English Symphony Orchestra conclude acclaimed Storytelling series with two beloved tales by the Brothers Grimm

6 Apr, 2021


  • 9th April – Henry Goodman returns for Thomas Kraines’s setting of Hansel and Gretel
  • 16th April – Gemma Whelan narrates Kile Smith’s The Bremen Town Musicians with illustrations by members of ESO Youth and students from Chadsgrove School, Bromsgrove
  • Performances streamed via eso.co.uk and on Facebook at facebook.com/englishsymphonyorchestra
  • Double CD featuring the whole storytelling series to be released worldwide 4 June with Nimbus Alliance

The English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) will complete their ground-breaking series of new storytelling works for narrator and orchestra in April with the world premiere broadcasts of two of the most popular stories by the Brothers Grimm: Hansel and Gretel (music by Thomas Kraines) narrated by Henry Goodman, and The Bremen Town Musicians (music by Kile Smith) narrated by Gemma Whelan.

Henry Goodman, whose previous appearance with the ESO in David Yang’s Lubin, from Chelm was praised for his “barbed whimsy”, returns to narrate Thomas Kraines’s witty and spiky setting of Hansel and Gretel.

Composer Kraines says of the piece that “I wrote Hansel and Gretel to perform with the children’s musical troupe Auricolae in 2008, and orchestrated it a few years later, at the behest of Maestro Kenneth Woods.”

Conductor Kenneth Woods says “Tom’s piece is full of musical in-jokes – there’s a lot of poking fun at the ‘serious’ nature of German music, in particular.” Kraines concurs: “Perhaps in response to the gothic nature of the story, the piece is very self-consciously Germanic; the leitmotifs for Hansel and Gretel are both Wagnerian in character (although Hansel’s theme originated as an alteration of Schubert’s “Das Wandern”), and the witch/stepmother’s theme is a Schoenbergian tone row. The woodcutter’s theme, the first music one hears in the piece, is a thinly disguised motive from Strauss’ “Metamorphosen,” which Strauss himself had lifted from the funeral march in Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony. In a particularly grandiose touch, all the tempo and character markings are in German as well (I don’t speak German); of course, this doesn’t need to concern the listener at all, but I thought of it as an in-joke between myself and the performers.

Kraines particularly relished the chance to expand his work for full orchestra. “I’m very grateful to Ken for his encouragement and advice in orchestrating the piece; both as a cellist and a composer I’m much more at home in more intimate settings, and it was a thrill to write for such comparatively large forces.  My gratitude and awe also go to Henry Goodman, whose nuanced and thrilling interpretation of the story elevates the piece immeasurably.” Kraines’ story will be illuminated with a collection of historic illustrations from the ‘golden age’ of illustration, featuring drawings and paintings from the late 1800’s to the 1940’s, as well as performance footage of the orchestra.

Kile Smith’s setting of The Bremen Town Musicians is narrated by comedian and actress Gemma Whelan, who has earned an enthusiastic following for both her regular appearances on Horrible Histories and her iconic performance as Yura Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. Like Hansel and Gretel, Smith’s version of Bremen started as a work for violin and cello. “David Yang commissioned the duo version of The Bremen Town Musicians for Auricolae in 2008” notes composer Kile Smith. “It has since been taken up by other ensembles across the country, as far away as Australia and Qatar, and in the Philadelphia Orchestra “Our City, Your Orchestra” 2021 chamber music series.

“In 2016 the conductor Kenneth Woods, who as cellist performed and recorded Bremen with Auricolae, asked me to orchestrate it for his English Symphony Orchestra” says Smith. “I’ve adapted the Brothers Grimm story for my libretto, changing none of the salient features of this tale of four animals who, seeking fortune in the far city of Bremen, fall among thieves, outwit them, and find their good fortune as friends together, never arriving in Bremen.” The filmed performance of Bremen also includes a collection of handmade illustrations by members of the ESO Youth ensembles and students from Chadsgrove School, Bromsgrove.

Andrew Farquharson, Chief Executive Officer of English Symphony Orchestra says of the series “As the ESO’s storytelling project reaches completion, The Bremen Town Musicians and Hansel and Gretel will join Kenneth Woods’ setting of The Ugly Duckling with Hugh Bonneville, Jay Reise’s The Warrior Violinist with Davood Ghadami and David Yang’s Lubin from Chelm with Henry Goodman which we’re looking forward to releasing worldwide together on a new double CD – ‘Fiddles, Forests and Fowl Fables’ – from Nimbus Alliance on 4 June”.


Additional Information

Hansel and Gretel
– Premieres 6:00PM GMT on Friday 9th April 2021
– www.eso.co.uk/hansel

The Bremen Town Musicians
– Premieres 6:00PM GMT on Friday 16th April 2021
– www.eso.co.uk/bremen

About the Artists

Henry Goodman

Henry Goodman is a leading English actor who has worked extensively in television, film and in theatre (Broadway, West End, NT & RSC). On stage in the UK, Goodman played the role of Arturo Ui in “Arturo Ui”, Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”, Billy Flynn in “Chicago” and Charles Guiteau in “Assassins”. On Broadway he played the title role in Tartuffe and Serge in “Art” among others. He has won numerous awards for his theatre work. TV credits include Sir Humphrey in “Yes, Prime Minister” and more recently “The New Pope”. Film credits include “The Chosen One”, “The Last Planet”, “The Good Traitor”, “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, “Their Finest”, “The Limehouse Golem”, “Woman in Gold”, “Notting Hill”, “Hunter Killer”, “Driftwood” and “Love Gets A Room”. Recent audio work includes: “Victoria Park” by Gemma Reeves, “Jaws” by Peter Benchley and ‘Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston both for BBC Radio 4.

Gemma Whelan

A favourite of young viewers everywhere for her many memorable performances in Horrible Histories, British actress and comedian Gemma Whelan is known for her varied body of work. Theatre includes: Upstart Crow (Gielgud, writ. Ben Elton); A Slight Ache (The Harold Pinter); One Man Two Guv’nors (Theatre Royal Haymarket/National Theatre). Television includes: Killing Eve (AMC/BBC); Gentleman Jack (BBC/HBO); Game of Thrones (HBO); White House Farm, The Moorside, Decline and Fall, Upstart Crow, Queers, Uncle, Morgana Robinson’s The Agency, Asylum, Mapp and Lucia, Hetty Feather, The Persuasionists, Murder in Successville (BBC); The End of the F***ing World (Channel 4/Netflix). Film includes: Emma (Working Title).

Thomas Kraines

Thomas Kraines has forged a multifaceted career as a cellist and composer, equally comfortable with avant-garde improvisation, new music, and traditional chamber music and solo repertoire. A member of the Daedalus Quartet, Mr. Kraines also performs frequently with the Network for New Music, the Arcana Ensemble, and as a duo with cellist Kinan Abou-afach. He is also an accomplished composer of chamber music; his works have been performed around the world by artists such as pianists Awadagin Pratt and Wayman Chin, violinists Corey Cerovsek and Jennifer Frautschi, and sopranos Maria Jette and Ilana Davidson. Kraines has given musical improvisation workshops and performances at the Longy School of Music, the University of Florida at Gainesville, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught at the Peabody Conservatory, the Longy School of Music, the Killington Music Festival, Yellow Barn, and Princeton University, and currently teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kile Smith

Grammy-nominated composer Kile Smith has gained international acclaim through a distinguished string of commissions. Gramophone called his Vespers “spectacular” and Audiophile Audition, “easily one of the best releases of the year of any type… a crime to pass up.” Ten CDs with his music have been released since 2018. The Arc in the Sky with The Crossing received a 2020 Grammy nomination for Best Choral Performance, and his Canticle with Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble helped win the 2020 Best Classical Producer Grammy. The Philadelphia Orchestra featured The Bremen Town Musicians in their 2021 “Our City, Your Orchestra” chamber music series. His first opera, The Book of Job, will premiere in multiple cities in the 2022/23 season.

  • kilesmith.com/


For further press information please contact eso@eso.co.uk