It was a grand day for music appreciation last Thursday as over four thousand excited 4th graders were bussed into Downtown Los Angeles to experience the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
This year, the LA Phil presented extracts from the kid-friendly musical suite The Carnival of the Animals, created by French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saens.
The husband and wife team of pianists, Gavin Martin and Joanne Pierce Martin, introduced the children to the instruments of the orchestra. The pair was assisted by a lively young woman named Marlene Martinez, who engaged the children with her own child-like enthusiasm for the music and her comical refusal to leave the stage after sneaking in. Every time Marlene skipped over to one end of the stage, you could see all the kids in the upper balconies leaning forward to get a better look at her. When Marlene asked the children if they knew what a lion sounded like, the entire hall resounded with a massive roars, grumblings and screams!
Using the sweet and evocative melodies of this highly accessible piece by Saint-Saens, the children heard how a cello becomes a swan gliding on a lake, a flute could sound like a singing bird and a clarinet became a sneaky cuckoo. The dueling pianos played the role of wild donkeys chasing one another around the carnival.
It was fascinating to learn that Saint-Saens had composed the work in 1886 while on holidays in Austria and only performed it for friends in a private salon. Fearing his reputation as a serious composer might be sullied by this whimsical and satirical composition, Saint-Saens banned its performance during his lifetime.
To see the kids so engrossed by this simple and entertaining lesson in music appreciation was so much fun. When Marlene asked them to raise their hands as soon as they heard the melody of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” within one of the movements, soon a forest of little arms were raised to the ceiling.
One fascination revelation was that for the piece about the Tortoises, composed for strings and piano, we all learned that the strings actually play a maddeningly slow rendition of the famous Can-Can from Offenbach’s operetta Orpheus in the Underworld.
With a brisk running time of 45 minutes, the lively performance was just long enough to entertain without taxing the notoriously short attention spans of the small children.
Thousands of 4th grade students from schools throughout LA County have accepted the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts’ invitation to attend its annual Youth Concert. For many of the students – especially for those from under-served communities – this is their first opportunity to experience a live performance of classical symphonic music in a world-class concert hall.
Volunteers with the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts are united by their belief in the power and beauty of music. Their collective desire is to fund programs that nurture the study and appreciation of music, utilize music as a vehicle towards health and healing, and ensure that music is available to a broad range of audiences.
Since 1948, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts has awarded more than $17 million in gifts and grants to support the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall and other non-profit organizations that support local cultural and educational musically oriented programs for youth. PSHA also supports three programs of its own: the Pasadena Showcase House Music Mobile program for 3rd grade students throughout the San Gabriel Valley, the Pasadena Showcase House Youth Concert for 4th graders throughout Southern California and the Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition for talented high school and college students hoping to embark upon a professional career in music.
For additional information, visit PSHA’s website.
photo and review by Pauline Adamek