Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics: Classical Stories Set to Classical Music...Bravo!

Most of us homeschool parents realize that we need to be very intentional about what we teach our children. Manners, study habits and more are both taught and caught through the course of daily family life. In the same way, cultivating good taste in music will not likely happen without intentionally exposing your child to such music. It is certainly not something they will be encouraged to do to within secular society.

Enter: Maestro Classics. A simply stupendous way for students to surround themselves with symphony! We were given a copy of The Tortoise and the Hare to enjoy for this review. Thankfully, my kids do appreciate good music and also play in an orchestra. So, although the storyline was a bit on the younger side for my 6th and 9th graders, they still enjoyed listening to the story.

In the tradition of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, husband and wife team Stephen and Bonnie Simon have produced many classic stories set to the beautiful symphonic sounds of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Using different instruments to represent the characters, the stories are engagingly narrarated as the orchestra plays. Mr. Simons was music director at the Washington Chamber Symphony for 25 years and is an expert in the music of Handel. He and his wife Bonnie have raised 6 boys, which in my opinion makes them an expert on music for children! Bonnie Simons wrote the version of The Tortoise and The Hare used in the story and has a plethora of musical accolades herself.

Each CD comes with an informative booklet that explains different aspects of music and instruments as well as giving extra facts about the characters in the story. With our Tortoise and the Hare narrative, we learned the difference between turtles and tortoises as well as rabbits and hares. The contrabassoon was was the instrument that represented the tortoise in the story. We learned that it is able to play notes lower than the lowest note on the piano!

The booklet also includes some relevant word puzzles and lyrics and music to a fun song that is part of the story (ours was, "The Pretzel Vendor of Paris", composed by  conductor Stephen Simons). The CD is set up to further teach and appreciate what is happening as we listen. The story is entirely played (approximately 20 minutes in length), then there is a series of short discussions about various elements in the story and in the music, plus a robust round of the "Pretzel Vendor of Paris" song. After all of this extra input, the story is played in its entirety again, hopefully listened to with a greater appreciation of what is going on while it plays.

These CDs would be excellent gifts and certainly a great investment in your home CD collection. I'm sure that kids would want to listen to the stories many times and, in the long run, a love for classical music will, hopefully, take root!

Visit Maestro Classics by clicking here. There are many exciting titles to choose from, such as Casey at Bat, Swan Lake, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and more. You can also listen to samples of the CD's and see what your missing! Normally the CD's run $16.95 each. Right now there is a special for any three CD's for just $45.

I hope you will check out this award-winning series for yourself, and see what your family is missing. Classical music must live on with the next generation!


Gingerbread Mommy said...

I thought I'd pop over and check out your review since you posted it literally seconds after me! Very nice job, I really enjoy your writing style!

Maestro Classics said...

Hi Heather!

This is a belated thanks for the wonderful review of our Tortoise and the Hare CD. I just wanted to let you know that since you reviewed our CD we've made a Facebook page so that our fans can participate in monthly giveaways (we have a big one coming up for the full 8 CD set!) and get coupons. We'd love to invite you and your readers to join our page or check out our new free homeschool music curriculum guides and thanks again for the lovely review!

Maestro Classics

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.