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Children's books Not Now, Bernard and Isabel's Noisy Tummy inspire first concert of new season for Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra

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Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra's first concert of the 2021-22 season is a musical celebration for children inspired by two classic books.

The programme includes music composed by Bernard Hughes to accompany the stories Not Now, Bernard and Isabel's Noisy Tummy, both written and illustrated by David McKee.

Not Now, Bernard carries different messages at the same time: for children, it is a story about a boy being eaten by a monster; for adults, it is a cautionary tale about being too busy to engage with our children.

Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra (51406736)
Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra (51406736)

After a jolly overture for the orchestra alone, the audience is introduced to Bernard. Bernard was a boy. Just an ordinary boy who lived with his mother and father. Bernard's parents were usually too busy to pay much attention to him. "Not now, Bernard", were the words most often said to him. But Bernard knew there was a monster in the garden and he was afraid that it would eat him. The music helps the story unfold as Bernard's parents continue not to notice what is happening.

Isabel's Noisy Tummy is all about a tummy that rumbles resulting in much amusement for Isabel's classmates. The piece begins with the same jolly music that Bernard enjoyed before we are introduced to Isabel, who was a very good girl, polite and helpful. Isabel's tummy rumbles and gurgles throughout, and the audience will be expected to help provide the appropriate sounds. One day, Isabel's class goes to the zoo and Isabel's tummy saves the day.

Hughes' music is colourful, jolly and exciting with lots of fascinating sounds, especially from the percussion section, which includes interesting instruments such as a Swanee whistle, a whip, a hammer and nail and a vibraslap, a piece of metal wire connecting a wooden ball to a hollow box of wood with metal “teeth” inside; the percussionist holds the wire in one hand and strikes the ball.

Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra (51406740)
Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra (51406740)

Not Now, Bernard and Isabel's Noisy Tummy have been widely performed around Britain since their creation, and in 2020 they featured on an album – Not Now, Bernard & Other Stories – that reached number 5 in the classical charts.

The concert will include two other pieces. The first is Edward Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King. This is the story of Peer Gynt, a boy who falls in love with a girl, but they are forbidden to marry. After being forced to leave home for being untrustworthy, Peer finds himself in the hall of the mountain king, where he is captured by trolls. He upsets the king of the trolls when he refuses to marry his daughter and become a troll.

The other piece is 'The Gnome' from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. In this short piece you can hear the gnome jumping out from behind bushes, crawling through hedges and being generally a scary little fellow.

The concert takes place on Saturday October 2 at 3pm in St Mary's Church, Saffron Walden (CB10 1JP). Tickets priced £12 for adults and £5 for under-18s and over-65s are available from www.saffronsymphony.org/forthcoming-events.

Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra (51406738)
Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra (51406738)

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