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Cowboys, Bumblebees and Witches: music for wee ones

10 August 2020

The wonder of being a child means you don't get preconceived ideas of opera being posh or classical music being challenging; instead you see things at face value. If a song sounds like a bumble bee you are naturally delighted if some music makes you want to stomp your tiny toes up and down - fantastic. You wouldn't really call yourself an aficionado because you’re five and you don't know what it means (if you do we’re impressed.) At Welsh National Opera we glorify in the gumption of little ones and trust their taste in music implicitly.

Most people know the famous opening lines, ‘In order to show you how a big symphony orchestra is put together, Benjamin Britten has written a big piece of music…’ to Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This piece was championed by the likes of Leonard Bernstein whose Young People's Concerts at the New York Philharmonic are the longest-running series of family concerts of classical music in the world. But you don’t have to go to a concert at the Phil to introduce your little ones to the spectacular world of classical music.

You can create your own concerts in your kitchen; all you need is a speaker and phone, maybe some pots and pans for drums. Music that tells a story like the William Tell Overture where you can visualise becoming a cowboy and the horses riding off into the sunset is perfect to introduce the youngsters to, especially if they see you pretending to ride around on a makeshift broomstick horse. Speaking of broomsticks another excellent choice from the opera world is the Hocus Pocus song from Hansel and Gretel or if that’s too scary, The Can-Can is universally known to throw a smile on your face or a leg up in the air.

If you have a blooming dancer in the family, ballet inspiration in the form of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy can effortlessly help those spins, whirls and twirls. If you have a budding singer in the ranks Bizet’s Carmen is the show for them with massive hits such as Habanera; the crowning glory however being when the chorus of children mock the soldiers with the catchy tune Avec la garde montante. With bonus points for learning French! So whatever your mini-me is into there is something for everyone in classical music and with games and activities WNO’s Play Opera is the perfect place to start.