“Daddy, why is that man’s violin so big?”
“Oh, that’s a cello. It’s like a violin, but bigger, so he can’t put it on his shoulder.”
“Why is that man in front waving his arms around so fast?”
“That’s the conductor, who leads the orchestra when they play.”
“He is so funny! I like the conductor!”
When I was first asked whether I would like to take my four-year-old daughter to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s (MPO) Family Fun Day performance, Maximus Musicus Visits The Orchestra, I was a little apprehensive.
Little Cheang had barely turned four, and had never watched a symphony orchestra before, so I wasn’t sure if she would be able to sit through and enjoy the entire performance.
Happily, she not only enjoyed the entire show, but her curiosity was also piqued by all the different sounds and instruments, and also, the “funny” movements of Korean-American conductor Gene Chang.
Of course, it also helped that there was radio and television host Datuk Yasmin Yusuff narrating the story of Maximus Musicus, the little mouse who goes on an adventure and discovers the wonders of the orchestra.
Maximus Musicus is an Icelandic children’s franchise that aims to introduce symphony music to children.
The one we watched, Maximus Musicus Visits The Orchestra, was launched in 2008 and has been performed more than a hundred times by distinguished orchestras all over the world.
The MPO performed the show on June 3 as part of its Family Fun Day programme, which is suitable for children four and above.
In the story, Maximus, or Maxi for short, is searching for a warm place to shelter from a cold night, and ends up inside the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP), where the hall’s resident orchestra, the MPO, begins to practise.
For the MPO’s two performances on June 3, Chang led the orchestra through a programme that included, among others, Mozart’s energetic Abduction from The Seraglio, Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony, and Rossini’s Finale from the play William Tell, which is probably best known as the theme for The Lone Ranger.
Another concern of mine was that Little Cheang would be a little bored just listening to the music, but fortunately, Yasmin’s storytelling managed to keep her attentive for the entire duration of the show.
There were also pictures of the little mouse on the huge screens above the orchestra, and the story also involved some interaction with the various members of the orchestra as well.
The only time she started fidgeting was right at the end, after Yasmin had finished the story, and the orchestra played two additional pieces to wrap up the programme (though she was probably a little tired by then).
Overall, it was a pretty good introduction to symphony music for Little Cheang.
Hmm, maybe now I can get her to start listening to more Mozart and Beethoven rather than Baby Shark and The Wiggles.