Tuesday, November 29, 2011: Taste Test

Children are encouraged to touch, to taste, to try a musical instrument at the Prague Symphony children's series

Taste Test

It’s during Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 15 that it happens. Suddenly, there’s a loud “pop” in the concert hall. And then another. Seconds later, another. What is going on? Fireworks in Smetana Hall?

The random pops continue, but the audience just smiles. Conductor Marek Štilec appears unruffled, even pleased, as the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) continues to play, with gusto, to a few more random pops.

It’s all part of the fun and action at the Symphony’s “Music to Touch, The Four Elements and Music Tied Together” series giving young children a taste of live classical music. Today, children and their parents are learning about the important role that air plays in wind instruments. That’s why the children in the nearly-packed hall have all been given small paper bags to blow up and then pop.

Some of the children also blow through kazoos, blanket-toss stuffed animals high into the air, and blow out candles. During intermission, the children thread their way through the forest of music stands and taste for themselves what it’s like to make a noise on a bassoon, a trumpet, even the harp, under the patient guidance of each musician.

Everything but Classical, Until …

Matěj

Martín, father of 10-year-old Matěj, says their family has always listened to music at home, especially rock, jazz, pop, “all kinds – except classical.” Now that Matěj is learning to play the trumpet, though, they come to concerts, his mom Markéta explains.

“Matěj understands classical,” she says proudly. His dad adds, “It’s better live than recorded.”

Matěj just smiles.

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Hanka

Another Martín, this one the father of Hanka, explains, “This concert series gives children the opportunity to meet a new experience.”

Hanka is just 2-1/2 years old, but he hopes she’ll learn to play an instrument some day.
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Leading Children to the Universal

Henry, who will be 8 in February, has come to the concert because his mom Markéta and dad Tom think “it’s important to lead our children to music,” Tom tells us. “They have to have knowledge of everything, and music is universal.”

Henry, Markéta, Jerry, and Tom

Henry is learning to play the flute and keyboards, and the family listens to CDs at home. Henry’s younger brother Jerry, 5, is also enjoying the concert today, even standing on the chair or in his mom’s arms in the aisle to get a better look at the action on the stage far up front.

Today, the concert-goers get a taste of classics for wind instruments of all kinds, including human ones. Soprano Kateřina Kalvachová-Šmídová performs the aria from Rusalka, the Kuhn Children’s Choir sings, and there’s even an audience sing-along. The Symphony performs classics from Dvořák to Rossini to Mácha, and young dancers from Ballet Prague Junior add sparkle to three of the pieces.

The next “Music to Touch” concert will be March 17 on the theme “water.” It will be held at Obecní Dům, not at a swimming pool. Still, we can’t wait to see what the Symphony does with that one. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Top: Miroslav Setnička; others: Mary Matz

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