It was about two years ago that I happened to be at a homeschool conference here in the Chicago area. As I strolled up and down the aisles, browsing at all of the latest and greatest for home educators, I happened upon a vendor passing out cute little bookmarks with the Maestro Classics theme illustrated on each one. Hmm, what's this all about?, I wondered.
Well, Maestro Classics are a delightful collection of stories set to different pieces of classical music. Created by Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon, also known as the Magic Maestro, they were, and are, designed to entertain and educate children and adults, ages four and on up.
I had the opportunity to review their CD Peter and the Wolf this past month, and I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I was to receive this. I was pretty sure that my whole family would be just as thrilled, and even they exceeded my expectations.
Let me take some time now and tell you what you'll find when you try out a Maestro Classics story in music.
I already mentioned that I've been enjoying Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev.
With the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing the beautiful music, and creator Stephen Simon conducting, narrator Yadu- otherwise known as Dr. Konrad Czynski, tells the story of a young boy who, with the help of a few animal friends, captures a hungry wolf.
The CD begins with a little introduction to the story. Each character is represented by a specific musical instrument, and Yadu provides that information. For example, the bird in the story is represented by the flute, the duck by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, Peter's grandfather is the bassoon, the wolf by three french horns, and Peter by all of the strings.
As the music plays, Yadu narrates the story, and the instruments do a marvelous job in bringing the tale to life with great drama and emotion.
I have always enjoyed listening to audio stories, of course, back in my day, they were on those old fashioned record players ;).
The joy of them was that it was my own imagination that brought them to life, rather than silly characters and flashy costumes. Here, it is the instruments, that so magically transport the listener into the forest with Peter, and each instrument truly makes us see each particular animal in our mind's eye. I'm thinking of a specific part in the beginning where the narrator asks, Can't you hear the cats velvety paws in the clarinet? Yes! Yes I can!
Yadu does a fine job as he tells the story. He has a very nice way about him, relaxed and expressive. I'm sure you'll agree that some stories told for children are not so appealing for grown ups, but that's not the case here.
If the story was all there was to this CD, it would still be enjoyable, but there's even more to enjoy.
Immediately following the story, there is a biography of the composer, in this case, Sergei Prokofiev-hard to spell, and even harder to say! I really liked hearing of his background.
Following the biography, is a wonderful musical piece called A Russian Peter by Trio Voronezh, and then a bit more education about the story and the composer by Stephen Simon.
As the CD makes its way to the end, Bonnie Ward Simon "invites" the listener to what is called Grandfather's Party, another festive piece of music to enjoy.
That's what you'll find on the CD, but there's even a little more enclosed. A little booklet within includes a few puzzles, dot to dot activities, as well as pictures and information about some of the more uncommon instruments that are heard in this piece. Did you know that the Balalaika is a triangular guitar like instrument that can weigh up to 95 pounds? Or, that the Bayan is an accordion without the keyboard, and is also russian slang for an old joke about a mother-in-law?
You'll find that and more in this little book.
The Simon's have discovered a great way to educate young and old in classical music. Their love for what they do is contagious. I couldn't get enough of this product.
Well, how did my children like it? Love, love, loved it! We have listened to Peter and the Wolf nearly every day since we received it. I didn't know what to expect, but my 6 year old's imagination was immediately captured with the music for the wolf, which, again, was represented by the three french horns. Her eyes just danced with delight, and she described the hunter's music part as 'sneaky music'. Each time they listened, they became more engaged, and they now act out the piece with their own dance and choreography. Wonderful stuff.
Maestro Classics have several more titles available for purchase, and I can tell you that we will be adding them to our personal library. In fact, today I ordered Juanita the Spanish Lobster for my oldest child. She's been asking me if I will please, please order more, and you know what? I am sold! So, yes sweetie, I sure will.
Ages- 4 and up
Price: $16.98 for individual CD's - check their website for various titles. Also, right now they have a great sale going on- $45.00 for 3 CD's
** I received a free copy of Peter and the Wolf by Maestro Classics, and in exchange agreed to provide my honest opinion of it.