The average chart star has a longevity of about three years, occasionally more, often less. The average child has an attention span of about three minutes. So persuading them to listen to music which not only lasts ten times longer than your average pop song, but was also written by somebody who’s been on the scene for three hundred years, is no easy task.
A task, however, which the Artistic Director of Children’s Classic Concerts has approached with nothing short of zeal for the past three decades. A familiar face to those old enough to remember 70’s kids TV shows Seeing And Doing and Rub A Tub Tub, Atarah Ben-Tovim has been overseeing the concert series for six years, and there’s no sign of her enthusiasm slipping. ‘l’ve been doing children’s concerts all over the world for 35 years,’ lays Atarah exuberantly, ‘and I’m still fanatical about the flute and about classical music.’
Trying to pass on that enthusiasm is the real challenge however, and experience has shown that the easiest way to bridge the generation gap is to use the children’s own language. Relating classical music to their world by comparing an orchestra with the average rock combo, featuring strings, percussion, keyboard and the occasional brass section often helps, although Atarah still asserts that ‘watching a large orchestra is, in some ways, more thrilling than seeing a rock concert.
In a bid to keep things fresh and modern, this year’s series will only feature work by composers of the 1900s, or as Atarah puts it ‘you had to die this century to get in’. So it’s goodbye to old favourites Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn and hello to the likes of Prokofiev, Vaughan Williams, Edward McGuire and Sally Beamish.
As usual, there’s lots of audience participation, quizzes and a chance to meet the orchestra, and if you’ve been before that’s no excuse for not going again. ‘No two concerts are ever the same,’ says Atarah. ‘Even if the programme is identical the why we present it will vary from audience to audience.’
If it is your first time, prepare to be bewitched by Atarah’s infectious passion for the genre.
‘About a third of the audience haven’t been to a concert before, and any child who listens to classical music even if it’s only for an hour, has their soul and mind enriched.’