(Refiles to correct age of Wallfisch in paragraph 3 to 34 from
* Dahl "Beast" poems turned into musical trilogy for kids
* Composer Wallfisch inspired by film music's "emotions"
* Dahl grandson Kelly says works suited to many media
By Michael Roddy
LONDON, Jan 31 Roald Dahl's "Dirty Beasts" poems
have a musical cadence which may explain why, after the success
of stage versions of "Matilda" and "Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory", three of them are being set to music to introduce
young people to the orchestra.
The anteater which gobbles a spoiled rich boy's aunt, the
flying toad which can turn itself into a roly-poly bird to
escape frog-loving French gourmands, and the girl with a bag of
sweets who sits on a porcupine and has to have quills removed by
a dentist have been orchestrated by composer Benjamin Wallfisch
for a February premiere at London's Southbank Centre.
"In these times when kids have so many options, I was hoping
with this piece aimed at people under the age of 10 to inspire
them to explore the orchestra," Wallfisch, 34, who comes from a
distinguished British musical family, told Reuters in a
telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles.
The premiere will take place during Southbank's "Imagine"
children's festival, which this year features a major strand of
Dahl tributes to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the
publication of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".
Luke Kelly, Dahl's grandson who helps direct his estate and
who was in London on Friday for the festival launch, said the
late Welsh-born author and onetime fighter pilot had a knack for
writing works that lend themselves to adaptations.
"The characters are so boiled down and the humour is so
present I think it does translate to many mediums, whether it's
musical, films or operas," Kelly, 27, told Reuters.
Wallfisch, whose enthusiasm for the Dahl project bubbles
down the telephone line, would seem to be an ideal choice for
setting his off-beat, dark-hued poems to music.
He has scored movies ranging from the Norse action film
"Hammer of the Gods", with an all-electronic music track, to a
lush, Vaughan Williams-esque score for "Summer in February", set
in an artists' colony in the English county of Cornwall.
Wallfisch, whose father is the renowned cellist Raphael
Wallfisch and whose cello-playing grandmother survived the
Auschwitz extermination camp, has been a huge enthusiast of
improvising on the piano since childhood, and also was strongly
influenced by family trips to the local movie theatre.
"In the 1980s there were all these amazingly great pieces of
music being written for film and I tried to understand and get
my head around them. After we would come back from 'Star Wars'
or 'Indiana Jones' I would go to the piano and try to figure out
what was going on there" in the film soundtrack.
"It does for me what music does best - it hits you hard
emotionally," Wallfisch said.
For "Dirty Beasts" he has composed what he describes as "a
sort of trilogy which lasts about 20 minutes" to be performed
over three concerts by the London Philharmonic starting on Feb.
16 with "The Porcupine", followed by "The Anteater" on May 11
and "The Toad and the Snail" on Oct. 26. British television
presenter Chris Jarvis will narrate the poems.
"It was an incredible chance to find a really colourful
musical illustration for storytelling based on these poems that
kids love and that are so outlandish," Wallfisch said.
The trickiest of the three, he said, was the poem about the
anteater, in which Dahl is having fun with the different
pronunciations in America and Britain of the word "aunt".
In America "aunt" sounds like "ant" and this prompts the
starving anteater, whose spoiled owner lives in San Francisco,
to gobble down the old woman - and then say to Roy: "You little
squirt, I think I'll have you for dessert."
"There aren't so many ways to illustrate misunderstandings
so I made it a jazzy piece, I wanted to introduce these kids to
the idea of America being the birthplace of jazz," Wallfisch
His fondest hope is that his "Dirty Beasts" trilogy might
have some of the impact on a new generation of one of his
all-time favourites from childhood - Prokofiev's "Peter and the
Wolf", in which each character is portrayed by an instrument.
"When I was four or five I remember hearing 'Peter and the
Wolf' and for a while I refused to answer to Benjamin, I had to
be called Peter," Wallfisch said.
"It definitely had an impact on me and it showed me that you
can tell a story in music which is vivid and exciting for
children...So hopefully positive things will come out of this
and I hope it will have a life and inspire young kids to get
involved in the orchestra by playing or going to concerts."
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Anthony Barker)