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Come and enjoy my attempts to get children interested and more excited about art music. To learn more about how to get started, CLICK HERE.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tip: Repetition

One of the greatest keys to helping kids develop a taste for classical music is repetition. I have found as we introduce our girls to different classical works that they are not always receptive the first time around. But the more we listen to it, the more they get into it.

There is so much to hear in classical music that it also takes more time to hear everything a piece has to offer. Our girls pick up on things that even we don't notice about a piece. And with each repetition, they become more familiar with the melodies, the different sections, and begin to sing along and work the music into their playtime.

Repetition is an essential part of learning about music. And although we as adults may tire of a piece faster than our children, knowing that they are still learning from what they are hearing can make it a little easier to give in to that familiar request, "Can we do it again?"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review: Mozart's Magic Fantasy: A Journey through 'The Magic Flute'

Since Eric sings opera, we have been researching different approaches on introducing opera to children. Much of the advice we found said to start with Mozart's The Magic Flute. This week we have discovered how right they were!

Heidi, our four-year-old, has been thoroughly enjoying Classical Kids' production of The Magic Flute titled Mozart's Magic Fantasy. She has listened to it SIX times in the last two days.

The story of The Magic Flute follows the story of Prince Tamino and the bird-catcher, Papageno as they search for their true loves, Princess Pamina and Pagagena. Tamino must defeat a dragon and find his way through a labyrinth to unite with his true love. That's the story, in short.

This production begins with a girl named Sarah. She enters the theatre looking for her mother, who is playing one of the roles in the opera. The opera starts while Sarah is on stage and she becomes part of the story along with the dragon that Prince Tamino defeats (which in this version means that Sarah helps by shrinking the dragon and the dragon joins them).

One of the reasons this is a perfect "starter opera" is that it is an operetta so it includes some dialogue. This recording is also a shorter version of the operetta, highlighting the main parts. AND it's in ENGLISH which is so important for anyone trying to learn more about opera! (Being new to The Magic Flute myself, I appreciate knowing what they're saying. And now I can't wait to hear it in its original language.)

Heidi has been playing "Princess Pamina" these last couple of days and singing "Papageno Papageno" to herself. I'd say this one's a hit!!

(Sidenote: We have listened to others in this series and are big fans! They do great work.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Review: Beethoven's Wig 3

The third installment in the Beethoven's Wig series includes great classics like the Toreador Song from Carmen, William Tell Overture, Funeral March of a Marionette, Dance of the Reed Flutes from The Nutcracker Suite, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

These are songs that many children are already familiar with thanks to cartoons and Christmas favorites. Our children (and we as parents) enjoyed this CD, but the lyrics were not as clever as those in Beethoven's Wig 1 & 2. They just didn't catch in our minds the way the others did. Our girls will sing the silly words from the first two volumes but struggle to remember the words of the third volume.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say this is a 6 while the first two were 8's or 9's. Definitely worth checking out from the library, but maybe forgo buying it until the children have listened to enough that you're sure they will continue to do so.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tip: Start With Music You Like

If you want to get your children to listen to classical music, it is easiest to get them excited about what you are already excited about. Whether you have a long list of favorites or are an art music beginner yourself, here are three tips to help get your young people as excited as you are:

1) Make listening an activity

I know others may disagree with me, but I believe that to make art music more popular we have to get more used to listening to it exclusively, and not simply as background music. If your children are young, plan to listen for a short time each day (usually taking their age and doubling it will give you the amount of minutes you have), and call it "music time". Pull out an excerpt of one of your favorites and listen together.

While they are listening ask for their reaction. How does it make you feel? Can you clap the rhythm? Can you hum the melody? Be creative and you will be surprised how much they will have to say.

2) Create a music exchange

If your children are older, give them a copy of one of your favorites to listen to on their own. Then take every opportunity to talk about it--not in a way that makes it seem like a chore, but more like something you can both have in common. Identify the things you love, and ask them what they think about those things.

Before you know it, you will be able to participate in an exchange. They will start giving you music they enjoy, and you will have a better idea of what they enjoy. In order to make sure this is productive, be sure that you do not give them exclusively classical music. Find music that is of a more popular nature that you enjoy and talk about that too.

The more you attempt to arrive at their level, the more they will try to arrive at yours.

3) Spend more time discovering what you like

If your children do not enjoy what you like don't get discouraged! Look at it as an opportunity to find more music that is closer to what they enjoy that you like as well. The library is a wonderful resource. Take the time to get acquainted with your media librarian and start checking out one or two albums a week.

More than likely you will discover music you never thought you would be interested in, and your children will appreciate the effort you take to get to know them and their tastes better.

Tip: Start With Music You Like

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Discussion: Why Should Young People Listen to Art Music?

So, now that we have put up a few posts with tips to get young people to listen, we should ask the question--why? Why do we want young people listening to art music? Is it just because "Mozart makes you smarter" (another topic for later), or because you magically become a better person when you listen? I have a lot of my own ideas, but I am very curious about your opinion. What effect would it have on our society if more people were interested in more elevated forms of music? What effect would it have on your family if you chose to listen more with your kids? Discuss!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Review: They Might Be Giants - No!

One important step in helping children learn to love classical music is first helping them love music in general. Many of the children's CDs available today tend to be rather trite and definitely do not motivate us as parents to suggest listening to them. However, there are also several CDs that are real gems that the whole family can enjoy. They Might Be Giants music CD called "No!" is one of those gems.

They Might Be Giants has long been known for their silly lyrics and fun musical style (think of Particle Man and Istanbul was Constantinopole). In recent years they have turned their attention toward children and have made some wonderful music.

With songs about things that are not as they ought to be (Fibber Island), a boy who waits by a broken clock for a date that never comes (Four of Two), robots (Robot Parade), parents and their favorite word (No!), musings on where things come from (Where Do They Make Balloons?), what things taste like (John Lee Supertaster), and Thomas Edison (The Edison Museum) - there is something for everyone.

These songs delight children of all ages and even tickle the funny bones of their parents. Good wholesome fun for everyone.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Review: Beethoven's Wig 2

Beethoven's Wig 2 makes for another fun installment in the Beethoven's Wig series. Once again, classical pieces are set to lyrics that are silly but at the same time educational.

As a family, our top favorites on this album are:
Sing Verdi Very Loud (Verdi's La donna e mobile from Rigoletto)
It's The Same Every Verse (In the Hall of the Mountain King from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite)
A Fan of Chopin (Prelude 7, Op. 28 by Chopin)

First, who could resist the opportunity to poke fun at our opera world where we are often only known for "singing very loud". And with lyrics that match the melody just right, Sing Verdi Very Loud does just that. Verdi Loud, Verdi Fun.

Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. We have all loved hearing it set to silly lyrics and joining in with the song as they countdown how many times the main melody is repeated. The lyrics teach a lot about music as they bring to attention what instruments are playing in each verse. They even work the composer, Grieg, into the lyrics helping cement into our minds who composed the piece. And, as some classical pieces do, there are two finales leading up to the final third finale and I love that the lyrics point this out.

A Fan of Chopin is short and sweet. The lyrics include Chopin's name which is wonderful in helping children remember who the song is by.

As a whole, Beethoven's Wig 2 is great family fun and appropriate for all ages. Ages 4 and up will be able to understand the lyrics themselves, but even children under age 4 will enjoy the music and want to dance along as our one-year old does. When my girls hear these songs elsewhere, they are quick to point out the bits they know about the songs. And what they do know is thanks to these CD's.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Review: Beethoven's Wig

Beethoven's Wig is a lot of fun for kids and adults. Classical pieces are set to lyrics that are silly but at the same time educational.

My top favorites on this album are Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Haydn's Surprise Symphony. Mozart's piece has been renamed, Please Don't Play Your Violin at Night, which fits perfectly with the main melody of the song and carries out a conversation between Mozart and his wife. Mozart wants to play into the wee hours of the night while his wife just wants to get some sleep! Haydn's Symphony has been renamed as Haydn's Great Surprise. Haydn wrote this piece intending to "surprise" his audience and wake up all the sleepy-heads who so rudely fell asleep at his concerts and I love that the lyrics to this song tell that story!

Heidi's favorite, our four-year old, is Offenbach's Can Can. It is sung with a french accent and has been renamed, Can You Can Can? I suspect that this one became her favorite after I actually did the Can-Can for her. She has quite the imagination and I just hope that she doesn't see a line-up of me doing the Can Can every time she hears it.

Our six-year old's favorite is the Pizzicato (from Sylvia) by Delibes. This song reminds me of Shel Silverstein's Silvia Stout would not take the garbage out..., which may have been their intention. The revised title is Drip, Drip, Drip and tells the story of a girl named Sylvia who left the water running.

This is a wonderful way to learn a little about classical pieces. I'm sure that every time my daughters hear these pieces in the future, they will be reminded of the stories that go with them and then remember the names of each piece. I know I will. What a valuable tool this is.

* I must confess that after a time, the lead singer gets under my skin. He does not sound like a professionally trained singer and I believe he does this for the love of the music and the love of teaching children about music. That being said, it's easy to move on to a different CD for a time. And after a short break, I can be ready for more Beethoven's Wig. However, my girls don't seem to tire of him at all.

Post-Halloween Post

A super-easy way to get your kids excited about classical music and listening to it is to take advantage of the holidays! Think about all of the classical music that is associated with the holidays. I immediately think of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, Handel's Messiah, and Saint-Saen's Danse Macabre. That's just off the top of my head. There are scads more!

This year, on Halloween our local classical radio station played "spooky" classical music all day. One of the pieces they played is an old favorite of mine, Danse Macabre, by Camille Saint-Saens. I remember first hearing this piece in a music class in fifth grade. We also learned how to spell Halloween by singing along with the song: "H-A-double L-O-W-double E-N spells Halloween". Try it now if you're still up for some Halloween fun or put it on your list for next year. I know Halloween's over, but I can't resist bringing it home for my girls to dance along to. Especially since we only caught the tail-end of the song on the radio.

Happy Halloween! (I know, I'm a little late)

Review - Peter and the Wolf

A great classic for kids is Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. With each character being represented by a motif and an instrument, the children quickly learn to differentiate between instruments and melodies. Our daughters listened and helped the narration along. At moments when there were musical interludes, they noticed that the bird, the cat, and Peter were together. Or that the duck was missing. Or another time they would remember that the cat was a clarinet. Or they would say, "That's the bird. That's a flute." These listening skills cannot be underestimated in teaching children to learn about music and to appreciate the things they hear. And what a fun way for them to learn.

There are many versions to choose from and we recently tried out two of them.

If you'd like a straightforward, classic version of the story, David Bowie's narration is among the best-known versions. His narration is often coupled with The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which introduces each orchestral instrument to children. ..

If you'd like to be entertained as much as your children, try the narration by Dudley Moore (the English comedian). He stays true to the story but also takes some poetic license to liven things up as he, for example, describes the grandfather as "Very grand. Very father."

Happy Listening!

Review - Peter and the Wolf

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