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Playful narration will highlight Allentown Symphony's 'Peter and the Wolf'

By Kathy Lauer-Williams
The Morning Call
Feb. 18, 2017

"Peter and the Wolf" is one of those pieces everyone needs to see and hear at least once in his lifetime, says Diane Wittry, musical director and conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the symphony will perform the classical musical fairytale. It will get help from Michael Boudewyns from Really Inventive Stuff, who will provide a vaudeville-inspired narration.

"Michael gives it a creative spin," Wittry says. "The narrator really sets the mood for the whole thing."

Written in 1936 by Sergei Prokofiev, the half-hour symphony teaches children about the instruments of the orchestra by assigning a musical theme to each character. The story follows Peter, a rebellious boy who defies his grandfather to try to capture a wolf, accompanied by his animal friends.

Each animal and person in the story has its own instrument and theme. The duck is played by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, the wolf by French horn and the bird by the flute. Peter's theme is played by the strings, his grandfather by the bassoon, and the hunters by the percussion family.

Boudewyns will narrate the story of the heroic boy and mischievous wolf by enacting all the characters "in an unexpected way," Wittry says. He will act out the story with the help of a suitcase and other household objects, from a purse to a plunger.

"The suitcase actually becomes the wolf with a snout and tail — and the opened suitcase is its mouth," Wittry says. "It's so wonderfully creative."

Boudewyns will also be on stage during the orchestra's interactive performance of Haydn's "Toy Symphony." He will play a drum, triangle, ratchet and toy trumpet during the piece, which humorously incorporates the sounds of toy instruments. He will teach children in the audience how to make cuckoo sounds and have them say them on cue during the performance.

The concert will include the overture from Mozart's comic opera "The Marriage of Figaro." The piece may be familiar to families who have watched the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

And the orchestra will perform an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee," featuring a violin solo by orchestra concertmaster Eliezer Gutman. The piece imitates the sound of a buzzing bee through a rapid succession of 16th notes.

The arrangement being performed is from "The Bell Telephone Hour," considered one of the most important musical programs in broadcast history. The conductor for the entire run, 1940 to 1958 on NBC radio, and after that on television to 1968, was Donald Voorhees. The Allentown native was the first conductor of the Allentown Symphony when it was established in 1951.

One of the outcomes of Voorhees' connections is that ultimately the orchestra received all the sheet music that was used in the "Bell Telephone Hour" broadcasts.

Wittry says the hour-long concert is the perfect length for kids, to give them their first introduction to the orchestra.

Before the concert at 12:30 p.m., children can come to an instrument petting zoo in the Rodale Room on the third floor of Miller Symphony Hall. Kids can see, touch and even try out instruments of the orchestra including violin, trumpet and trombone. There will be coloring and crafts activities, and children can meet Boudewyns and take a photo with him. The petting zoo is free with a ticket to the concert.