Classical review: SCO: A little book of Monsters, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

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A GAGGLE of monsters invaded Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on Saturday afternoon – and not just the 200-odd of the city’s primary-school children who took up residence in the venue’s choir seats.

SCO: A little book of Monsters

Usher Hall, Edinburgh


These were imaginary fiends, conjured in listeners’ minds by poet Matt Harvey and composer Stephen Deazley in their highly effective choral song cycle A Little Book of Monsters, which formed the centrepiece of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s deliciously macabre family concert.

Deazley’s vivid, foot-tapping music ranged in style from Prokofiev to swing and funk, and the twisted tales that Harvey slipped into verse were gleefully dark. But it was the children’s choir who made the concert, brought together from nine local schools and impeccably drilled by their teachers and Deazley himself. Singing from memory and with ringing clarity, they could have taught many of their adult counterparts a thing or two as they merrily sang their stories of man-eating changing cubicles and cannibal creatures.

The SCO players, too, were on fine form under James Lowe’s precise if sometimes workaday direction, rising to Deazley’s intricate lines and wide-ranging styles with relish. The piece could probably have done with one or two fewer numbers, but the audience was nonetheless rapt throughout.

Following monster-related activities from the SCO throughout the Usher Hall earlier in the day, the concert had opened with an engaging Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg. The stentorian tones of cellist, actor and baritone Matthew Sharp provided a stirring commentary thoughout the afternoon, and he proved an incisive narrator in Paul Patterson’s sparkling if slightly overlong musical retelling of The Three Little Pigs.