The Elves and the Shoemakers
One Act Chamber Ballet for children, scored for chamber ensemble
Commissioned by Northern Ballet
Choreographed by Daniel de Andrade
Set Designs by Ali Allen
Lighting Designer: Alistair West
First performed in Leeds, September 14th 2014, played by Northern Ballet Chamber Ensemble, led by John Longstaff.
Broadcast on CBeebies 6th April 2015, conducted by Nathan Fifield
The children’s ballet, The Elves and the Shoemakers, was written in the spring and summer of 2014, at the end of a rich creative period for Philip Feeney that saw the composition of two full-length ballets, Cinderella 2013, and Mirror Mirror, as well as a couple of smaller works for Ballet Central. In fact, one of those works, Meraki, was choreographed by Daniel de Andrade, choreographer and ballet master at Northern Ballet, so ongoing plans for the Elves were discussed with the choreographer backstage in theatres across the country whenever their paths crossed.
Feeney has had quite a lot of experience in writing scores expressly for children, particularly in his work for In the Wings’ production of the Prequel to Peter and the Wolf; his technique is to make the music as vivid and colourful as possible, but not to simplify or ‘infantilize’ his musical style. This very much matched the strategy taken by De Andrade, whose choreography is always bright, inventive and entertaining, but definitely ballet!
The music is certainly always tuneful and fun. As the action moves from the cobbler’s shop to the woods to the market, the music tells us where we are, bright and glittering for the elves, jolly and busy for the market square, and homely and cosy for the shop. And indeed, the elves’ glittery world, the magic dust if you like, is not only characterized by the sparkling flute and clarinet, but is augmented by the tinkling sound effects.
The piece was originally scored for a small chamber ensemble comprising of flute, clarinet, cello and piano. But this was soon extended into a larger chamber orchestra for more expansive venues, such as the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House in London. It was this version that was recorded for the BBC for their CBeebies broadcast Easter 2015.