cushion concerts music linky
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Cushion Concerts and a Family Prom

I heard about the cushion concerts at St Hildas College, Oxford last year, but hadn’t really done anything until recently to find out more about them.  Basically, they’re family and educational based concerts aimed at children aged 5 and under.  The aim is to introduce children to different instruments and encourage them to listen, learn and get involved with music.  All done through a promenade idea of bringing a cushion along to sit on, although there are gallery tickets available too).  The promenade is definitely the way to go as some performers come through the audience as we found out.

The concert we went to was a Patsy Wood Family Prom, held as usual at the Jacqueline Du Pre building which is the perfect venue for small concerts.  It was led by Mr Mark who originally set up the Cushion Concerts.  He was aided by Cat on the clarinet (apt as N and I had watched a bit of the BBC4 Mozart Clarinet concerto concert the day before – memories for myself as I’d played it during my clarinet days!) and Tom on the flugelhorn.

cushion concerts

The concert included an introduction of some singing with Mr Mark and the children singing songs to bring out the instruments.  Then he introduced the concept of how the 2 instruments were played, ie blown by the mouthpiece’s reed vibrations on the clarinet vs the lip’s vibrations on the flugelhorn.


Each musician played something to show what the instruments sounded like.  We had one of my old favourite pieces I used to play for my exams from the clarinettist (nice to hear pro’s go wrong sometimes as I definitely heard a squeak!), and an ‘interesting’ improvisation from Tom.

flugelhorn intro

I think N recognised the clarinet from watching the concert on tv the day before, so maybe I should play some more clarinet music for him…or even get mine out of the loft!.

the grow show

Then it was time for the puppet show ‘The Grow Show’ from Emma Boor.  The music was a big part of the show, from singing, through to background, both taped music and from the musicians on stage.

wiggly worm dance

The puppets really helped bring the music to life, and vice versa.  The performers really made it a point to ask the children what they could hear in the music when it was playing.

The show was fun.  Think Mr Bloom and his vegetables.  The theme was growth of the garden through the year, so taking the children through the seasons, through songs, acting, puppets and shadow puppets.  All great fun and N loved it.

shadow puppet worm

There were chances for the children to interact and dance along or make the actions needed to wake up the earth.  N wouldn’t take part in most of that…even the wriggly worm section which I was surprised about as usually he loves to wiggle.  His friend L joined in really well though.  N preferred just to giggle away when he found it amusing.

flowers growing at the cushion concert
Great idea for flowers – metal steamers and food covers!
frog from the garden

The concert lasted an hour, and with the relaxed atmosphere it was great for children. ┬áN rarely sits still through a 40 minute length dvd, but he was riveted watching and listening to the music. Most of the children really got involved, and we’ll have to watch out for some more of the concerts later in the Summer.

Despite the cushions, I did end up with sore legs and backside…thanks to N wanting to sit on my lap instead of the cushion, which he hugged.

Have you ever been to any concerts aimed at children?  What sort of concerts would you like to see?

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  1. This sounds like a lovely idea. We love listening to music together but don’t do it as often any more. I must make more effort. x

    1. So hard to find the time. That’s why we tend to only listen in the car. It’s definitely nice to do it with children, they hear totally different things to adults

  2. Wow just read the post over on Culture Baby and now reading this it seems like there’s quite a few baby/child concerts that go on! I’ll have to look out for anything in my area. Must say the puppets look a bit scary though… xx

    1. More going on than I thought, although obviously focused on larger cities. Would be interesting to do a round up of lots more – maybe I’ll do a recce round and see if I can find out about more.

      N didn’t mind the puppets, but when the woman came down into the audience to tickle feet and put the bee on people’s heads (mine), he was hiding his feet to make sure he was ignored. Obviously his mother’s son as I would be just the same

  3. I think kids should be exposed to all genres of music from an early age.I love how they have incorporated puppets and live action too.When my youngest was a toddler we went to MAD music sessions which focused on music, dance and language.They were really fun, maybe these kinds of concerts are available for older children?

    1. Round by us, they only seem to do them for the under 5s regularly, although there are general family prom concerts when it gets to proms seasons, and Christmas etc. They really should do more because as you say, all genres are important – and if you get classical orchestras or bands playing modern stuff and film scores, then why shouldn’t they bring older ‘trendy’ kids more into classical music.

  4. I’ve heard about these concerts as they used to have them in Didcot, but always on weekends when we were away. My friend went though and said they were amazing, so it is good to see what happens.

    1. Ah, good to know there are more around the county. Must check if there’s anything at our local arts centre, although think it’s more craft sessions and theatre.

  5. My son is really into the guitar at the moment. He just loves strumming it. This is a nice concert! So interactive. I wish my son can see one of their performance =) #MagicMoments

  6. What a great idea. I took my two to the theatre when they were little but never to any concerts. I used to play the clarinet at one stage too – not sure I could even read music now!

    1. That’s what I reckon my clarinet playing would be like now. I’m still trying to persuade my OH that my piano will be moving from my mum’s house to ours when the house is sold.

      N’s not been to the theatre yet, but now it gives me a bit more confidence that he might be ok sitting still in a quiet theatre for long enough.

  7. I think this is such a fab idea and a great way to get young children to experience live music.


    1. Worth checking out what uni’s and music services provide. I shall be finding out what’s on at our town’s local theatre for children as well, although I think most are for 4+

      1. Three years ago we saw the hungry caterpillar in Oxford and it was great. B was completely entranced by it. I haven’t been very good at looking for other things since though.

        1. I’m planning on taking N to London to see the Tiger Who came to tea in August as part of kids week. That’s if I get tickets. Now I know that he can sit through it, he’d love it (and going to London!)

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