Your ul­ti­mate guide to where to go and what to do in Novem­ber

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - Edited by CAN­DIA MCK­O­R­MACK

This year sees the 40th An­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of Ray­mond Briggs’ orig­i­nal pic­ture book The Snow­man. With three per­for­mances of the an­i­mated film – with live or­ches­tra – com­ing to Gloucester Cathe­dral next month, we thought we’d catch up with Rachel Whi­b­ley, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Car­rot Pro­duc­tions (and oc­ca­sional snow­man), to find out more… What do you think is the en­dur­ing ap­peal of The Snow­man, Rachel?

In the 40 years since The Snow­man was first shown, a gen­er­a­tion has grown up watch­ing the film to­gether as a fam­ily, cher­ish­ing the pow­er­ful feel­ings of joy, fun, hap­pi­ness and friend­ship it evokes at such an emo­tional time of year. The tra­di­tion has then en­dured for many as they have had their own chil­dren, as they seek to recre­ate the same feel­ings and mem­o­ries.

Can you re­mem­ber how you felt the first time you saw the an­i­ma­tion?

I cer­tainly can! I was a young child watch­ing it with my par­ents on Christ­mas Eve, full of ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion. I re­mem­ber be­ing struck by how im­mersed we all were in the an­i­ma­tion, and an aware­ness of how the story was im­plicit – de­spite the lack of di­a­logue - thanks to the stun­ning mu­sic and draw­ings.

What was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind stag­ing the live shows with a full or­ches­tra?

As a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian, I per­formed it live to film whilst liv­ing and work­ing in Dublin many years ago. I vowed to one day stage it in Glos­sop, Der­byshire, my adopted town since 1999. Draw­ing on friends from lo­cal orches­tras, we per­formed in a lo­cal church and school, to such great ac­claim and out­pour­ing of emo­tion, it was soon ev­i­dent that we had to repli­cate it for peo­ple else­where. So here we are, 146 per­for­mances later, play­ing to over 33,000 peo­ple each De­cem­ber, in­clud­ing in some of the most stun­ning cathe­drals in the UK.

How do you se­lect mu­si­cians for the or­ches­tra… as well as that al­limpor­tant vo­cal soloist role?

We’re in such a for­tu­nate po­si­tion for choos­ing the mu­si­cians, as we have ac­cess to some of the best play­ers in the UK, hand­picked from orches­tras in­clud­ing the Hallé, BBC Phil­har­monic, BBC Con­cert, BBC Sym­phony and BBC Scot­tish. Our mu­si­cians, for whom vir­tu­os­ity is a given, are also cho­sen for the way in which they in­ter­act and bring the joy of clas­si­cal mu­sic to a whole new au­di­ence.

Uniquely, we au­di­tion chil­dren lo­cal to each area we are per­form­ing in to sing the evoca­tive Walk­ing in the Air solo along­side the or­ches­tra. This is of­ten a sem­i­nal event for them, as they are im­mersed within the or­ches­tra fam­ily for the day, re­sult­ing in many vow­ing af­ter­wards to be­come pro­fes­sional mu­si­cians. I am at ev­ery sin­gle per­for­mance, and must ad­mit to shed­ding a tear as each child starts to sing, as I re­alise what an im­por­tant mo­ment it is for them. A quick look around the au­di­ence also shows me that I’m joined by hun­dreds of oth­ers do­ing ex­actly the same.

Can you tell me more about the sup­port­ing film, The Bear and the Pi­ano?

Along­side the show­ing of The Snow­man ev­ery pro­gramme also in­cludes a toetap­ping over­ture, a light-hearted Fes­tive Guide to the Or­ches­tra and a visit from our very own con­duct­ing Snow­man. Ad­di­tion­ally, each year we com­mis­sion new works to per­form along­side The Snow­man, forg­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween artists. We have com­mis­sioned an an­i­mated film to ac­com­pany The Nutcracker Suite, a brand new adap­ta­tion of Cin­derella for or­ches­tra, nar­ra­tor and soloist, and most re­cently an en­tirely orig­i­nal work, A Don­key’s Tale. Last year’s com­mis­sion - and the one featured in the Gloucester Cathe­dral per­for­mances – was an an­i­ma­tion of the award-win­ning book, The Bear and the Pi­ano, by David Litch­field. With an en­chant­ing 15-minute score to ac­com­pany, and the nar­ra­tion recorded by Joanna Lum­ley, it was an in­stant hit with all ages. In fact, you could even say that it’s ab­so­lutely fab­u­lous!

I un­der­stand you’ve been known to dress up as a snow­man for the odd per­for­mance…

Ha ha – it’s cer­tainly over 100 times now! A very spe­cial mo­ment in the per­for­mance for all ages is when the or­ches­tra plays The Snow­man Waltz and the Snow­man him­self comes out into the au­di­ence to dance down the aisles and con­duct the or­ches­tra. It’s such fun! Al­though no­body can see my face, I can guar­an­tee that I’m beam­ing from ear to ear; it’s im­pos­si­ble not to. Per­haps my favourite mo­ment in this role was when we’ve per­formed at Black­pool Tower Ball­room, and I waltzed in the same spot as the stars of Strictly. Heaven!

What’s next for Car­rot Pro­duc­tions?

Not con­tent with just bring­ing the

The Snow­man live to fam­i­lies, we are launch­ing an ex­cit­ing and ex­clu­sive new ven­ture with Aard­man Pro­duc­tions to stage the first ever live or­ches­tral per­for­mances of Wal­lace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers next spring. Fam­i­lies can join ev­ery­one’s favourite dy­namic duo as Wal­lace pre­pares to per­form his mu­si­cal mas­ter­piece My Con­certo in Ee Lad with help from his faith­ful ca­nine com­pan­ion Gromit... what could pos­si­bly go wrong?! This in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence will fea­ture spe­cially cre­ated an­i­ma­tions as well as live or­ches­tral ac­com­pa­ni­ment and es­capades from the or­ches­tra and pre­sen­ter Matthew Sharp. Fol­lowed by a screen­ing of the Academy Award win­ning ‘The Wrong Trousers’ with the sound­track per­formed by the or­ches­tra live on stage, it’s set to be a grand day out for the whole fam­ily.

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