I had a lovely Sunday afternoon, enjoying the semi-staged, narrative-style performance of “The Music Man” — the first venture in a multi-year collaboration of the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Theatre.
Think charming sets with lattice-laced blue and yellow porchfronts sporting charming screen doors. A barbershop quartet and gentlemen donning newsboy caps.
Think tall white pillars topped with spring bouquets of gentle pastel tones. Ladies wearing crisp white blouses buttoned staunchly with cameos and adorned with large hats boasting fantastic feathers.
We’ve been enjoying Phoenix Symphony concerts as a family since about the time our oldest could spell the word “symphony” — and they never disappoint.
Once we saw them perform while an artist created a giant original painting on stage. Another time they performed cartoon-theme music with cartoons rolling on a huge screen behind the musicians. The Phoenix Symphony has always excelled at family-friendly music and performance art.
I’m pleased to present a sneak peek at the 2010/2011 “Target Family Series” — followed by a look at pre-concert activities for children.
Enchanted Tales: Brundibar and Peter & the Wolf. Oct 10 at 2:30pm. Special guest: Phoenix Boys Choir. Both folk tales follow friends who come together in the face of those who bully or menace others. And “Peter & the Wolf,” with various animals represented by different instruments, is the perfect introduction to orchestral music.
Hocus Pocus Pops. Oct 30 at 2:30pm. An afternoon of “tricks, treats and suspenseful music” including a murder mystery for children — Lemony Snickett’s “The Composer is Dead” — which also teaches children about instruments of the orchestra. Kids and grown-ups are encouraged to come in costume.
Orchestra from Planet X. Jan 29, 2011. Two “devious but somewhat bumbling space creatures” attempt to take over the concert as the symphony plays music ranging from “Symphony X” by Don Gillis to John Williams’ “Flying Theme” from the movie “E.T.”
Cirque de la Symphonie. Feb 26, 2011 at 2:30pm. “Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers and strongmen” perform as the symphony plays both popular music and classical masterpieces.
The Rhythms of the Earth. March 19, 2001 at 2:30pm. A concert dedicated to “our amazing planet” from desert to jungle — to include music from the “Grand Canyon Suite,” “Songs the Plants Taught Us” and more. Children leave with seeds to plant as the community prepares to celebrate Earth Day 2011.
Pre-concert activities start in the Symphony Hall foyer an hour before each of the above concerts — and feature activities ranging from storytime and arts & crafts to a musical instrument “petting zoo” where children can try out various instruments. The cello and horns were always big hits with my kiddos — who went on to play flute, piano, saxophone and violin between them.
I’ve also chaperoned many an elementary school field trip to the symphony, but hadn’t realized until I visited their website recently that they also offer programs that send musicians to perform at schools.
I was struck today by just how magical the venue can be for children–with a perfect blend of formality that makes the occasion feel special and a more casual ambiance that still feels warm and welcoming.
We’ve also experienced the music and musings of individual symphony members, who chat and perform periodically in venues like bookstores where children can see and hear just a small number of instruments up close (and for free).
Lizabeth still recalls many other experiences with the Phoenix Symphony — seeing friends play in the “side by side” concert coupling the Phoenix Symphony with the Phoenix Youth Symphony, hearing Tchaikovsky’s music as Ballet Arizona performs “The Nutcracker” each year.
My favorite Phoenix Symphony memories are of lazy afternoons or evenings when Lizabeth and I would go to hear musical greats like Itzhak Perlman. At first I fretted when she only made it through half of a concert before falling asleep on my shoulder.
But then I realized it was a rare and special gift — Lizabeth drifting off to slumber amidst the tender sounds of the symphony, and me feeling the warmth of her cheek nuzzled against my neck.
There’s really nothing quite like it.
Note: Intermissions at Symphony Hall have a charm all their own — with impressive chandeliers and other interesting design elements to explore, a gift boutique with diverse offerings (my favorites this time around were miniature animals playing various instruments) and a choice of snack bars (including one with over-the-moon cheesecake and chocolate-dipped strawberries).
Coming up: My “first love” in theater is rekindled
Ballet Arizona photo by Rosalie O’Connor