While I have had an affinity for classical music stretching back as far as into my late-teens, I had never in my life had the opportunity to take in a live concert performance of a symphony orchestra.
That all changed 2 days ago when I accepted an invite to bring my entire family to Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall so that we may enjoy a youth-oriented and holiday-themed performance by the world-renowned Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Entitled ‘Symphonic Spooks’, the hour long performance featured musical selections that are familiar to young ears and well-suited for pre-Halloween enjoyment. Selections included The Phantom of the Opera as well as Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Local youth dancers as well as many of the Orchestra’s ensemble dressed in costume added to the levity and child-friendliness of the event.
My wife and I were initially unsure as to how our 4 children, who range in ages from 5 to 12 would respond to the performance. How would they respond to a musical performance where no lead singer pranced across the stage, no video screens provided added context or close-ups and the musical selections had nothing to do with the Top of the Charts?
Two of my children had some difficulty in simply staying still. My 5yr old especially struggled with ants-in-her-pants syndrome, but this isn’t something specific to the symphony as she often has a hard time staying still for just about anything. Despite that, she was exuberant in her response when I asked her if she enjoyed herself and she said ‘YES!” It also helped that during performances such as this where the target audience is 5 – 12, there is a tolerance for restlessness far greater than at a regular performance.
However, I was particularly taken aback by my other two. My eldest son and my eldest twin were both content to sit back and take in the music. My eldest constantly remarked at how incredible he found it to be that the songs played by the orchestra that he recognized sounded “Exactly like they did in the movies or on TV!” He was amazed at how a building with solid acoustics nullifies the need for massive speaker platforms and how so many instruments had the ability to naturally come together without the need for mixing or mastering in a digital studio.
Following the performance, specially invited guests were brought back to a meeting room where selected performers from the orchestra met with those on hand to teach and demonstrate some of the instruments that the children has just seen and heard on stage. It was especially enjoyable to see two of my children have the chance to blow into a Bassoon with the help of the musician. They were even allowed to keep the reed they blew into as a souvenir.
If the end result of this endeavour was to create interest and a desire to attend more performances, then in the case of my family – it worked! While I’m quite accustomed to hearing my 12 yr old tell me about all the various places he’d like us to visit at some point, it was refreshing to hear his eagerness to return to the symphony once again.
And as for my 1st ever experience with the T.S.O.? While I had always imagined it paired with an evening of fine dining with my wife while we were in our evening best, it was nonetheless a great experience. It was also a realistic one since my wife and I don’t really own any clothes that effectively qualifies as ‘Evening best’ (remember…we have 4 kids), and babysitters willing to take on such a brood aren’t easy to come by. And while that enchanted evening of culture may yet come for my wife and I, the fact remains that this proved to be a wonderful opportunity to expand the musical and cultural horizons of my children. It was a success and certainly one that we will likely take in again.
Symphonic Spooks is part of an ongoing series of performances by the T.S.O. specifically geared towards children. Known as ‘Young People’s Concerts’, they are the perfect introduction to symphonic music for children aged 5 to 12.
This series of five one-hour concerts on Saturday afternoons features the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and their guest artists in Roy Thomson Hall. Concerts are performed twice, at 2:00 and 4:00 pm and offer an enjoyable musical experience for young people and their parents or grandparents!
Future Young People’s Concert’s are scheduled for February, April and May and information on each of these shows can be found by clicking here.
NOTE: Tickets to Symphonic Spooks were provided by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra