Exploring Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus

24 October 2022

This Season’s Play Opera LIVE takes us on a journey back to a prehistoric land. Featuring some of our favourite dinosaur themed music, Welsh National Opera’s entertaining and educational family show includes a musical adaptation of Tony Mitton’s popular children’s tale Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus, composed by Steve Pickett entitled Dinosaurumpus. With an original narration by presenter and musician Tom Redmond, we explore how the book was adapted into a musical piece.

‘Enter these pages and read their rhyme and they’ll take you along with them, back in time’ is the opening line from the book and Steve’s music certainly evokes this atmosphere. Different instruments are used to represent a whole range of characters, feelings and settings. The rhythms make us feel the flow of the narrative – fast and driving repetitions pull us forward whereas a slow and wandering pulse holds us in suspense. And the composer has to juggle all of the different musical elements to conjure up the images of the book.

In this case, we are plunged into a prehistoric setting of gigantic dinosaurs. This is brought to life musically by the quiet, gentle rumbling of low strings, as if there were something ominous in the distance. This is immediately followed by swirling movements from the harp and piccolo which conjures an image of the fluttering wings of ancient flying insects. But these instruments are almost immediately joined by the horns and their grand sound evokes the enormity of the creatures that roam the land.

The book reads: ‘There’s a quake and a quiver and a rumbling around.’ Here again, the strings start off low, before rising quickly both in pitch and volume. There is no doubt that the dinosaurs are on their way. All the while there is a rhythmic pattern from the marimbas and timpani which sound like ancient percussive instruments.

Not long after this, there follows the unlikely waltz of a Triceratops. Who would’ve thought that a dinosaur could dance so gracefully? Next, in comes the Brontosaurus, swishing his enormous tail back and forth. We hear this in the music with rolls from the drum set and dramatic thuds from the timpani. Thwack! Crash! Bang!

And this is just the beginning of our adventure, the rest of the piece is a masterclass in evoking the images of the book. As the story unfolds, a whole party of dinosaurs builds up. But pretty soon, a Tyrannosaurus Rex gate crashes the party. Does he want to dance with them? Or does he want to eat them?

To find out, come along to our show at Theatre Royal Plymouth on 30 October 2022 and Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on 19 February 2023.