The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra offers a series of three different concert experiences for elementary school children. I attended the “Orchestra Rocks” concert on April 21st. The content for this concert was created through the Carnegie Link Up program, and was designed to have students sing or play the recorder from their seats in the audience. And, they did just that!
Held at the new Bella Concert Hall, groups from six different schools as well as home-schooled children, filled almost all the seats. Two thirds of these students had never attended a live orchestral concert. Greeted by an on-stage actor, they were introduced to the sections of the orchestra by one of the musicians. Then, the conductor came sprinting in to make the orchestra rock. At times accompanied by three excellent vocalists, or with three drummers setting the rhythm at the front of the stage, the orchestra offered many rousing, familiar tunes.
Overhead, the simple music was projected so that the students could play along. They also were able to choose where to put beat accents on the overhead score to which they subsequently clapped and stamped their feet. The Emcee was careful to explain the music in common day language and to draw the links between the classical repertoire and pop names and composers. The projections also included pictures that underscored the mood of the music.
It was clear that the teachers had made good use of the curriculum guide and workbook which gave the students confidence to participate. However, it was really the experience of the live music that energized them. One lad must have conducted the entire program, waving his hands in the air as he tried to follow along with the actual conductor. Even the teachers sang along and clapped. There were clearly no discipline issues here.
As everyone spilled out of the hall, they were speaking with great animation and when asked how they liked the show, they chorused about how great the concert was and how much fun they had had.
Sponsoring an educational experience such as this is a privilege. And, for the school children, it is an opportunity they never will forget.