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.
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.
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!.
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.
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.
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.
The concert lasted an hour, and with the relaxed atmosphere it was great for children. N 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?