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Peter and the Wolf delights crowds at Lollipops concert

By Angela Lehman-Rios, Special Correspondent
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Feb. 21, 2010

There's nothing like a well-known story to attract the crowds. The Richmond Symphony performed yesterday to a nearly full house, probably because Prokofiev's classic musical tale "Peter and the Wolf" headlined the concert, part of the symphony's Lollipops series for families.

With three other works before it on the program, however, the concert stretched a little long for many of the young audience members, who had been primed for Peter with related craft activities before the concert and a printed program that featured colorful finger puppets of the characters.

The first piece on the program was Glinka's Overture to "Russlan and Ludmilla." Then the first-place winners of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra League's annual concerto contest for young musicians performed with the orchestra.

The winner of the instrumental division was violinist Annika Jenkins, 15, who performed the first movement of the Concerto No. 5 in A minor by Vieuxtemps. The Virginia Beach native has studied violin for 12 years and currently travels to The Julliard School every weekend to continue her music studies.

Kimberly Hou, 15, winner of the piano division, played the first movement of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D flat major. She lives in Arlington and told the audience she had performed at the Bulgarian Embassy the night before.

If anyone in the audience was hoping for a traditional narrator for "Peter and the Wolf" -- someone who stands at a microphone and talks -- they were disappointed. As for the rest of us, we were tickled by actor Michael Boudewyns. With the help of a feather duster, a purse, two toilet plungers and other household items charmingly turned into ad hoc puppets, Boudewyns acted out Peter's story across the stage.

Boudewyns and his wife, Sara Valentine, -- who also had a part in the show -- work with orchestras across the country to present children's concerts. He knew not to let his theatrics overshadow the music itself. And the simple but effective props may well inspire children to find objects around their own homes and create their own versions of "Peter."

As wonderful as the music is at Lollipops concerts, the format could use a little tweaking. The program was nearly an hour and a half long without an intermission. That's a long time for a target audience of elementary-age children to sit in one place.

Adults who go to Masterworks concerts typically get intermission after no more than 45 minutes to talk, walk and get a snack. Without this break, the talking, fidgeting and snacking (with attendant crinkling of wrappers) happened in the seats.