I’ve been meaning to take N back to another Cushion Concert for ages but it’s never happened. But the I was determined to get there a second time.
The Cushion Concerts are held in Oxford at the Jacqueline Du Pre building on Sundays once a month, each one focuses on a different instrument. Some well known, others are more obscure. And they have sessions for under and over fives.
The latest one was the trombone. I thought that would be a good instrument for N to see and hear (plus his name was inspired by a trombone player in one of the orchestras I used to play in!).
Going to Oxford always means a journey on the park and ride bus which is exciting enough for N. We even got to sit on the top of the double decker at the front.
It’s only a short walk to St Hilda’s college where the concerts are held. On the way there’s always interesting doorways, plaques, and odd art sculptures in gardens and church frontages to look at.
There’s also the river, although it’s not the most attractive place to view it. Not that that bothers N, who was quite happy asking about the life savers, and punts.
The Cushion Concert itself was quite quiet. I always worry there’ll not be tickets left if we don’t pay in advance, but although the session before ours had more people in, ours only had a few families.
The structure is based on Rozy and Mr Cello. So the first part of the concert is getting the children to understand the voice is an instrument, the noises we can make, and that it’s all about vibrations. How the cello sounds and is different. We clapped out rhythms, sang songs, practised fast and slow, quiet and louder. Then you sing to call in the instrument on show.
N seemed to really like the trombone. He just kept looking and looking. The trombonist explained how you blow raspberries in the mouthpiece to make it sound, how the condensation comes out, the different notes on the slide positions and more. All in an easy way for children to understand.
And of course you get to hear some music, and stomp or clap along. I told N about the (probably most) well known trombone piece which used to be the Johnny Briggs tv theme tune beforehand, so I was really pleased they played it. How couldn’t they really?! It’s a classic piece of trombone music.
The great thing about cushion concerts (for the kids and parents anyway), is that the children are encouraged to interact, shout out answers, ask questions, sing and dance along. Not that N does – any time we were asked to get up and do actions, he refused, sit on the floor sliding round to hide behind me. Very annoying, although not really surprising, because as a child, I’d never have joined in either!
After the concert’s over, the children can meet , touch and play Mr Cello or the trombone. Some are right in there, but N just wanted to leave.
He did say he really enjoyed the concert, he liked the music, although he did tease me and pretend he’d see a violin and trumpet!
Afterwards, we walked back up into Oxford centre, and found somewhere to have lunch.
N chose the Queens Road Café which is a tad on the pricy side for a quick lunch stop. Of course, as per usual despite me checking before we left the concert venue and when we arrived, N decided that as soon as food arrived he wanted the toilet. Not once, but twice!
He had a huge portion of scrambled eggs on toast (even though I asked for a child size portion), and my panini was really good. The café was nearly full for the Sunday lunch or brunch rush, so it took some time. I do think more cafes should have if not a children’s menu, at least be a bit more accommodating towards requests for half size or smaller portions. Although I’m not sure the foreign waitress really took in what I’d asked for…she and a colleague were more interested in what they’d been up to the night before. Very rude!
Before catching the bus home, we decided to check out Hardy’s, a fabulous traditional style sweet shop. I couldn’t believe out of all the choice in the shop, N went straight for the first thing he saw…chocolate coins. Dull. It’s definitely my kind of shop and they were lovely about me taking photos as well.
I’d have liked to have gone down by the river or for a bit more of a wander round Oxford, but the farm was calling N, and I needed to get back and make tea (why does my whole life revolve around meal times!?).
If you’re in or near Oxford and have children, do check out the Cushion Concerts, or search for something similar near you.
Do you have any similar children’s concerts near you?