Music, music everywhere! And it makes the day go smoother. Maestro Classics is a company that produces CDs of various musical selections that capture the imagination and joy of youngsters. We have been using two of their CDs for this review – My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. We are super pleased with the product and all that it has inspired At Home.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice –
Do you know the story of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice? A young student of the sorcerer is left in charge of a simple task (filling the well with water from the river) while the sorcerer leaves. The apprentice is lazy and curious, which turns out to be a bad combination. He remembers part of what the sorcerer does but not the whole thing. He gets the broom started on his job of filling the well and then goes to sleep. When the apprentice wakes up, the room is flooded and he can’t remember how to stop the broom. He tries chopping it up with an ax, only to find that this created many more brooms carrying water. The sorcerer come back and, disappointed, fixes the mess and sends the apprentice out.
The music on the Maestro Classics CD is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a very high quality orchestra, so it is a very good rendition of the music by Paul Dukas. The CD comes packaged with a booklet of information and activities. Some of the information teaches about the composer, Paul Dukas. I found it interesting to learn that Dukas has very little surviving music because he was such a perfectionist that if he didn’t like the piece, he burned it! It included information about the original poem that Dukas used as his inspiration for this tone poem (or symphonic poem).
The CD is not only a fantastic recording of the piece but it breaks down musical themes in the piece in a way that the girls were able to hear and understand how Dukas used the repeated themes to evoke special feelings and ideas. It is perhaps the best example I have ever seen of a recording that teaches this concept. (I taught music for years and wish I had known about this company for my classroom back then.) The repeated performance of the music and themes is just what children need to understand the piece of music better and recognize it next time they hear it.
This music lends itself very well to finding many other activities that emphasize this story and the sounds found in the music. The excellent way in which the CD was created and recorded opens wide the door to a whole unit using the tone poem and information from the CD and booklet, as well as the story, instrument play, and tons of other activities.
My Name Is Handel: The Story of Water Music –
Music for the King of England? Yes, please. A floating party? Of course. Royalty being surprised? Sounds like a good show to me. But wait, this is The Story of Handel’s Water Music. The story is of how Handel came to be known as an Englishman, when he was born in Germany, and how he came to write this spectacular piece of music that surprised and pleased a king. Or at least that is the way much of history tells it and it makes for a very good story.
Water Music is a quite bit different than The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. While the piece by Dukas is short enough to perform as a whole and include some educational material, Water Music in not. To educate the students about Water Music, Maestro Classics uses some of the more familiar themes and movements from the larger work. While one is based on an old poem and is a symphonic poem itself, the other is more like a symphony, with multiple movements that follow a set form. While Dukas wrote very few pieces, Handel wrote many, many pieces.
Maestro Classics does a great job of telling the story of Handel and how his Water Music came to be. Throughout the story, there is a good deal of music performed, showing off the highlights of the entire work. This piece lends itself well to study of the orchestra, England, composing, Handel, and more. The booklet included with the CD includes a biography of Handel, information on some of the churches in London, the orchestra during Handel’s time, travel during Handel’s time, information on the harpsichord and organ, and some information about the barge that Handel’s orchestra is said to have first performed this piece upon. Again, there is lots of information to open up discussion and learn a lot about music and more.
The one thing I didn’t like about this CD is something that I know others really like. One of the more audibly distinguishable music themes was used and words were set to it in an attempt to help youngsters recognize the music and remember that the composer was Handel. Lots of folks really like this type of learning help; I dislike it tremendously. However, if this is all that I dislike, it is not a big deal. I can skip over that track with no problem (and I do!).
How We Used These CDs –
These are two very different CDs and we used them very differently. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was the one we listened to, stopped, talked about, turned back on, listened to while doing other activities, etc. It was very interactive for us. We used it as a jumping off point for an entire unit study.
Water Music was less of an interactive one. For this CD, we mostly turned it on and let it play. After it was over, we talked about it. We turned it on more than once and did repeated listenings of the story and music. We may use it soon as the starting point for a full unit but it did not energetically lead us there at this time.
Additional Educational Materials –
Maestro Classics has gathered together a resource page with additional educational materials that might be of interest to homeschoolers and other educators. Please visit their Educational Materials page to see what all they have available there.
What You Need to Know –
Maestro Classics has a variety of selections available for your family to choose from. Visit their website at http://www.MaestroClassicsDirect.com. Stories In Music helps parents make classical music more accessible for young children. The company indicates that these are best used for ages five and up or by families; I will tell you that I strongly believe that this is appropriate for anyone, of any age, though the retention of the story or the details about the composer is something that preschoolers may not do well. You can choose to order CDs for $16.98 or MP3 downloads, with PDF booklets when available, for $9.98. The London Philharmonic Orchestra creates a lovely recording for each of the story pieces in the Stories In Music collection. Your family will quickly fall in love with classical music using Maestro Classics.
To Find Out More –
You can find out more about Maestro Classics by visiting their website. You can find Maestro Classics on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also visit the TOS Review Crew, whose banner is at the bottom of this post, to read additional reviews about some of the other pieces available in this series: Casey at the Bat and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.
Meanwhile, we will be continuing to study classical music and composers. At Home.