Gulping, quacking and acting every bit the crotchety old grandfather, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles regaled 300 children with his dramatic rendition of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" yesterday afternoon.
The school children hissed and screamed at the wolf's antics during the children's matinee performed by the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO) as the dean delighted them with voices and sound effects, demonstrating that perhaps his stage career shouldn't have ended at age 25.
Knowles, guest conductor Benjamin Zander and HRO repeated the performance yesterday evening for the big boys and girls--Harvard students and the public.
After the performance, Knowles--who ended his keyboard career at 22 and his singing career at 25--said he was "terrified, of course" to be on stage again.
The hour-long performance began with selections by Mozart, Beethoven and Stravinsky to illustrate music's ability to convey a wide range of emotions.
Zander, who is music director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and artistic director of a boarding school for young musicians, taught the audience how to remember every detail of the concert.
"Take your thumb and second finger, and press them together at the beginning and the end of the concert. Anytime you want to remember the concert, just put your fingers together," said Zander, the brother-in-law of President Neil L. Rudenstine.
"I remember the very first concert I ever went to. I was five, and I remember everything about it," he said. "They performed 'Peter and the Wolf.'"
The Prokofiev was the highlight for the youngsters in the audience.
"It was interesting and good," said Walter Cuttingham, age 10.
Knowles read the parts of the bird, the duck and--of course--the grandfather with relish. His voice shook with fear and apprehension as the wolf chased the animals. The dean shivered when the duck jumped in the pond, and he gulped when the wolf swallowed the duck...alive.
Yesterday's performance marked the beginning of Knowles' reappearance on the stage. The dean is scheduled to sing with Overseer and Arts First Director John Lithgow '67 in Hollywood later this spring.