Gruffalo. And then the film began, projected on screens around the hall.
There is something special about live concerts; there was far more participation that would be generated from watching the movie at home. The young audience members soon recognised the familiar lines and began to join in:”I’m going to have lunch with a Gruff-a-lo”.
Matthew laughed uproariously at the slapstick moments: the fox getting snow on his head, the owl crashing into the trees. Once Tahlia realised the Gruffalo wasn’t going to appear on stage and the snake and fox etc weren’t real, she started to relax and enjoy the show too.
Of course with the antics happening on screen there wasn’t much focus on the orchestra, but they played well under Davies, who used a monitor on his podium to coordinate the timing with the movie. The concert finished in under an hour before the kids had time to get squirmy and then we headed home to read the book just one more time!