The brief

Ensemble Reza were approached by the Lindfield Arts Festival to design a music project based on the story ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak.  The project had to reflect the festival themes of imagination, fantasy and fairytales and culminate in a performance on Saturday 11th May, 2013. 

The logistics

The group decided to develop this workshop idea and run two preliminary sessions with Oathall Community College.  Working with Year 10 and 11 students a structure for the work was created. On the concert day students from the college were joined by festival-goers (aged 4-50+) who also took part in the final session and performance. Over 35 people took part in the workshops.

The project

Everyone involved in the workshops contributed to the creative process.  The piece was written for an orchestra of the future, combining the traditional instruments of the classical orchestra with drum kit, bongos, electric guitars and anything else that can be added to the mix.

“Thanks again, so much for last nights brilliant performance and the hard work and planning that preceded it. Our students had so much fun at the workshops and the performance that they hardly realised that they were learning so much! It’s been a fabulous opportunity for them to work with such outstanding musicians and I know that they were very inspired to work hard at progressing in their performing and composing and that this will leave lasting positive impressions.” 
— Mrs MacTaggart - Head of Music, Oathall Community College

The story was divided into four movements and included:

1st movement
Max misbehaves and is sent up to his room, hungry and with no dinner. There his room magically turns into a forest and his adventure begins.

2nd movement
Max travels on the seas, through time and comes to where the Wild Things are. There they try to scare him but he uses a magic trick to tame them.

3rd movement
Max becomes King of all the Wild Things and the party begins!

4th movement
Feeling alone and missing home Max decides to leave, though the Wild Things try to keep him. Travelling back through time and the seas, he returns and ready to eat supper.

Wild Things is a contemporary mélange of world, rock and jazz.  The piece was inspired by a range of classical composers, who were discussed and their works listened to in the first session.  The re-occuring Wild Thing theme of chugging chords was inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; the Sea Voyage inspired by the opening of Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 in G Major; the loneliness motif inspired by the opening of Borodin’s String Quartet in D (3rd movement) and a party theme (see clip above) of Latin funk brass music based on the opening violin melody and dance feel of the 4th movement from Schubert’s string quintet in C major. Other themes included the growing forest, wind and returning home.

Feedback from workshop leaders and participants

What I learnt from the project
How to play bass in an orchestra
How to use djembes properly
How to improvise whilst singing
Teamwork and I have learnt how to improve (my) performance
Co-operating with others to play together
Learning how to work effectively in an ensemble and watch the conductor


What I enjoyed about the project
Enthusiasm of all the participants
Getting everyone involved – it made me dance!
Everything, it was so fun as I’ve never done something like it before
Being professional not school ‘pupils’
To go above and beyond the classroom

Audience feedback

Then came the amazing performance of Where the Wild Things Are. The interpretation of the story was wonderful, each section of the assembled instruments and voices evoking every scene told by the excellent narrator. What a stunning collection of young talent. All the performers quite clearly enjoying taking part. Your control and direction was just brilliant, each player and singer responding to your every movement. I can only hope that there will be a repeat performance sometime. Such a sensational achievement should be witnessed by many more people.
— Christine, audience member