In grand Halle tradition, and in the spirit of Christmas, The Halle Orchestra let their hair down, wear Santa hats and other festive paraphernalia, with music stands adorned with seasonal views and tinsel, and play music to sing and dance along to, with the aim very much to engage and entertain young children. This is a family concert, and a near capacity audience this afternoon was predominantly children with their respective family members dutifully in tow.

The one thing which was different this year was the conductor. This afternoon we were privileged to witness the new Assistant Conductor for the Halle Orchestra, Jonathon Heyward conduct his first full concert with The Halle. And considering that this was far from a normal concert, he seemed to cope with it adroitly. Helping the audience, yes, that`s the whole audience not just the children, to join and with the singing and dancing, and spreading mirth and conviviality around like it was going out of fashion, was presenter Alasdair Malloy. Dressed in festive suit and Elf shoes, and punning his way through some awful cracker jokes, he really did manage to hold the youngsters attention for the vast majority of the show. It was a long show for the wee ones, and some of it simply beyond their understanding or liking, but I was incredibly impressed by how quiet they were when not being asked to sing, dance or shout out responses. For us oldies, then he did become a little irritating it has to be said, but he wasn`t there for us, and we weren`t there for him either – we were all there for the children, and since majority of them left the auditorium this afternoon still smiling and having been entertained, then that was most definitely mission accomplished!

When the orchestra did play alone, then they were wonderful. I really loved Waldteufel`s Skater`s Waltz. The last time I heard that I was still living in Austria!

Clarinet Candy was another lovely piece and showcased excellently this afternoon`s two clarinettists, known to me and the rest of the audience only as Rosa and Emily.

Another nice idea was for Malloy to play a piece of music which was written for him by Ian Hughes called A Christmas Carillon in which Malloy played the glockenspiel, tubular bells, crotal bells and the bodhran.

Audience participation was very much the name of the game though and most of the songs or tunes had us singing, doing silly actions and generally entertaining ourselves, which is of course all for the children. Their favourite being Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, with the Rondo Alla Turkey coming in a close second!

I am uncertain about Malloy coming on at the end as Father Christmas, despite the fact that he now did his best to lose his Scottish accent, and not give himself away, I am undecided as to whether or not I agree with it. At least he didn`t take his mask off in public and stayed like that through to the end. [however Alasdair Malloy was unable to take his curtain call because of this].

All in all though, the Halle , and Heyward did a magnificent job of keeping up with this rather frenetic and especially-for- the-little-ones concert!

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