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Miss Ionarts Takes in NSO Teddy Bear Concert

Miss Ionarts pets the harp at the NSO Instrument Petting Zoo
Miss Ionarts has enjoyed the opera, children's concerts, and especially the ballet since making her debut as a pint-sized concert-goer last year at her first NSO Teddy Bear Concert. A return visit on Saturday morning may have been my last Teddy Bear Concert, now that Miss Ionarts will soon age out of the intended audience: so let this brief review serve as a general notice of my endorsement of this high-quality series of concerts for very small children at the Kennedy Center. Members of the National Symphony Orchestra -- oboist William Wielgus, flutist Aaron Goldman, and cellist Janet Frank -- put together a pleasing selection of music arranged for the combination of their instruments, around a charming story involving a tree that grows hats. As the players picked the hats from the tree and put them on, they told and enacted stories that led into each piece. Most importantly, no musical selection lasted very long, adding up to a child-appropriate length of 45 minutes and keeping little minds engaged with as much good humor and diverting variation as possible.

Miss Ionarts loves the elitist associations of classical music, always insisting on dressing up and wearing plenty of bling-bling (a tiara, necklace, and three over-sized rings on one hand this time). Not surprisingly, her favorite hat was the blue crown, which turned cellist Frank into an overbearing queen, serenaded by Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1. Other favorites included a bird hat with bright pink and purple feathers (that evoked a story of birds and a barking dog in a park, to the soundtrack of a Haydn trio) and the golden turban that transformed oboist Wielgus into a genie (accompanied by César Cui's Orientale, which reminded Miss Ionarts of the Arabian Dance from her beloved Nutcracker). When Wielgus dozed off under the sleeping hat, to the strains of de Falla's Nana, she heartily joined in with all the kids to yell, "Wake up, Bill!" The audience was one of the best behaved in memory, with many children spellbound by the story and music, prompting some parents to leave early with restless children (although, frankly, one of the best things about these concerts is that no one much minds the chatter -- let them interact, I say). A resounding bravo to the big hearts of the musicians and the volunteers of the ever-popular NSO Instrument Petting Zoo for helping to foster the next generation of classical music listeners.

This concert repeats this coming Saturday (May 9, 11 am and 1 pm), in the Kennedy Center Theater Lab.

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