January 26, 2005

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Classical Music: NH Philharmonic stages family concerts March 12, 19

Performances in Concord, Keene designed with young people in mind

By Jeff Rapsis  jrapsis@hippopress.com

Preview: Perfect family outings, this pair of Sunday afternoon concerts is a great chance for families with kids (especially those aged 5 to 9) to experience live music together in an audience-friendly concert. The pieces are fun and listenable (including a charming and little-known piece about an elephant), and the program is designed to encourage kids to open themselves to the world of live music. Among the highlights is the popular "instrument petting zoo," which gives kids a chance to come on stage and see, hear (and sometimes try to play) the instruments close-up. As a bonus, NHPR talk show host Laura Knoy will host and narrate each concert.

When: Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m. at the Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord (225-1111). Repeat performance Sunday, March 19 at 2 p.m. at the Colonial Theater, downtown Keene (352-2033). Admission $8 for students, $13 for adults.

Why attend: In New Hampshire, there are precious few local opportunities for families to experience music together; in the past few years, one of the best and most consistent efforts has been that of the New Hampshire Philharmonic. Under the leadership of conductor Anthony Princiotti and executive director Paul Hoffman, the orchestra has reached out to new audiences in many ways, including these concerts for families.

Newly expanded to two concerts this year (up from one in previous seasons), the Philharmonic's family concerts are among the brightest events on the concert calendar—full of good music, surprises, and genuine fun for all. It's always a treat to hear the bracing music of Francis Poulenc, one of the best and most underrated composers of the 20th century. His pieces are always full of bright colors, striking melodies, and a great sense of rhythm.

And having NHPR's Laura Knoy on hand this year is a real coup—she's one of the few media personalities in the state to show any real interest in classical music. It's a concert worth checking out, even if you don't have kids.

Text of press release below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE PHILHARMONIC PRESENTS BABAR

NHPR’s Laura Knoy to narrate the family concert
Activity book and instrument petting zoo cap the afternoon

MANCHESTER, NH -- The New Hampshire Philharmonic presents a musical retelling of the classic children’s story The Story of Babar, in a concert narrated by Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio.

The family concerts take place on March 12 at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord and on March 19 at the Colonial Theatre in Keene. The concerts are designed for children ages 5 to 9 and their parents or teachers.

The concert features The Story of Babar, a musical retelling of Jean de Brunhoff’s classic story for children, with music by Francis Poulenc.

The story will be narrated by NHPR radio host Laura Knoy. Knoy recently commented on her involvement in the project. “I’ve always loved the story of Babar, so I was delighted to be asked to narrate the story with the Philharmonic.”

Knoy described the story. “The story itself is a charming whimsy, about a little elephant named Babar who leaves the jungle after a family tragedy. Babar arrives in Paris (where else but) where he is adopted by a lovely elderly lady who outfits him in stylish clothes and a car. Babar eventually leaves Paris to return to his jungle home, where he is crowned king of all the elephants.”

Music Director Anthony Princiotti commented, “From a purely musical point of view, it is a winning choice. The work includes dreamy music that describes being rocked to sleep by your mother, boisterous music about going out on the town to eat your fill of pastries, what a tummy ache feels like, how it feels to be crowned king or queen, and, finally, what it sounds like when the stars come out at night as you’re drifting off to sleep. Poulenc created music for the story almost page-by-page, and provides a rich tapestry of moods and settings.”

The piece’s origins should ring true with parents of energetic and sometimes willful schoolchildren. Princiotti described the origins of the piece. “In the late 1930s Francis Poulenc was visiting his cousins. Poulenc was a brilliant improviser at the keyboard, and was entertaining his relatives with something probably fairly dense. One of his little nieces, a girl of perhaps five, walked up to the keyboard and said in essence, “I’m bored – here, improvise this instead.” And with that, the little girl placed on Poulenc’s piano the story by Brunhoff. Poulenc immediately began to improvise melodies to the story. Years later, the niece got in touch with Poulenc and asked him to create a more complete version of the piece, which he did. The orchestra version is based on that more complete rendition.”

As a core part of the experience for children, the Philharmonic has developed an activity book for young concert-goers, in coordination with the educational staff of New Hampshire Public Television, the Colonial Theatre and the Capitol Center. The guide is a multi-layered introduction for young concert-goers to the story and the music. The book walks children (and their parents and teachers) through a set of personal drawings in response to the story and music; in effect, the children create their own illustrated picture book in response to the musical version of the story. The activity book is available for free download at the Philharmonic’s website at www.nhphil.org. Hard copies are available from the Colonial Theatre and the Capitol Center. RAM Printing has generously donated printing of the guide.

The Philharmonic’s Executive Director Paul Hoffman spoke about the importance of the activity book to the day. “The activity book is a way for the children to weave themselves into the story, and into the music. We think that music can help children express things that they might not yet (or ever!) have words for. We hope that the book will help children gain a sense that music can help them express these important feelings.”

As a bonus, at the end of the concert, children will be invited to participate in an instrument petting zoo. Under the close supervision of orchestra members scattered about the performance hall and on stage, children will have the chance to hold and play the various instruments of the orchestra. Hoffman noted, “The instrument petting zoos at the end of our family concerts are some of the most popular events of our season. Many of the musicians of the orchestra began playing at quite an early age, so they are delighted to see the joy of these young kids getting an equally young start.” Depending on the crowd size, a number of the more patient children have been known to try out nearly every instrument by the end of the half-hour ‘zoo’.

The family concerts are being sponsored by the sponsors of the Philharmonic’s educational programs: Putnam Foundation, Ramsey McCluskey Family Foundation, Target Stores, Shaw’s Supermarkets, and the Rotary Clubs of Manchester and Queen City, as well as other generous business sponsors.

Additional funding for the Philharmonic comes from the Frederick Smyth Institute and Peerless Insurance, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, Byrne Foundation and the individual members of the Philharmonic Society. Key services are donated to the Philharmonic by RAM Printing, Push That Point, Clear Channel, HippoPress and NHPTV. Music lovers are invited to visit the New Hampshire Philharmonic online at www.nhphil.org.

Tickets, priced at $8 for children and $13 for adults, are available from the box offices of the Colonial Theatre (603) 352-2033 and the Capitol Center (603) 225-1111.

More information, including a downloadable version of the activity book, is available at the Philharmonic website at www.nhphil.org.

The New Hampshire Philharmonic connects people to the power of classical music, through compelling performances and educational programs. The Philharmonic is the state’s oldest orchestra, tracing its roots to 1905. The orchestra serves as a living laboratory, bringing together the finest student, amateur and professional musicians from around the state in engaging performances of the core repertoire. A capstone of the Philharmonic’s youth education programs is its fourth annual youth concerto competition..

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