One of the greatest pleasures on earth for me is sitting down with no distractions and listening to a fantastic piece of music. This developed in me from a young age when my parents would put music on in the car on long journeys.
In those days, it would be a slightly battered tape which occasionally jumped if the car hit a bump in the road.
I can distinctly remember that wonderful feeling of watching life speed by me to a soundtrack of imaginative and creative sounds.
As funding continues to be cut from music education in schools it is becoming increasingly more important that we, as parents, integrate the joy of music into our children's lives and continue a dialogue with them about it.
So, here are my top 5 pieces of music to inspire your kids minds, introduce them to the delights of different instruments and genres and provoke some great family discussions.
1. Peter and The Wolf
In 1936, Sergei Prokofiev wrote the music to "Peter and the Wolf". The story is played out by different instruments in the orchestra as the narrator tells the tale.
Each character in the story is represented by a different instrument, which is a great way for children to begin to recognize the different sounds and timbres inherent in an orchestra.
There are some fantastic versions of this story, narrated by voices such as David Bowie, Boris Karloff, Ben Kingsley, Sting, an updated version set in Los Angeles with Alice Cooper and a jazz big band version with David Tennant. The version I loved as a child had the dulcet tones of Sean Connery narrating and it still makes me smile today when I hear it.
2. Jazz For Kids
This is a firm family favourite in our car. Filled with cheeky, fun versions of children's songs, played by jazz legend's such as Ella Fitzgerald, Slim Gaillard, Louis Armstrong and Blossom Dearie.
This is a great chance for children to feel the syncopation of Jazz rhythms and listen to the different instrumentation involved. It always provokes sing a longs and thigh slapping beats in our car on long journeys.
3. Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra
Written by Benjamin Britten in 1945, this piece of music is played to the listener by the whole orchestra and then is broken down into the different sections, before being built back up again.
This is a great way of getting inside the workings of an orchestra and understanding the component parts needed to compose orchestral music. You are also guided through the different variations with a narrator (again, I had Sean Connery narrating this on the B side of my lovingly overplayed cassette!).
4. Film Soundtracks
This is always a brilliant way to get kids listening to music, as they will have already had their imagination's opened by watching the film first.
There are so many magical film composers, but John Williams is always a great place to start. He's written the music to some of the best loved family movies, including Star Wars, E.T, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and many many more.
5. Carnival Of The Animals
Written by Camille Saint-Saens at the end of the 19th Century, this is a musical procession of different animals including Donkeys, Cuckoos, Swans and more unusually, Fossils.
This is one of our favourite tea time soundtracks. We have endless discussions about what animals are in the procession, what instruments sound like animals and sometimes we even feel the need to do demonstrations of how the animals move with the music.
Other Listening Ideas...
Of course, there are so many more pieces that your kids will love and the input that you give them from your own musical likes and dislikes will be critical to their development. The more music you can play them from different cultures, countries and genres, the more open they will be to different music.
Try having a playlist night once a week where you listen to new music, maybe chat about it while you listen over a family dinner. Listening in the car is always a good option and Saturday morning kitchen dance offs are extremely popular in our house too.
For some extra ideas, here are a few Music Artists albums that were made especially for kids to introduce them to Blues, Folk, Country, Jazz and World music -
LeadBelly - Sings For Children
Wally Whyton - Childrens Songs of Woodie Guthrie's
Ricki Lee Jones - Pop, Pop
Johnny Cash - Children's Album
Taj Mahal - Songs For The Young At Heart
Take your kids to see some live music
Some of the best moments I've had with my son have been seeing him completely captivated by live music. The excitement of feeling a band or orchestra's energy can be electrifying to a child and observing first hand how someone is playing the Bass or how a singer works a crowd can really ignite kids imaginations and see how they could learn to play.
I leave you with one of my favourite orchestras, the lively and energetic Simon Bolivar Orchestra from Venezuela playing 'Mambo' by Leonard Bernstein...who says Classical Music is boring...
Bev Lee Harling is a Songwriter, Performer, Educator and Mum to a 5 year old boy who is currently listening to The Clash, Beck, Ella Fitzgerald and Carnival of the Animals.
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