Wednesday, Nov 23, 2011: Keys for … Kids

Keys to The Classics … Not Only for Kids

Giving kids permission to react to music can be a key to music appreciation later in life

I don’t think any college kids are interested in writing about classical music, someone at a local university told us recently. They just don’t know anything about it. We disagree. We believe classical music is so well integrated into daily life, that young people just don’t realize that many of the tunes they know from commercials or movies are “classical.”

On Monday you could read on the Opus Osm Home page about a Czech nursery song that is actually the theme from Smetana’s Vltava. And here’s how the musicologist in that article taught her own daughters – at ages 3 and 4! – how opera can be the gateway to loving all classical music.


Opera: The Ideal Way to Lead Children to Classical Music

By Mgr. Radmila Habánová
Department of Musicology
Philosophy Faculty, Charles University

I have three daughters, 18, 16, and 12 years old. They’re all keen on listening to classical music, and especially opera. Each was at the National Theatre for an opera for the first time when they were only 4 years old, one even at age 3.

This, however, was always preceded by a very thorough preparation on my part: detailed explanation of the plot, listening to samples, singing some of the numbers together. We would go to the opera based on what was playing in the National Theatre’s repertoire: either Smetana’s The Bartered Bride or Dvořák’s The Devil and Kate.

In the theatre, the children listened with rapt attention from the beginning to the end, lighting up with delight at all the familiar parts.

Radmila Habánová

These were soon followed by other titles – Smetana’s The Kiss and The Secret, Dvořák’s Jacobin . . . the girls loved it. We would spend our walks discussing the plots of other operas (with the children asking a thousand “Why’s?”), and singing some of the parts. Now they’ve expanded their repertoire on their own; their favorites include not only Smetana and Dvořák, but also Janáček, and from foreign composers, Verdi, Weber, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Mozart . . .

But because not every opera is available in Prague, they also borrowed opera recordings on CD from the library, and the corresponding sheet music for piano. It is “just” a little hobby.

Of course, my daughters, now teenagers, listen to non-opera classics and other music as well. But this original path “from opera” seems ideal, because of the connection of the plot with visual images to help a child perceive the music, so it’s actually quite spontaneous. – RH

Start this Saturday, with A Morning with the Orchestra

You may not be able to play classical music on a piano for your kids, but don’t let that stop them. This Saturday, Nov 26 at 11 am, children of all ages can hear what wind instruments sound like in a special presentation at Obecní Dům just for kids and families. It’s part of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) series of Family Concerts presented four times a season.

Musicians in the orchestra will explain how their instruments work, demonstrate the sounds, and maybe even let some of the kids try one out for themselves. This Saturday’s session is conducted by Marek Štilec.

It’s followed the next day, Sunday, Nov 27 at 4 pm at the same place, this time with Mr Štilec conducting the FOK in a Sunday Family Series program. This episode is called “When the Orchestra Resounds to the Full.” Impressive works by Antonín Dvořák, Luboš Fišer, and Benjamin Britten will be performed.

Both installments in the series are excellent ways to introduce your kids to their musical heritage. – oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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