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A Parent's Guide: Listening to Classical Music- Part 1

This post is the first in a series called "A Parent's Guide: Listening to Classical Music," which is designed to help parents discover, enjoy and discuss classical music with their children. More posts on this topic coming soon!

Classical music can be the perfect starting point for connecting with your kids. But the sheer volume of classical music makes it difficult to know where to begin. We've got a series of posts coming up which will inspire you to infuse classical music into your everyday routine; spooky classical music for Halloween, holiday music, music that tells a story, and more. But first, we're giving you a few basic pieces to place you on the path of listening to classical music, with some fun anecdotes to listen for along the way. Switch on these tried and true musical selections during dinner, free play or homework time to add a little refinement- and perhaps creative inspiration- to your family's day.

1. Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel

As a parent, you might only associate this piece with weddings, but to a child, it is brand new. Enjoy it through the fresh ears of your children. If they can pick out the cello line, ask them how many notes are played before the pattern repeats (this is called the canon). HINT: The cello plays these notes as a solo at the beginning, then repeats them 28 times!

2. "Moonlight" Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven

This piece was given its nickname because of the languid first movement. This is a great piece to discuss how music can communicate feelings. Does it sound sad, relaxed, or haunting? Let them decide. (For a riveting performance of the stormy third movement, click here).

3. Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

No list of children's classical music would be complete without this piece. It's best known for its capabilities to introduce the instruments of the orchestra to children because Britten highlights each section of the orchestra (woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion), as well as each individual instrument. See how many instruments they (and you!) can identify, then check your answers here.

4. William Tell Overture- Rossini

If you'd like to get your kids interested in opera, but they aren't ready for soprano arias just yet, this is a great place to start. Here is a short excerpt from the end of the overture to Rossini's opera, William Tell. You may recognize it from various uses in pop culture. Be careful- you may find yourself resisting the urge to gallop off into the sunset!

5. Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

This piece combines elements of jazz and classical music, and might make you want to dust off your clarinet to give that opening solo a try. Blue is typically the colour associated with jazz, but ask your kids what colours they hear. Their answers might surprise you.

Bonus Track- Brudestykke from Sonderho Bridal Trilogy (traditional Danish Folk Song)

Toronto's very own Project Mainstream is an ensemble devoted to making classical music more accessible to people who haven't yet discovered the genre. Their most recent recording is Brudestykke, a movement from Sonderho Bridal Trilogy. It's a traditional Danish folk song, arranged for string quartet by the Danish String Quartet. Make sure you watch this video with your kids so they can see how much fun the musicians have with their random acts of kindness! Find more downloadable tracks from this irresistible ensemble here.

We can't wait to share more kid-friendly classical music with you! Next up, spooky classical music, just in time for Halloween!

Rebecca Lane is the director, founder, and owner of Upper Beaches Music School. She teaches at the school on Saturdays, but most days you can find her chasing after her three young children, one of whom is in the Suzuki violin program at UBMS.

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