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and the Little Red Riding Hood Song Book:

Text: Roald Dahl / Donald Sturrock

Programme Note

Paul Patterson has shown a special flair for writing for large choral and orchestral forces, as for example in his two works commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival, the Mass of the Sea in 1983 and the Te Deum in 1988. He has also demonstrated an unusual lightness of touch in many of his works -including pieces for the King’s Singers, and going right back to his Opus 1, a setting for children of Hilaire Belloc’s `cautionary tale’ Rebecca.

Patterson was thus an ideal choice to compose music to match the words of Roald Dahl for tonight’s concert. The original suggestion, from the author’s widow, was for a setting of a group of his much-loved Revolting Rhymes. Donald Sturrock, who had made a film about Dahl in 1985 and became a friend of the family, volunteered to adapt the text. Then, by great good fortune, a script Dahl had written for a possible television adaptation, using puppets, of one of the Rhymes was found: his inspired re-telling of the story of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Sturrock realised that this could form the basis of a single longer work, and devised a text in which Dahl’s original verses were augmented by prose dialogue and narration.

This is the text which Paul Patterson has set as a concert piece, lasting a little under half an hour, for three speakers (or one) and orchestra. The words are spoken freely against the orchestral background, without any attempt to notate exact rhythms for the verse – something Dahl disliked in previous settings of his words. The orchestra at the beginning becomes an Enchanted Forest, through which the Narrator makes his way to begin the story. Thereafter it illustrates the narrative, with themes to match the characters and the action, in the popular tradition of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Poulenc’s Babar the Elephant.

The music is straightforward, easy to follow and, the composer says, “very tuneful – amazingly so for me”. But it is certainly not without its incidental delights for listeners of all ages: the little bursts of `avant-garde’ free-time notation for the thunderstorm near the beginning and, later on, for a death scene; the musical menu of possibilities for the wolf’s lunch, in the course of which Wagner’s Isolde is scandalously identified as a `juicy cow’; Grandma’s doorbell, which has unexpected classical aspirations; the representation of a wolf’s burp by the percussion instrument called a `lion’s roar’; and what Patterson calls the `cat-walk’ music for Little Red Riding Hood’s final appearance. Above all, in this story which hinges on characters pretending to be other characters, there is a great deal of ingenuity in the way that the themes associated with one character similarly impersonate those of another. But then, as the Narrator says near the beginning, in the Forest, “appearances can be very, very deceptive. Nothing is ever quite what it seems….”

© Anthony Burton



Full length feature film:


Reviews of live and television perfomances

“Roald Dahl understood what made children tick, so I reckon he would have approved of this stunning adaptation of his Little Red Riding Hood…Unmissable! ”
Daily Mail

“This lyrical and witty music…. gave the day’s broadcasts a touch of appealing originality that deserved boasting about.”
Robert Maycock, The Independent

“An earthy and wickedly funny story for all ages. But this enchanting version is definitely not for the over sentimental…. The choreography, music and costume designs are simply stunning…. Wonderful stuff.”
Andrew Preston, The Daily Express

“Hilarious and great fun.”
News of the World

“Using a combination of balletic choreography and animatronic techniques, director Donald Sturrock has made a beautiful adaptation of Dahl’s wickedly witty version of the familiar tale.”
The Observer

“Danny DeVito’s voiceover strikes just the right balance between cuddly humour and wickedness.. the animal masks are hugely expressive. Should appeal just as much to adults as to kids.”
Time Out

“A superb puppet and animatronic adaptation of Dahl’s macabre alternative version of this familiar tale.”
The Guardian

“The woodland sets were beautifully created… Franz Welser-Most steered the London Philharmonic through Paul Patterson’s wonderful score.”
Matthew Bond, The Times

“This sumptuously-filmed fairy tale appeals to children and adults alike… The film contains some glorious music and brilliant special effects.”
Simon Rose, The Daily Mirror

“Bursting with wit, fantasy and imagination…”
Homes and Antiques


Written 1992

Narrator + Orchestra (Family or Children’s concerts)
Chamber Orchestra. Narrator (1-3)/1(dbl Picc).1.2.1/
Length 33′

Publisher: Josef Weinberger

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