Kids get up close with orchestra

Jazz for Family event allows children to get their hands on instruments, writes Verna Yu

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 April, 2013, 10:44am

If your child enjoys music, getting up close to an orchestra and meeting players is likely to be an eye-opening experience. An encounter with a "musical petting zoo" will make it even more memorable. There will be opportunities for both at the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's upcoming Jazz for Family concert.

The programme prominently features the trumpet, and Raff Wilson, the orchestra's director of artistic planning, believes many children will love its brassy and bold sound.

Australian trumpeter James Morrison and Hong Kong guitarist Eugene Pao will be joined by Sylvain Gagnon on double bass and Anthony Fernandes on the drums to play jazz favourites including Jerry Herman's Hello Dolly! and Duke Ellington's It Don't Mean a Thing. Budding musicians can also download the music score of Joseph Winner's Little Brown Jug from the orchestra's website to practice and bring their own instrument for the performance on the day.

For many children, the "musical petting zoo" will probably be the highlight of the event, as it was at the Baroque for Family concert earlier this month.

This is when they will be able to wander around in the foyer after the performance to see string, brass and percussion players demonstrate their instruments and explain how they work. And little hands are encouraged to touch the instruments they have just heard on stage.

The idea of the children's concerts is to provide a fun way for the whole family to get closer to the orchestra, Wilson says.

"If someone is curious about playing an instrument, it's difficult to provide them with a choice, but if you get to choose your favourite in the petting zoo, that will hopefully open the door to more people studying an instrument."

After the baroque concert, youngsters had the chance to bang on drums, pluck strings (gently) and see how a giant seashell and a home-made horn made of rubber garden hose and plastic funnel fitted with a trumpet mouthpiece could play beautiful melodies.

The concert was a fun event aimed at encouraging children to explore and enjoy music. The diverse programme featured relatively short, lively pieces by J.S. Bach or modern composers inspired by him - for instance Percy Grainger's Blithe Bells influenced by Bach's famous Sheep May Safely Graze from the Hunting Cantata and Lennon and McCartney's Blackbird inspired by Bach's Bourée in E Minor.

Children were encouraged to bring their own instruments to play along with Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring.

But while Bach's music is a staple for young musicians around the world, most in Hong Kong are less familiar with jazz. So Wilson hopes the Jazz for Family event will help broaden their horizons.

"It's a big, wide world of music out there, and children actually have the most open ears. You can play them any kind of music and they will take it at face value and that's wonderful," he says. "They don't put on labels the way we do."

The baroque and jazz performances are the only two family concerts scheduled for this season but Wilson says the orchestra may stage others depending on the response.

Judging by how impressed my five-year-old was at the first, I certainly hope there will be more. It was a sell-out event that drew an audience of more than 2,000, and tickets are fast going for the jazz event.

Jazz for Family, HK Philharmonic Orchestra, May 19, 3pm, HK Cultural Centre Concert Hall, 10 Salisbury Rd, TST, HK$120, HK$180 Urbtix