Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Schoolhouse Review: Maestro Classics

Children love music.  It's true.  I can't think of one child that just didn't like music.  There may be kinds of music they say they don't like, or they may shy away from singing the music, but there is something about music that everyone loves.  When children are young you can expand and grow their love for music, or you can narrow it.  For the life of me I don't know why we think young children need specialized music geared solely for them.  Kids songs are cute and have their place, but we can do better.  Maestro Classics certainly has.  They have found a way to bring classical music and symphony orchestras down to a level where children not only listen to it but learn to love it.  That is why I am excited to share my latest review of two Maestro Classics CDS.  My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and Casey at the Bat.

Maestro Classics recognizes that children today are not being exposed to classical music and have found a fun and engaging way to change that.  By putting stories to music they help the children understand that music is much more than a tune.  A song is much more than catchy phrases.  Music, with or without words, can tell a touching story.  These CDs are geared toward children and their parents.  I can attest to the fact that parents will like them too.  Not being schooled in classical music myself I too have learned a lot and appreciate more of it. Each CD has the story to music along with many extras including information about the story, composer or orchestra and a sing or play along.  They also come with a colorful booklet full of extra information and activities on various topics related to the music.

We began with My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music.  This CD is for ages 5 and up and families.

This is one that I was unfamiliar with.  I know the Messiah, but I did not know this one.  I loved how it shared how the music came to be.  How you learned why the piece was written.  This music was played on the water, literally.  The orchestra played aboard a boat to entertain King George I.  Some of you may have known that, we did not.  The cool part is how we learned it.  The Story of Water Music is a story of just that.  How and Why Handel chose to do this.  Intertwined with both narration and beautiful music the story begins to unfold before your very eyes, or in this case your ears.  Gess enjoyed listening and closing her eyes as I believe she envisioned the scene before her.

Sometimes the music would play and become so engaging that she would get up and dance.

Each of the CDs comes with a booklet that has activities and offers further information about the music. They also contain some written music inside of them. This one had a piece of Handel's music with words added to it.  The lyrics were added in to help the children remember a bit of the theme of the story.  Gess loves singing along to that.  We also learned more about Handel himself, what orchestras were like then, what churches and travel were like in his time, and information about various instruments.  The organ was fascinating.  We have one in our church but its not a massive pipe organ like some have.  Next week my as my son graduates from college he is going to take Gess on campus and show her the one there.  He at least sent us pictures for now.  Now that's an organ!

Casey at the Bat was a bit more energetic and fun, but it was also just as educational. This is for all ages.

For this CD they took the famous poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and put it to music. After the musical version of the poem they explain more about how it came to be so famous.  They also explained how music can enhance a story and even tell one using no words.  Listening to the Flight of the Rabbit you learn to recognize that the instruments are mimicking various animals and reactions.  It was funny because this last weekend we went to a concert choir performance where they also had a recorder concerto.  During the Flight of the Rabbit they mentioned how the recorder was making the sound of the bird.  As soon as she saw the program she asked me if the recorders were going to be birds!

Then there was the march.  Gess had to get up and do this one, and of course because of the topic, she had to grab her bat!

The booklet with this one had more activities and less reading than the other one.  Gess struggled with some of the puzzles because they are small.  Well, they have to fit inside the CD case.  She managed most of them though.  Some were baseball related.  Since we aren't huge sports people Gess really didn't know a lot about baseball.  One day she ran over to her computer with her booklet in her hand.  When I went to see what she was up to I found that she was looking up information to answer questions in the booklet such as how much does a baseball weigh and how many stitches does it have? I was thrilled she knew how to find that out on her own.

They also have tons of ideas about how to add further study in by using their Homeschool Music Curriculum Guides.  There you can take the topic on the CD and use it to learn about history, science, geography, language arts, art, music, and math.

This is not my first experience with Maestro Classics.  I reviewed their version of Swan Lake a couple of years ago and loved it so much we also purchased Peter and the Wolf.  I just knew that I would love these two as much as I did those.  I was right.  I wish that I had learned more about classical music when I was young, but with the help of these I am doing a better job with my daughter.

Maestro Classics CDS are available for sale on their website. My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and Casey at the Bat sell for $16.98 each. They also have many other selections and offer bundle packages and MP3 versions as well.  To learn more visit their website or see what other members of the crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.

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