Ella Bella Ballerina’s Mayhew joins Docklands Sinfonia for Britten concert

James Mayhew and his Ella Bella Ballerina

James Mayhew and his Ella Bella Ballerina - Credit: Docklands Sinfonia

Children’s author and illustrator James Mayhew returns to London’s East End with his board and easel next week to create unique paintings on stage while an orchestra performs.

Mayhew, who has illustrated children’s favourites such as ‘Ella Bella Ballerina’, joins the Docklands Sinfonia for a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of one of Britain’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten.

The performance is at the orchestra’s home base at St Anne’s Church in Limehouse.

He creates an original artwork while the orchestra plays two of Britten’s much-loved compositions. These are A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra—often used to introduce children to classical music—and Four Sea Interludes from his Peter Grimes opera.

The Friday evening concert on November 22 marks the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth in 1913. It also includes Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

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It’s been a year since Mayhew last pitched his easel with the Sinfonia players when they performed The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s immortal tale of toys that come to life on Christmas Eve at the stroke of Midnight.

His artwork emerges live as he takes on a classical story-telling role while the orchestra paints the picture in sound.

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“Anyone can enjoy classical music, however young,” he tells you. “These concerts are about new ways to share great music with a wider audience.”

Mayhew has illustrated more than 50 books including 20 he has also written.

They usually have a cultural agenda—ballet, opera, art, or literature.

Young readers will know his Ella Bella Ballerina and his illustrations of the Mouse and Mole books, animated for TV in the 1990s with the voices of Alan Bennett and Richard Briers.

He has devised and performed in concerts for children with several orchestras, incorporating live music, narration and live illustration.

These have included Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Not surprising, then, that Mayhew has illustrated programmes for the Kirov Opera in St Petersburg.

Now he is back again in east London for the Docklands Sinfonia concert, much to the delight of its founder and conductor Spencer Down.

Spencer, taking a break from rehearsals this week, said: “I can’t think of a better way of celebrating Benjamin Britten’s 100th anniversary than having James Mayhew, who is a supremely talented author and illustrator. It’s great that he’s returning to perform alongside the orchestra.”

Docklands Sinfonia has enjoyed incredible success since it formation at Limehouse in 2009, including performances at Buckingham Palace for the Queen, at the Royal Albert Hall and on BBC Radio 3.

It provided the orchestral backing earlier this year for international pop star Katie Melua’s latest album Ketevan. A full-concert version of her track I Will Be There has already been viewed 300,000 times on YouTube.

The orchestra has also played alongside artists from the English National Ballet, Royal Opera House and National Youth Theatre as well as pop stars Joe McElderry, Rumer, DJ Ironik and Sara-Jane Skeete.

Pre-ordered tickets for the November 22 concert at St Anne’s in Three Colt Street, off Commercial Road, are £12 or £10 (concessions), online at www.docklandssinfonia.co.uk or by emailing info@docklandssinfonia.co.uk, or at the door £15 or £12 (concessions). DLR to Limehouse

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