Boston, Massachusetts – I always envy those people at the symphony who are sitting in their seats, completely enraptured by the music, and discreetly conducting their own private orchestra. They know the music so well–at least they think they know it so well—that they can cue the strings’ entrance here or keep the percussion in time there.
That was Twin S yesterday, when we went to see the Boston Youth Symphony perform Peter and the Wolf at Symphony Hall. (I hate to think what it would have sounded like if the orchestra was actually trying to follow our 3-year-old maestro, but never mind…)
Ever since we went to the BSO family concert last spring, we have been trying to introduce the twins to more classical music. Inevitably, this means Peter and the Wolf.
I love Peter and the Wolf, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t understand why this is the only piece of symphonic music for children. All it takes is an explicit story line to keep their attention. Throw in a few distinct characters, represented by different instruments, so they learn something along the way. And you’ve got yourself an instant classic! It seems so obvious, but apparently Sergei Prokofiev really cornered that market.
Now, I have to admit that I have not done a lot of research on this topic, so please let me know if I am missing something. But the fact that the BYS performs Peter and the Wolf every year is a sign that there is not much more out there. I suppose that composers back in the day were not so tuned into the vast potential of the family market for music. But you would think that some contemporary composer with kids of their own would capitalize on this and write something.
Anyway, we listen to a lot of Peter and the Wolf at our house. Clearly, this is true of every child that attended yesterday’s performance. When the narrator Bill Barclay asked the audience what instrument represents the duck, there was a resounding yell that rang out from the orchestra seats to the second balcony: “OBOE!”
We have a rad version of P&W that is performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and narrated by David Bowie. We have been listening to it nonstop since we got home from Symphony Hall yesterday. And not just listening to it, but assigning roles and acting it out.
By “assigning roles and acting it out” I mean “You be the bird and I’ll be the cat,” not “You play the flute and I’ll play the clarinet.” Not yet, anyway.
That said, I am starting to think that the next time we see it performed, I will be able to conduct.
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