We are incredibly proud of our Meet the Music outreach initiatives, one of which is our Lullaby Concerts tour which occurs twice a year. Lullaby concerts bring classical music to children in areas where live orchestral music is a rarity. This series is run in partnership with Orchestras Live, and provides an interactive way of introducing young children (typically under 6) to classical music.
I’m sat in a town hall in Suffolk jam-packed with preschool children and their parents, when a labcoat-clad Claire Bloor appears astride an orange spacehopper, wearing a single yellow glove and brandishing a long green balloon. Moments like this are wonderful reminders that working in the arts is exciting, surreal and, crucially, fun.
The theme of October’s tour was “The Mad Professor” and featured Claire, our wonderful Animateur in Residence, playing the part of an eccentric scientist who tries to build instruments for the Orchestra members. However, this was not just a children’s show with an orchestra in the background. The Orchestra themselves are always complicit in the fun; they have costumes of their own and spend the concert teasing Claire and larking around for the children’s amusement. Claire, seemingly, has boundless energy, making the children (and adults) laugh with delight as she took them through the musical programme. The fact that she is nothing more than a labcoat-wearing blur in eighty percent of the photos I took of her is a further testament to her dynamism (rather than to my poor photography skills).
I caught up with Claire, Gillian (our Education Manager) and our musicians in between concerts, to ask them about what Lullaby means to them and find out about their own childhood experiences of classical music.
AJ: Why is it important to introduce very young children to classical music?
Gillian Hunter: Kids this age don’t have any preconceptions about genres of music, nor are they old enough to worry about what is ‘cool’ – all they hear is music. This is an opportunity for them to be exposed to high quality playing of real repertoire in an environment they wouldn’t normally expect to find it!
AJ: What’s the best thing about Lullaby?
Mark Paine: It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and they get to see exactly how these instruments are actually played – it teaches them about the mechanics of it.
AJ: Is the transition from formal concert playing to these more informal children’s concerts difficult?
Susan Dorey: Not at all! We are, after all, entertainers, and this is just another element of working in the entertainment business!
AJ: What were your first experiences of classical music?
MP: Hearing the pipe organ in church, and being told my legs were too short to play!
CB: When I was five, a girl in my school assembly played the flute and I thought it was the most beautiful thing (probably because it was shiny). I pestered my parents for one and they gave me a recorder instead, which I promptly turned on its side. Eventually they bought me a real flute!
MP: Initially my school in Australia didn’t have a music programme until a new music teacher arrived and wanted to start an orchestra. He gave me a horn to take home over the weekend to try out. By Monday I had figured out how to play a scale and the rest, as they say, is history.
GH: My first experience was a bit mad – my parents signed me up for the Suzuki violin program before I was born! It was so oversubscribed that you had to get in there early to get a place.
AJ: What’s been your favourite Lullaby moment to date?
MP: Talking to the fish during the April 2013 tour.
CB: This tour, it’s when the new instruments come on and I get really excited. Last time, it was wearing flippers and kicking my legs in the air!
But don’t just take our word for it! Have a look at our video from one of last week’s concerts to get a sense of the fun for yourself.