City Halls, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

ONCE again – and I make no apology for repeating the point – an event of huge invention and panache (not to mention high comedy), created for Glasgow’s ill-named Festival 2018 programme to accompany the European Championship sporting events, was enjoyed by a great many fewer than it deserved, even if some of them were really very small, and the target audience.

This Children’s Classic Concert event, presented with athletic ebullience by percussionist Owen Gunnell, featured a star percussion soloist in Scotland’s Colin Currie, and the pair combining forces for the world premiere of an excellent new work by young composer Tom Harrold. It took cycling as its inspiration and required Gunnell to hit a specially-designed kit of bike parts while Currie played a more convention set up of tom-toms, congas, hi-hat and kick bass drum. With big chords from the brass to command the attention of the young crowd, an extended cadenza by the two soloists was the icing on the cake, but Harrold had me onside from the minute I learned he had brilliantly entitled it “Unchained”.

The top-rank chamber ensemble, the CCC Essential Orchestra, was led by Justine Watts and was looking very trim, dressed for the occasion in sportswear. As well as having new music to play, they opened with a nod to the Bernstein centenary, included some lovely late Mozart (because listening to it makes you brainy), and had us all passing coloured batons around the hall and playing musical statues to Shostakovich. John Williams, John Adams and Philip Glass all found a home in a programme that also included sports TV themes of bygone days, Spandau Ballet’s Gold and some tartanalia.

Gunnell had put a huge amount of work into all of that, joined by his colleagues in synchronised swimming to the Skater’s Waltz, and a highly informative guide to track cycling that would have impressed Sir Chris Hoy. Even before he ran about like a madman to entertain the kids.

The citizens of Glasgow are perhaps learning about this summer’s cultural programme by a process of osmosis, but really there should have been swarms of ticketless toddlers outside the City Hall bawling for an extra show.