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Guy Noble unwraps a classical Christmas treat


The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s final Classics Unwrapped concert for the year will have a distinctly festive flavour, says presenter and conductor Guy Noble – who also shares a few of his own Christmas rituals and wishes.

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Tell us about the program for ‘Tis the Season and why you’ve selected these particular works (which include Wendel’s “Carol of the Bells” and Mozart’s “Toy Symphony”)?

Tis the season to be Christmassy, so we like to include a number of Christmas-related pieces to get everyone in the mood.

The overture to “Die Fledermaus” doesn’t really have a Christmas connection, but I always think it is a bit like opening a bottle of champagne – sparkling music definitely appropriate for the festive season.

The concert will culminate with The Snowman, by English composer and conductor Howard Blake. What is the story behind this piece of music?

Raymond Briggs wrote a picture book called The Snowman in 1978. A producer called John Coates wanted to turn it into a film and asked Howard Blake if he would write the music. It was Howard Blake who convinced Coates that the film should be wordless – just images and Blake’s music telling the story.

The only actual words come in the famous song “Walking in the Air”, which NASA used for a wonderful time-lapse video of the auroras from space.

In our concert, in the absence of the film, I will narrate the story for the audience and ASO cellist David Sharp will do the conducting.

Classics Unwrapped is a much-loved feature of the ASO’s season – why do you think the concerts are so popular?

I think the audience loves the informality – that I can talk and have a few jokes in between the pieces. I often feature the musicians and the audience loves that, too – they become people more than just a bassoon player or a trumpeter.

The concert is short, 75 minutes straight through, then you can go to dinner. There’s lots of shorter pieces rather than one big symphony, so there’s a lot of variety.

Are the concerts just as much fun for the musicians?

I hope so. I love to see smiles on the faces of the players. So much of what they do is so full of concentration on playing exactly the right notes at exactly the right time; it is great to see them have a laugh and join in the spirit of the concert. I try to make it easy for them to do what they do best.

What is your favourite piece from Classics Uwrapped: ‘Tis the Season?

I love the “Troika” from Lieutenant Kije. It is such great, positive sleigh ride music.

What’s your Christmas carol?

“Silent Night” is probably my favourite carol. Such a beautiful melody and the words are so lovely – “silent night, holy night”.

And your favourite Christmas movie?

Elf, with Will Ferrell. I met him once and disgraced myself like a teenage girl.

Conductor Guy Noble is dreaming of a kind and courteous Christmas.

Describe the atmosphere in your house on Christmas Eve?

I usually watch a bit of the carols on TV to see my various friends perform, there is some wrapping and a great sense of relief that the orgy of present-buying has now come to an end and there will be peace in the house, not even the sound of a mouse.

How are you spending Xmas Day?

We are hosting my family, so there will be some presents in the morning and then my parents and sister will also arrive to join in more unwrapping.

What’s on the menu?

Cool and healthy things – smoked salmon blinis, some turkey, salads, maybe a pudding drenched in brandy.

What’s on your Christmas wish list this year?

I would love everyone to treat each other with a little more kindness, and I include myself. I wish that people driving on the roads in Sydney would be more courteous, and I also wish that Santa would put a revelation into Scott Morrison’s stocking that coming up with a sensible plan to support renewable energy will help us all.

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra will present Classics Unwrapped 4: ‘Tis the Season at the Adelaide Town Hall on December 11. The program also includes Wendel’s “Carol of the Bells”, Mozart’s “Toy Symphony” in C: I. Allegro, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Christmas Eve Suite”: Introduction & Polonaise.

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