Big Mouth Piano Tales 10th Anniversary

Frances M Lynch and Mark Troop in “The Emperor and The Nightingale”

“The Emperor and the Nightingale” 

by Frances M Lynch,

 piano arrangements by Mark Troop

went out in 6 sensational episodes on at 4pm every day from Boxing Day to Hogmanay.

It is very fitting that we celebrate our 10th year with our first radio broadcast on a digital station whose ethos reflects our own – one of providing a high quality listening experience while encouraging creativity and giving kids space to be, well – kids!

It would have very much pleased the originator of the ideas behind Big Mouth Piano TalesMark Ray – with whom I began working more than 20 years ago.

He was, at that time, Head of the Junior Department at Trinity College of Music. He later became Head of Piano Studies at Royal Northern College of Music but sadly died a few years ago in a tragic swimming accident which robbed the world of one of the most sensitive, and accomplished pianists and a gorgeous and very funny man who touched all who met him.

He it was who said to me one day that it might be interesting to see what would happen if instead of rehearsing children to act out the stories our music was telling, we simply invited them on stage, from the audience, during performances, and let them get on with it!

I knew instinctively it would work – somehow the way Mark played was enthralling to children and they really listened to him. Now they could intensify their experience of the music by physicalizing what they heard and getting involved in every aspect of the story.

All I had to do was work out how on earth to make it happen without the performance descending at worst into chaos and at best into a regimented formulaic child moving exercise.

We began our experiments with “The Snowman” by Howard Blake, making a map of the boy’s house on the floor in chalk and then choosing children to inhabit both the space and the characters. Over the years we added “Babar the little Elephant”, by Poulenc, and Paddington Bear’s First Concert by Herbert Chappell, and created interactive ploys which included children drawing pictures for the set, dancing and singing songs as well as acting.

Mark Troop and Frances Lynch

Big Mouth Piano Tales as an entity, emerged when I starting working with Mark Troop, who was very different from the first Mark but who shared his daft sense of humour and had an inbuilt acting sense that was to prove important in our development.

We began to write our own stories – firstly The White Reindeer which was designed to introduce children to classical piano repertoire – we raided Mozart, Messiaien and Mussorgsky among others – and our latest one “The Emperor and the Nightingale” who’s focus is more on the voice, using original songs and music, featuring the inside and out of the piano, china bowls, bells, whistles and blocks of wood. We workshopped our ideas with children from Baytree Centre, Brixton with the help of Pegasus Opera a few years ago. Now the piece has been all round the UK and is set to reach further afield through the medium of radio and a big tour in 2012.

Frances M Lynch in “The Emperor and The Nightingale”

We hope that we have begun to achieve our goal of turning kids on to classical music in all its forms and are working to make our next new story (still under wraps but definatley eco related!) even more successful.

We hope you managed to hear our Fun Kids Broadcast, but don’t worry if not – you can buy the CD on our website for just £5 + p&p.



13 thoughts on “Big Mouth Piano Tales 10th Anniversary

  1. Hi Frances, I’ve listen to the radio broadcast of The Emperor and the Nightingale. I really enjoy it even though I’m not a kid. It was very engaging in a sense. I truly encourage anyone I know to lient to it. The next episode is tomorrow at 4pm at
    Episode 3 “The Nightingale” – the ambassadors and servants searching for the Nightingale, join in the fun!
    I have a question for you, why do you think it is important to let kids to have high quality listening experiences?

    1. Hi Pipei, Glad you enjoyed it – i daren’t ask what age you actually are – but yes, its not uninteresting to adults too! I’m glad you will be listening to the next episode – it gets more and more involved.
      The answer to your question is that children form tastes and opinions about music from an early age, and it is clear that they can only respond to the music they are exposed to. In the main of course this is pre-recorded music produced for a mass market – which has, almost without exception, very high production values – making it easy for them to distinguish between good and bad sound no matter what they are listening to. However, generally most children are not exposed to a wide range of music in a live context – and like so many other things our society takes for granted – like food for example – its important for people to understand where music comes from, and to experience performers at a high skill level, both to inspire their own creativity but also to turn them on to different kinds of music – in this case its pretty much an opera they are listening to, with a narrator, and a wide array of music from a pop ballad to a leider to a music hall ditty, and some whacky persussion inbetween

  2. hey, Frances, I really enjoyed the Emperor and the Nightingale episodes so far, me and my 3 year old brother cannot wait to hear how the story unfolds. We’ve been trying to sing like the nightingale (unsuccessfully) we feel like we are actually part of the story.

    It is will be on at 4pm, this is original and the music and stories are truly engaging, I suggest everyone should listen as there is something for everyone to enjoy.

    Do you have any plans for more original stories in future? (I hope so!)
    We will be anxiously waiting.

    1. Glad you and your brother enjoyed it – I’m sure you managed to sing like the Nightingale – after all a simple little colaratura (that’s high and fast singing!) is all it is after all….
      Brilliant that you feel like part of the story – i hope you were acting it all out at home.
      Yes – we do have plans for more stories – I have one that i am working on now that includes a green gardener, a blue whale and a red dragon – oh and a singing canary! Not sure exactly what kind of adventures they will have – but they will have lots of them and they will invovle a lot of music and singing….we’ll let you know more when we finish working it all out

  3. HI Frances. I’ve been listening to the radio shows all week and absolutely loving them! I’ve been recommending them to everyone I know, old and young! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to listen today (4pm on as I’m very busy; is there any other way of catching up or buying the music somewhere?
    p.s. keep up the good work!!

    1. I have also been listening to all the episodes of The Emperor and The Nightingale on and find the whole thing very engaging. This is a fun story for kids. I believe that getting kids to listen to music that isn’t just pop is a good thing. They should get exposed to as many different forms of music as possible.

      There is just one more episode to go which is on New Years Eve at 4pm. I hope FunKids Radio repeat the whole story.

  4. Let’s hope Fun Kids Radio broadcast some more stories by Big Mouth Piano Tales. But in the mean time l suppose l will have to come to one of your next concerts. Where are you playing next?

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