The Lake George Examiner
Lake George Music Festival Children’s Concert tells The Story of Babar
By Gillian Burdett
Lake George Examiner
Aug. 21, 2016
The cacophony of the orchestra warming up built anticipation for the story to come as people, families with young children, couples old and young, filled the tiered seats at the Shepard Park Amphitheatre. The Lake George Music Festival held its Children’s Concert yesterday evening in the park, one of several events held over the Festival’s 11-day 2016 season. This is the third year, in the Festival’s six-year history, it has offered a performance designed specifically to engage children and plant in them the seeds that will grow into a lifelong appreciation of music.
The Children’s Concert this year was a collaboration of the LGMF Orchestra and Michael Boudewyns of Really Inventive Stuff, who told the story of Babar the little elephant to the music of composer Francis Poulenc. Poulenc’s composition illustrates with music the Jean de Bunhoff’s 1931 children’s classic Histoire De Babar Le Petit Elephant. Using props to represent the characters in de Bunhoff’s story, Boudewyns narrated and acted out the tale with the LGMF Orchestra providing the sometimes soothing, sometimes cheerful and sometimes dramatic soundtrack.
“In the Great Forest a little elephant was born,” the story begins, and Boudewyns pulled the letter “B” from a suitcase to represent the baby Babar. Long tubes of gray fabric swinging from stands represented elephants and Boudewyns changed hats to become different characters in the story. He played “a cruel hunter hiding behind a bush” who shot Babar’s mother and chased Babar out of the Great Forest and the King of the Elephants who “had eaten a bad mushroom” and fell to a premature death on the floor of the Shepard Park stage.
Boudewyns says he has been doing the Babar story since he co-founded Really Inventive Stuff in 2004 and has worked with professional orchestras around the country. Yesterday’s performance was his first working with LGMF’s Music Director and Conductor Roger Kalia, and, as he does with all conductors, Boudewyns initiated Kalia into the Babar Elephant Appreciation Society with a small toy elephant to serve as a membership card.
The Story of Babar concludes with the elephant’s return to the Great Forest, his wedding and coronation as King of Elephants to replace the now deceased, bad mushroom-eating monarch. It appeared that the performance of The Story of Babar was coordinated with the big boats on Lake George as a deep blast from the horn of a Lake George Steamboat Company ship followed the pronouncement that Babar would be the new King.
Following the concert, children flocked to the Instrument Petting Zoo where they could explore and play several different orchestral instruments guided by LGMF musicians. The LGMF continues in venues throughout Lake George through Thursday, Aug. 25 when the entire orchestra will perform Kodály’s Dances of Galánta and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in the Lake George High School Auditorium. The full orchestra performance begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be followed by fireworks over the lake.
Admission to Thursday night’s concert is “pay what you can.” Donations allow the LGMF to present programs free of charge to fulfill their goal of making their music accessible to all. For more information and a full schedule of events, visit the Lake George Music Festival website.