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Concert Hall Not Just for Adults Anymore

We welcome this review of one of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's summer concerts from Mrs. Ionarts and Master Ionarts.

A lot of parents are (understandably) nervous about taking their young children to classical music performances. They worry that their children will be bored and will behave badly. However, I am here to tell you it can be done. Longtime readers of Ionarts will already know that Master Ionarts (now age 7½) is already a seasoned concert- and opera-goer, and Miss Ionarts (4¾) is not far behind him. Last night, Master Ionarts and I went eagerly to hear the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Günther Herbig, perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the Music Center at Strathmore. Our choice of this particular concert goes along with my first recommendation about taking a child to a classical music concert: pick a concert with familiar repertoire. Master Ionarts has listened to Beethoven’s Ninth dozens of times and consequently is quite familiar with and quite excited by the piece. He was reluctant to miss Tae Kwon Do but was quickly convinced by the promise of the Ninth.

After a good night of sleep and a restful day at home (two more crucial parts of successful child concert-going), he had a hearty dinner and then we headed out with plenty of time to spare. It is important to arrive at the venue with plenty of time to stretch those energetic kid legs and hit the bathroom and water fountain one more time before sitting down. An extra bonus was the excellent café at Strathmore, which sells the magic combination of candy and soda. Fully loaded up on sugar energy, we took our seats and waited for the magic to unfold.

The Beethoven was, of course, transcendent. It is difficult to find another word more appropriate to describe the Ninth Symphony. The first two movements were exciting enough to keep Master Ionarts engaged, but the third movement brought yawns and requests to sit in my lap. The lull was quickly replaced by excitement when Master Ionarts’ ears picked up the first strains of the “Ode to Joy” tune. I took him to the concert primarily so that I could see the look on his face when the chorus started singing and it was a look that made it completely worth it. He looked like a boy who had just been given a puppy and the keys to a toy store. I love the Ninth myself, but hearing it through the ears of a young child made it doubly enjoyable.

The Baltimore Symphony played extremely well. There were a few shaky notes in the trumpets in the first movement, but the overall excitement of the players made any small errors unimportant. They and the chorus were clearly enjoying the choice of music, which is always nice to see. The soloists were excellent as well, especially soprano Heidi Stober, who had a particularly lyrical voice. Tenor Gordon Gietz has a beautiful voice that was sadly drowned out by the orchestra and chorus at some points of his solo. The 100+ members of the Baltimore Choral Society (we counted!) formed an impressive wall of sound that was enough to make the most disinterested child sit up in his seat.

Other Reviews:

Tim Smith, Baltimore Symphony closes summer season with Beethoven's Ninth (Clef Notes, July 24)

Robert Battey, The BSO's Triumphant Ninth (Washington Post, July 24)
At the end of the concert, we did as all parents with kids in tow should do: we stood up as soon as the applause started and headed for the parking garage. It’s far preferable to miss the crowds and be one of the first cars out than to stand through the multiple ovations (that were certainly well deserved) and then try to shepherd a young child out through a big crowd. Anyone who has ever had a child in his life will understand why you are making a beeline for the exit.

The Baltimore Symphony is trying to attract young audiences with its summer offerings. Earlier this summer it put on a program of Disney tunes, sure to attract an audience full of children. The Beethoven was sold out, and I counted many other young children in the audience. Easily accessible pieces such as these are an obvious way to introduce children to the classical concert hall in a way that is appealing.

This concert will be repeated this evening (June 24, 7:30 pm) at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. Grab your favorite 6+-year-old (concert hall rules) and head to Baltimore to catch this family-friendly performance.


Elizabeth F said...

This post does it all--gives instructions on the care and feeding of the young concert goer, the extra support and tactical knowledge needed for a successful evening, and a fine review that wanted me to sit in the reviewer's lap, too! No, kidding. I want to listen to the symphony now and I am tone deaf. Hoping to bring my kids out soon so they won't end up like me. Keep me posted on upcoming opportunities for the children and I.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful you bring your children to Beethoven 9 instead of that Disney garbage. The BSO's summer programming was shameful, except for the Beethoven. Kudos to you for bringing good taste to your children.

MaurLo said...

Love this post. Glad to know there are other people in the world who take their kids to concerts!

Anonymous said...

Love the discription of the look on his young face! thanks!