By Erin Jude, Director of Education and Community Engagement
I’m fairly confident that when Franz Schubert was composing Symphony No. 3, he wasn’t thinking about a fish named Esmeralda who goes on an aquatic adventure in search of magical sea plants to save her reef home.
But when Victor Yerrid listened to Schubert’s Symphony No. 3, that is exactly what he heard.
Victor is a graduate of the renowned Curtis Institute of Music and a master puppeteer for the Jim Henson Company. This mastery of both classical music and puppetry uniquely positions him to craft concert experiences that seamlessly and artfully weave together music and storytelling. Victor finds twists and turns in the music that open the world of classical music to young audiences and allow all of us to hear old music in a new way. This underwater adventure, Race for the Reef, was presented with the SPCO as a family concert in October 2017.
I was first introduced to Victor by our concertmaster, Steven Copes, who is friends with Victor from their days the Curtis Institute. In 2015, we commissioned Victor to help create a family concert using Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastorale). It was then that Victor introduced us to his beloved puppet Leopold the Leopard, and his newly created puppet, Tree. Victor’s hilarious voicing of Leopold is perfectly matched with the wise old storytelling Tree, voiced by Victor’s puppeteer partner Jess McKay, another Jim Henson Company collaborator. In 2015, this whimsical pair told an intricate tale of how Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 was REALLY about chipmunks in a show titled The Great Chipmunk Picnic. Since its wildly successful debut here in Saint Paul, that show has traveled to Charlotte, Portland and most recently, Singapore.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s popular 50-minute Saturday morning Family Concerts are free, thanks to generous support from Target. Featuring the full chamber orchestra, these programs are geared for children ages 6–12 and their families, but all ages are welcome. I am absolutely delighted that this second collaboration with Victor, Race for the Reef, is the first family concert to be released in our Concert Library, where it will be available for free viewing anytime, anywhere. From living rooms to hospital rooms and library listening rooms to classrooms, I can’t wait to see how Leopold and the orchestra keep kids smiling from beginning to end through this musical adventure.