Perth Concert Hall

Four stars

If Jay Capperauld had Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf somewhere in the back of his mind when he embarked on the first work for families to be part of his appointment as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Associate Composer, it would be no surprise. But his collaboration with storyteller and illustrator Corrina Campbell goes much further as a multi-media event than that masterpiece.

To the obvious and vocal delight of the late nursery/early primary schools audience at the world premiere – public shows followed at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms and Glasgow City Halls over the weekend – the story his composition tells emerges from within the orchestra with first bassoon Cerys Ambrose-Evans as the Grumpy Gaboon, principal bass Nikita Naumov as the mischievous Screature and conductor Gordon Bragg, usually seen on the front desk of the second violins, as much a magician in his tail-coat, with a wand for a baton.

Together with another five costumed members amongst this incarnation of the SCO – violinist Aisling O’Dea (Long-Legged Lin), flautist Andre Cebrian (Fluey-Lou), cellist Su-a Lee (Woolly Wello), percussionist Louise Lewis-Goodwin (Hoppity Boppit) and trumpeter Peter Franks as the All-Knowing Umpet – they mime, dance and play a narrative that requires only a very spare rhyming voiceover from director Chris Jarvis.

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This living picture-book is a life lesson in friendship, kindness and reconciliation for the young ones, with a musical metaphor about keys as a pivotal prop device, as well as some slapstick and a very well-received fart gag.

Mainly, though, it is all about the music, and Capperauld has created a tune-filled 45 minutes that starts off in the circus and theatre, cheerfully embraces Scottish traditional and country dance music and the English pastoral, as well as jazz in every manifestation from bluesy bass and clarinet through to Buddy Rich, with Lewis-Goodwin behind the kit.

By the time the troupe of travelling creatures reach Franks, high at the back of the stage, to receive his wisdom on the best way to cheer up Gaboon, we have dipped into the style of a few big bands for arrangements of melodies that often sound like something you’ve heard previously, but are all Capperauld’s.

That soundtrack proves once again that the young composer is the most adaptable and persuasive of writers, and the performance of it says the same about the SCO. It is self-evident that the musicians have been involved in the organic development of this piece, and are completely invested in their characters.

As they learn to project their personification of Campbell’s gorgeous illustrations more confidently to audiences in successive performances, The Great Grumpy Gaboon will surely become an established classic for kids. The merchandise opportunities must also be a thought at the back of SCO management minds!