NVS family concert features the story of Babar

BELLEFONTE – An elephant lost in the world of a big city is indeed the classic tale, “The Story of Babar,” but what is experiencing a story without sound, without voice… without music?

Let the journey of an elephant losing his mother to a hunter and shuffling through the waves and tides of motor cars and fancy clothes— all to return home with a fresh perspective— come to life with the Nittany Valley Symphony (NVS), guest solo artist Ben Deighton and storyteller, Helen Manfull.

The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff was once transformed into a musical piece through Francis Poulenc.

NVS’ music director, Michael Jinbo, is excited about using Poulenc’s composition to bring the story here to Centre County.

“Poulenc’s "The Story of Babar" is a delightful [and] witty musical setting,” Jinbo said. “This program [is] a great for families to enjoy live symphonic music together.”

Jinbo has been working with the musicians of the orchestra for over 25 years, facilitating the repertoire and shaping artistic visions.

While his symphony will be storytelling using musical instruments, Helen Manfull will be storytelling through the warmth of heart and the charm of her voice.

“The story is whimsical,” she said. “The Babar stories are among the most popular of children’s stories, [for they] give life to little elephants and have touches of pleasure for adults as well.”

Manfull feels the audience will inevitably fall in love with the Babar’s story and whimsical nature.

“When Babar goes to the city, he sees people and says, "What lovely clothes they have got,” and he is entranced by motor cars,” Manfull revealed. “The juxtaposition of a baby elephant in a city is simply delightful.”

And this isn’t Manfull’s first time with the symphony; she had narrated Copland’s Lincoln Portrait for the many years ago.

She has been loving the art of storytelling almost her whole life.

“I taught for about 40 years in the School of Theatre at Penn State,” Manfull explained. “I am also the mother of two sons, now 54 and 51, [both of whom have] always enjoyed my reading aloud to them.”

Every Wednesday, she reads at the Atrium at The Village.  

“It is one of my favorite things,” she said.

Another special guest at the family concert is Ben Deighton, the latest winning recipient of the Ann Keller Young Soloist competition.

Deighton started playing the cello when he was four years old and was gifted with his first cello for Christmas.“The most inspiring thing for me about playing the cello is how I can use it to express so many different emotions without saying a word,” he said.

The soloist winner feels honored to play with NVS and show families how beautiful symphonic music interwoven with a children’s story can be.

“Going to live concert is so much more exciting than listening to a recording,” he said. “It would be great if everyone could have the experience of [hearing a] program [that] shows the fun and exciting side of Classical music.”

Jinbo finds Deighton a great addition to the orchestra and loves the family tree that took root with his arrival.

“We’re all pleased to hear him in the role of soloist,” Jinbo said. “It’s been a real family [here] as his father, Tim Deighton, has been a frequent viola soloist with our orchestra and his teacher, Carol Lyon, is our principal cellist.”

The excitement for the concert is tangible between all three concert members; they’re looking forward to the audience getting to enjoy spoken word along with music that is both beautiful and chimerical.

“One of the great leaders of children’s productions, Charlotte Chorppening, used to say that a good production needs “adult overtones”— things in the story that make it amusing and interesting to the adults who bring the children,” Manfull said. “[Our program] certainly brings the family together.”

The story will take the stage on Sunday, Jan. 28, at 4 p.m., at the Bellefonte Area High School Theatre.


Tickets can be bought at the following link: http://www.nvs.org/tickets





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