“The Emperor and the Nightingale”
by Frances M Lynch,
piano arrangements by Mark Troop
went out in 6 sensational episodes on www.funkidslive.com/player/ 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 www.funkidslive.com 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 Tales – Mark 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.
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.
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 http://www.bigmouthpianotales.co.uk/index_004.html for just £5 + p&p.
BIG MOUTH PIANO TALES WISHES YOU ALL
A HAPPY NEW YEAR FOR 2012