Philippe the Penguin is at it again.
The playful rascal's screen adventures help kids ages 3 to 6 enjoy classical music -- and when Philippe's slideshow comes to Tilles Center for the Performing Arts in Brookville on Sunday, kids will see his newest story told to live music played by five members of the New York Philharmonic.
This is the first time the Philharmonic is bringing its Very Young People's Concert to Long Island, says Theodore Wiprud, vice president, education, for the Philharmonic. "I would think if this goes well it would become an annual event," Wiprud says.
Mikaela Walker, 38, of Smithtown, purchased tickets for herself and her 5-year-old daughter, Carrie, as soon as she saw the event advertised in a Tilles brochure.
"We've been trying to expose her to music since she was very little," Walker says of Carrie, who is in kindergarten. "If you start them young, they'll take that with them as they get older. It helps with learning and with being a well-rounded person."
'KOOKY AND ENGAGING'
The show begins with a welcoming piece, says Rebecca Young, who is associate pricipal viola player for the Philharmonic but takes on the role of master of ceremonies for the Very Young People's Concerts. For this show, it's a Dvorak Slavonic Dance arrangement.
She'll make her entrance on stage in a wacky way. "In the past I have entered on a scooter, I've ridden a hobby horse around, I've juggled and tap-danced my way onstage. Anything for a laugh," Young says.
She'll interact with the audience; she might have a child come up on stage to conduct, or she'll have the whole audience playing imaginary violins. In this show, kids will learn how music is built layer upon layer by having one instrument at a time join in until they are all playing, hence this show's title of "Building Blocks." The show's quintet includes a violin, two violas, a cello and a French horn.
The second part of the show is the "heart" of the program, with slide illustrations and a story inspired by a Mozart horn quintet, Young says. A bear moves into the igloo next door to Philippe, and Philippe tries to help his new playmate find his lost teddy bear. Young tells the story while slides illustrate Philippe's tale and the chamber quintet performs.
Young says the show is more concerned with being entertaining and not so focused on making sure kids go home and say, "I learned about major and minor chords today."
"Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously in classical music," Young says. "This is a way to lighten it up and make it fun, and make people want to check out some more."
Echoes violinist Yulia Ziskel, one of the ensemble: "It's a lot of fun for us to let go a little bit." And Richard Deane, who plays French horn, says he enjoys the reaction of the kids. "There's so much joy and life in their involvement in what we're doing. Their reactions are unpredictable; they are so completely in the moment."
Before and after the show, kids can learn more about the instruments, and even have a chance to try to play them.
The New York Philharmonic has a history of trying to engage young people in classical music. It began concerts geared to kids ages 6 to 12 -- called Young People's Concerts -- in 1924. In the 1960s, they were famously led by Leonard Bernstein and televised. Those full-orchestra events are one-hour educational concerts.
The more intimate Very Young People's Concerts for kids ages 3 to 6 were launched 10 years ago as a way to engage kids too young to sit in a hall of 2,500 or more people far away from the full 100-piece orchestra, Wiprud says.
Each season, the orchestra offers a series of three Very Young People's Concerts performed in Merkin Concert Hall in Manhattan, which, like Tilles' Hillwood Recital Hall, has several hundred seats. The shows are put together in consultation with Teachers College at Columbia University using the latest thinking about how young kids interact with music, Wiprud says.
WHAT New York Philharmonic Very Young People's Concert: "Building Blocks" for children ages 3 to 6
WHEN | WHERE 1 and 3 p.m. March 29 at the Hillwood Recital Hall, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post, 720 Northern Blvd. (Route 25A), Brookville. Pre- and post-concert events for ticket holders take place in the Goldsmith Atrium, beginning at 12:45 and 2:45 p.m.