Written by Michael Martin
SAN FRANCISCO – When I saw that the SF Symphony’s calendar had a Peter and the Wolf concert, I was instantly reminded of Disney’s 1946 animated adaptation of Sergei Prokofiev’s timeless masterpiece. This wondrous animation was imprinted in my brain from the first day I learned to walk. I can only assume that many others in the audience felt the same way. Sunday, Dec. 11, the afternoon was heavy with holiday traffic, just a few weeks before the big holiday. Christmas carolers were singing on Grove Street, where the eye-catching Davies Symphony Halls lives. My Lyft car sat in a line of traffic, not moving for over ten minutes. I know that meant another sold-out performance was in store for our great city’s orchestra. The hall was filled with proud mothers and fathers holding their babies. Yes, they were too young to have a chair, so dad’s lap would have to suffice. All the children acted like mini-adults, so incredibly behaved in their Sunday best attire and attitudes.
This concert was my 1st experience with the SF Symphony Youth Orchestra, and they blew me away with their incredible talents! I noticed all their families were in attendance, cheering them on. This orchestra was the best of the best, with elevated musicianship as precise as the tip of the North Star. Good positive energy could be felt flowing through the hall. Our outstanding conductor Daniel Stewart led us on the tale of a boy with a pack of brave animal commandants brought to life by narrator W. Kamau Bell. Bell is the executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning CNN docuseries United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell. He is also best known for his stand-up comedy and Netflix specials, and a Bay Area native. He started the show by telling us how every character is represented musically by a different instrument and educating us on every fine detail. It was an excellent rendition and so much fun.
We were blessed with other seasonal and holiday favourites like “Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Jingle Bells,” to name a few. These classic songs remind us all that Christmas is near and to warm our hearts with all that remains good. We sang along to each piece, with San Francisco’s best classical musicians becoming part of the show. When we forgot the words, you could hear mumbling melodies, haha, but still in tune. The highlight of the evening came when Peter and the Wolf appeared with Bell’s animated narration imitating the duck’s walk to the wolf’s growl. As the night came to a close, we stood up and cheered, spreading Christmas joy to one and all. We dashed through the hall and caught glimpses of the young musicians carrying their instruments with big smiles of proud glee. Yes, it was well done, young lads, and thank you again!
conductor, Wattis Foundation Music Director
W. Kamau Bell
SF Symphony Youth Orchestra
For more info on the SF Symphony go to: www.sfsymphony.org