Widely acclaimed professional community orchestra New Philharmonic opened its 34th Season with an outstanding, family-friendly concert featuring both overture classics and everyone's favorite musical fairy tale, Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf." Since its debut in 1936, Prokofiev's musical morality tale of the how brave young Peter and his three endearing animal friends engage their wits to capture the wicked wolf has captivated the hearts of thousands of individuals ranging from young children to professional musicians and even Walt Disney himself. Indeed, Prokofiev's piece has become so tied in with children -- the initial audience for whom it was designed -- that it has practically become a cornerstone in both music education and in "family-friendly" concerts. Thus, "Peter" was not only the perfect opener and highlight for this family-friendly concert, but also a perfect opener for the orchestra's season in general.

Under the direction of the energetic and humorously enthusiastic Maestro Kirk Muspratt, the orchestra and all the performers involved spared no energy in conveying a heartwarming, charming, and fresh rendition of Prokofiev's beloved masterpiece to the audience. As usual, Maestro Muspratt began with an interactive and frequently humor-injected multimedia presentation prior to the piece's performance, which definitely "set the stage" for the outstanding performance to come. Special guest and ABC News This Morning traffic/transportation anchor Roz Varon beautifully lent her smooth and dreamlike broadcasting voice in dramatically narrating the tale, engaging the audience at all times with both her frequent eye contact and highly expressive narration. In turn, New Philharmonic's musicians beautifully lent their musical skills towards bringing alive valiant Peter, grumpy Grandpa, the helpful hunters, the three cheeky animal friends (the bird, duck, and cat), and, of course, the big bad wolf. Particularly noteworthy included the principal woodwind players' accurate and enthusiastic musical presentation of the animal friends and Grandpa, which brought countless smiles and laughs to the audience's faces.

Still, this stunning rendition of "Peter" was only one of the many outstanding, audience-friendly repertoire selections planned for this joyful evening. Also on the program was Verdi's dramatic La Forza del Destino Overture, Wagner's infatuated Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde, Sibelius' musically graphic Finlandia, and Brahms' fireworks-laden Academic Festival Overture. In all these selections, Maestro Muspratt and the orchestra truly sparkled to their fullest potential, dramatically and passionately bringing out all expression and texture within the music from the most delicate pianissimo to the most deafening fortissimo. Joining the musicians for the Brahms were talented young orchestra students from Adlai Stevenson High School, who also proceeded to join the orchestra for the grand finale of this concert: Elgar's eternal graduation classic, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D Major -- complete with an audience sing-along!

Overall, between both the selections and the performers themselves, this concert was most dynamic and enjoyable. I walked away enthralled, thoroughly musically satisfied while anticipating yet more great performances from New Philharmonic this year. After witnessing such a dynamite season opener, I am highly positive that the Maestro Muspratt and the orchestra will undoubtedly deliver yet more dynamite programs and performances over the course of their 34th season.

*****