Symphony of Whales Celebrates Halloween and Music

By Sofia Rodrigues

Last Sunday Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts hosted the family concert Symphony of Whales.

The concert combined recited narration with the music of a splendid string quartet, and the musicians (members of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra: Sofia Hirsch, David Gusakov, Hilary Hatch and Dieuwke Davydov) celebrated the fall season by wearing Halloween costumes, which the audience had been encouraged in advance to wear.

Symphony of Whales is a children’s book written by Steve Schirch.

The book itself tells the story of Glashka, a girl with an innate ability to listen to whales, specifically a whale named Narna.

The particular gifts leads Glashka to discover that thousands of whales have been trapped within an inlet as ice quickly freezes over the water that the school of whales need to survive.

The performance consisted of highlights from the story read aloud and decorated with music at key moments.

The children in the audience were amazed by the sound of the violas, violins and cellos, and one got the impression this was their first encounter with the stringed instruments.

After the concert, eight-year-old Sasha Myers seemed very excited about the concert, even though he missed some parts of the story.

“I haven’t read the book, but I know it is about whales and people that want them to be free,” he said.

His mother, Tammy Newmark, said she read about the event in a local newspaper and decided to come with her two young children.

“There are a lot of things to do with kids around here,” she said.  “It’s not the first time we’ve come to Middlebury College to enjoy some of its activities.”

The musicians started the concert by introducing themselves by the names of the characters they represented.

Cleopatra and a clown played the violins, while an outlandish witch played the viola and a pirate performed the cello.

The performance opened with familiar excerpts from Peter and the Wolf and the score from the Harry Potter movies.

Children had trouble taking their eyes off the instruments during these fun pieces: the combination of familiar melodies and the musicians’ often jocular manner created a light atmosphere.

The most enjoyable part of the concert for the children, however, occurred when the performers talked to the audience about the instruments and their playing techniques.

A costume parade followed in which all the smaller guests in the audience marched timidly across the stage, some taking their time as they waved to their parents, others running away in what must have been excited panic from all the commotion on stage.

Near the end of the concert, the parents still seemed engaged, but by that point the children had begun to squirm in their seats, look at the ceiling or count their fingers repeatedly as they waited for the performance to end — some who fell asleep woke up startled when instruments played accented notes over the words.

When the performance finally ended, the families shuffled out of the building into the late afternoon glow of autumn, dressed unabashedly in their costumes and fully ready for Halloween.