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Toyah Willcox talks about narrating Peter and the Wolf performance with Orchestra of the Swan at the Stratford Music Festival this Sunday

IT'S probably the most powerful way to introduce young people to the delights of classical music - and fresh life will be breathed into Peter and the Wolf in a special production as part of Stratford Music Festival.

The concert on Sunday, 21st November, features the Orchestra of the Swan, with Toyah Willcox as narrator.

Since Prokofiev was commissioned to write a piece specifically for children in the 1930s, it has worked its magic on the generations that have followed.

Toyah Wllcox (53121156)
Toyah Wllcox (53121156)

The marriage of the tale of Peter defying his grandfather's advice with orchestral representations of the various characters, remains a brilliant device to open people's eyes to the personality and potential of classical music.

And the role of narrator is one that has attracted some extraordinary names - Toyah joins a list that includes the likes of David Tennant, Alice Cooper, Sir John Gielgud, Dame Edna Everage and Patrick Stewart among many others.

Toyah, like members of the Herald Arts team, is of a generation when the moral tale probably explained the presence of a recording of Peter and the Wolf in many parents' record collections, as much as the delight of musical discovery - but with the internet and Hollywood offering many other ways of absorbing moral messages, it is the musical gift that excites her, ahead of this new production.

Explaining how she got involved, she said: "The Orchestra of the Swan invited me to do it by email and I think it's a gorgeous piece. It has so much strength in pulling young people into what an orchestra can be.

"I remember it from my youth and the way the orchestra is the character of the animals."

For those who have yet to have the Peter and the Wolf experience, whether live or through a recording, the animals and humans are portrayed by instruments - the bird by a flute, the duck by an oboe, the grandfather by a bassoon, the wolf by three horns, Peter by the string quartet etc.

It makes for a charming and memorable occasion and Toyah's motivation for being involved is clear: "Music is part of our lives and I just hope Peter and the Wolf will introduce children to classical music.

"The way I see it I think the music is now the greater part of the experience as children are more worldly-wise and more aware of the dangers - but I think they are not learning about music on the level I used to. I want them to experience what a human being can create."

She will rehearse with the Orchestra ahead of the 3pm performance at Stratford Play House but is preparing with the score and with the landmark New York Philharmonic production as her inspiration.

While she has done lots of narrating in her extraordinary career, she has only had one experience of doing narration with an orchestra - a VE event some 30 years ago - and she is thrilled by the prospect: "I always get to do really great stuff and I'm totally in love with orchestras. I'd love to sing with an orchestra!"

That might not be on the agenda just yet as alongside preparing for Peter she is also appearing in London in the Cabaret All Stars Show and gigging in support of the recent release of her album Posh Pop.

But this weekend's Peter and the Wolf clearly marks a special point on her calendar: "I can't wait - it's like the beginning of Christmas for me!"

For ticket details and more about the Festival, go to: www.stratfordmusicfestival.com

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