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Student shows tell classic tale

By Aaron Brand
Texarkana Gazette
January 5, 2018

If you've ever had the good fortune of listening to Prokofiev's masterwork "Peter and the Wolf," you've heard a classical piece of music to stir the imagination.

Composed in the 1930s by one of the most famous Russian composers, "Peter and the Wolf" involves the telling of a lively tale about the young boy Peter, who meets a wolf, a duck and much more while living at his grandfather's home in the country. Different instruments represent the sounds of different characters, such as the clarinet for Peter's cat and French horns for the wolf.

A performance of "Peter and the Wolf" is part of the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra's student concerts on Wednesday at the Perot Theatre. It's paired with the first movement of Mozart's "Symphony No. 34." There are two times: 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tickets will be available to the public for any seats not used by local school groups.

It's Michael Boudewyns' job to bring "Peter and the Wolf" to life in a way that complements the TSO's musical storytelling. Boudewyns, the co-founder of Maine-based Really Inventive Stuff, is now in his seventh year of performing for the TSO's student show.

You might detect a bit of Buster Keaton in his vaudeville-style performance because he uses found objects to tell the story in a visually engaging yet simple way: coat racks, feather dusters, suitcases and the like. He narrates the tale. And the music tells a story that entrances youngsters.

"That is, without question, a masterpiece when it comes to things designed for families, kids, young audiences, that kind of thing," Boudewyns said, calling these characters iconic. Both Boudewyns and his wife, Sara Valentine, the other co-founder of Really Inventive Stuff, both studied the performance of classic plays in graduate school, he explains.

That training and commitment is put into their approach to "Peter and the Wolf," Boudewyns noting that theater exists purely in the audience's imagination.

It's his performance that must work with the orchestra musicians, who are also telling the story in their own way.

"Together, we are all creating Prokofiev's masterpiece and sharing it with the audience," said Boudewyns, who believes for this performance he's a member of the orchestra. He also enjoys bringing this classic classical music tale to those who've never heard it before.

"I find it effortless to enjoy and find great pleasure in doing 'Peter and the Wolf' because I know there are people who've never experienced it," he said, "and I think it's just fantastic."

Boudewyns premiered their version of "Peter and the Wolf" way back in 2005, and these upcoming TSO concerts will mark the 109th and 110th performances for him. That pleases him, and he's enjoyed the partnership with the TSO that's made several of those performances possible.

"They are a really great partner because Andrew (Clark, TSO's executive director) and Marc-André (Bougie, the TSO conductor) love Texarkana," Boudewyns said. "They've committed themselves to making a difference."

He and Valentine, he said, enjoy communities the size of Texarkana where this sort of storytelling and performance can be enjoyed. They've even driven to Texarkana to perform.

"The style of our performing is really very simple," Boudewyns said. And it's the type of performance where people's imaginations are needed to participate, and this performance can make people feel richer, fuller and more in love with where they live and have this available, he believes.

With the storytelling style that uses certain instruments to portray characters like the cat and the wolf, "Peter and the Wolf" can appeal to younger students, he said. And it also appeals to older students who see how there's a sense of teamwork built for the orchestra musicians.

"Orchestras are the best team sport," Boudewyns said. Everyone has a job to do, whether it's the piccolo or the oboe or another instrument. And their skills are used to create something outside of themselves.

"Everyone is in service of delivering Mozart or Beethoven or this time it's Prokofiev," Boudewyns said about the "Peter and the Wolf" performance, which lasts about 30 minutes.