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Marc Forde Orpheus
Balagan Theatre Company/Johnny Morris
MusicNow MNCDx003
[Boosey and Hawkes £24.99
, which includes printing and performing rights]

  • CD Performance by Balagan Theatre Company and Johnny Morris (narrator)
  • Teachers Notes
  • The Story
  • The Lyrics
  • A Piano Reduced Score
  • Instrumental Parts + Full Score
  • Narration Script
  • Organising a Performance
  • Information on the composer, Marc Forde
  • Information on the performers with individual photos of all participants
  • A special feature: lyrics can be displayed in a box a line at a time, synchronised with backing tracks, so that children can learn the words to the music at the computer

These are good times for introducing children to opera and music theatre. Clockwork has been delighting schools parties and showing how much enjoyment there is to be had from seeing professional production of new opera geared to children's interests. In London, Savoy Opera is about to challenge unaffordable prices at Covent Garden (which itself is introducing cautiously a few cheap good seats).

Orpheus is a new musical for children themselves to perform, with words and music by Marc Forde. It is realised on this inviting CD-extra by children from the Balagan Theatre Company in Lambeth, with Johnny Morris as the narrator. Balagan, directed by Marc Forde, aims to encourage young people to participate in music and drama, and to disseminate new musicals for schools. This project, based on an imperishable and popular myth, deserves to break national boundaries.

Amongst the pioneers to develop extended home entertainment possibilities was MusicNow with their impressive CD-extras featuring British composers Brian Dennis and Hugh Shrapnel. Orpheus, their latest CD-extra, is aimed towards schools and youth theatre companies. It is supplied with extensive CD-ROM material including printable scores and teachers notes, devised to encourage new productions by any organisation, however limited its resources - it is designed to accommodate even schools which have no music teachers, sadly not uncommon nowadays in UK.

Mark Forde began to write Orpheus in 1994 "after getting fed up with being asked to accompany the same handful of schools' musicals that had been performed since the 1960s/70s". Teachers confirmed that they had problems finding new music that was challenging and fun to perform, especially for the older children.

This realisation of Orpheus is not a performance intended to be replicated just the same, but is conceived as an open ended project to be created and developed anew every time. With Acrobat and Windows Media Player installed on your computer, you can simultaneously listen and view the material in any number of ways simultaneously.

Navigation is relatively easy, and exploring this stylish disc will also give pleasure to computer enthusiasts, teachers and children alike, quite apart from its essential purpose; probably the kids will assist their teachers, as our grandson helped me!

Forde's music is deliberately straightforward, in a familiar idiom which should appeal to most schoolchildren, and the production by Laurie Scott Baker of this delectable disc, packed with imaginative features, is highly sophisticated. The late Johnny Morris's contribution is especially delightful.

To listen to samples of the music and narration, go to http://www.boosey.com/pages/shop/product_detail.asp?id=714355&a=

© Peter Grahame Woolf