To critique young performers without providing constructive points as to why they’re duff is the theatrical equivalent of kicking a puppy.
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But there are days when it’s impossible not to be so annoyed by something that you have no choice but to lace up your hobnails and stomp brutally on the hopes, dreams and ability of some young, talented up-and- comers in the hope that they’ll slink off, lick their wounds then come back and wow their next audience with a massively improved performance
Saturday night’s An Evening of Movies and Musicals at Christmas was a case in point. An outstanding five-star show, with compelling performances by some of the UK’s finest performers was spectacularly ruined by the brass section of the Edinburgh Youth Orchestra.
To be fair, it’s the job of the conductor to make sure that all of the orchestra are working to the same time and to make sure that anyone lagging catches up. Also, learning to play a brass instrument with any sort of ability takes far longer than any of the 13 to 21-year-olds on stage have been playing their instruments. But, frankly, there were moments when the brass section simply sucked.
In five years’ time, with practice and patience and perseverance, they won’t suck, in fact they’ll be wonderful, but that’s a very, very long time away. All of this would have been neatly covered over if they hadn’t been expected to play such a brass-heavy series of pieces – the theme to Jurassic Park was, in places, painful. The rest of the 65-piece orchestra and 160-strong choir performed beautifully.
Otherwise, the evening was sensational. It may have had a slow start and have no link to Christmas whatsoever (one medley of carols?) but the performances by stage stars Ruthie Henshall, John Owen Jones, Fiona Kelly and Keith Jack were engrossing, engaging and affecting. Joining them for the evening were 12 year-old Jack Sullivan who is currently touring as Oliver in the musical of the same name and ten-year-old Jessica of Duddingston Primary who won an Edinburgh-wide competition by the Aberlour Trust to perform a stunning rendition of I’m Walking in the Air from The Snowman. The ensemble received a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience for their efforts, uniting to perform an electric finale of One Day More from Les Miserables.