Todmorden Orchestra is tuning up for one of the biggest and most colourful events in recent years at its next music event at Todmorden Town Hall on Saturday, March 2.
It sees none other than former politician and television celebrity Ann Widdecombe as the star performer in Tubby the Tuba.
For the first time the orchestra will stage two concerts, a children’s matinee and a longer performance in the evening.
The former Government Minister and Strictly Come Dancing contestant played to a full house in 2009 at the same venue when she was the narrator in the orchestra’s performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
Now she returns for a similar role in Tubby, including one part where she will croak like a frog!
John Moorhouse, Orchestra chairman, said: “This is a first for the orchestra, featuring a matinee for children, with added interest from a colouring competition involving all seven of the local primary schools.
“We hope the matinee will encourage young people to come along and listen to our kind of music and perhaps even take up an instrument if they don’t play already.”
The colouring competition has a total of three drawings of Tubby the Tuba sent out to the schools for three age groups between year one and year six.
They have been prepared by local artist and former clarinettist with the orchestra, Lesley Alston, with prizes for the winners.
Heather Hudson, who organised the competition and is a long-standing orchestra member said: “We have had a terrific response from all the primary schools in the area.
“It will be judged by Lesley and her husband Eric on the day.
“Of course, all children and parents and so on are welcome whether they took part in contest or not.”
Further local input comes from Todmorden High School.
Art pupils have been hard at work in another competition to design the poster for the March Concert, which is now on display at the usual outlets.
The winner was nine-year student Callum Bailey who receives two free concert tickets.
In addition to the school activities a troupe of nine young Todmorden dancers and two of their teachers has also been practising the famous Can-Can from Offenbach’s Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld.
The orchestra made a special recording of the music during rehearsal for the dancers, who will all be wearing colourful costumes on the day.
Choreographer Dawn Chapman of DC Dance said: “The girls are very excited and working hard to make sure they put on a stunning show at both concerts.”
One question on everyone’s lips is: Will Ann Widdecombe join in?
It’s a part of the show she is happy to comment on.
“Despite my dancing experience in ‘Strictly’ I will remain an enthusiastic observer,” she promised.
Tubby includes a singing part by the Bullfrog which Ann has decided is another step too far for someone who admits to being tone deaf and no singer.
When Tubby asks the frog, “can you sing?” her response will be to talk with a croak instead of a song.
“I’m sure the audience, particularly the children won’t mind,“ she said.
Conservative MP for Maidstone between 1987 and 2010, she has a lighter side and was a great hit on television’s Strictly Come Dancing.
She later did Strictly’s Live Tour and danced with famously critical judge Craig Revel-Horwood throughout the live performances. Ann insists she is pretty tone deaf - but her speaking skills mean she is ideal as a narrator.
She is also a writer, having produced several novels and after leaving front line politics retired to Devon.
Conducting in what promises to be a memorable and entertaining double event is Nicholas Concannon Hodges with orchestra leader Andrew Rostron.
The conductor recalls that on her last visit Ann had one rehearsal with the orchestra before her “live” appearance in the evening, a routine that will be repeated on March 2.
Nicholas said: “Everybody agrees she was brilliant in Peter and the Wolf.
“Ann is a real trouper and we all know she will be just as good in Tubby the Tuba.
“The audience and the musicians are looking forward to her return visit.
“Last time we agreed I would conduct the orchestra with one hand and Ann with the other.
“It worked perfectly and we’ll do it again.
“On the question whether to sing or not to sing however, I think she has made the right decision to skip the vocal accompaniment part and stick to frog-speak!“
The Matinee Concert runs from 3.30pm to 5pm, and the programme begins with the Children’s Overture by Quilter.
Tubby the Tuba by Kleinsinger is the next piece of music, with Anne’s narration, which will take the performance to the interval, and the second half of the concert will open with Hall Of the Mountain King from Greig’s Peer Gynt Suite No 1.
The Berceuse The Dolly Suite by Faure follows, and then Prelude and Pizzicato from Sylvia Suite by Delibes is featured.
Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach and featuring the Todmorden dancers then closes the programme.
The evening concert, starting at 7.30pm, will see the same programme performed, but will include all the movements from the compositions featured.
Tickets for the matinee are £6 for adults and £5 for concessions. Accompanied five to 16-year-olds can get into the concert for just £1, and for the under fives entry is free. For this show, there are also a limited number of family tickets for two adults and two children, priced at £10.
Tickets for the evening concert are £10 for adults and £8 for concessions, Children under 16 pay just £1 for the evening concert.
Tickets for the performances are available at Todmorden Town Hall door on the day of the event, or in advance from Todmorden Information Centre or from the Orchestra secretary by telephoning 01706 817333.
The orchestra’s season continues in June, when it will present music from Rossini, Wagner and Tchaikovsky.