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Cushion Concert - Christmas Brass

Introducing music to children & their families. Bring your cushions!

Jacqueline Du Pré Music Building, St Hilda's College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY, Sun 7 December 2014

December 9, 2014

If you want to introduce the Tiny Person/People in your life to classical music and instruments, what better way than to grab a cushion and plonk them down in front of a selection of the aforementioned in the lovely JDP on a Sunday morning. A teeming throng of keen kiddies and slightly frayed-looking parents sat attentively as a nice cellist introduced us all to Mr Cello with some simple notes, songs and movement exercises; it all had the ring of a regular toddler group with regular attendees who knew the drill.

Then we heard the exciting squeak of brass from beyond the fire door and in came Father Christmas (a portly French horn player) with his two jolly Christmas elves (a pointy-ear-hatted trombonist and trumpeter respectively). We heard how they made a beautiful sound together in trio and were introduced to each instrument in turn (plus a flugelhorn), with the children guided by Ms Cellist in investigating (from their cushions, mind) how brass instruments worked (with valves, keys, lip-buzzes, breath, slides, mutes and so on). The parents got treated to a Christmassy jazz number (the elves, Santa and our hostess were clearly very good players), the tinies got scared by a big sudden blast from the trombone, and it all wound down with some lovely accompanied carol singing.

There were kiddies from baby to around age 5 at this event and they all did really well at sitting quietly and paying attention throughout the 45 minute session (except one, who ran around squeaking and was removed at some point. I was surprised there was only one squeaker - the son of one of the elves - since keeping a two year old still is like trying to juggle snakes and we only managed it by the skin of our teeth). I imagine the older children got most out of the session, as they were able to have a go at the questions about the instruments that the toddlers would have found a bit abstract.

There was less music than I was expecting - and less animated music and singing than what is required to keep a toddler fully engrossed, so we might leave it for a year or two before we try the next one. I was also expecting a bit more of an intro to the instruments in terms of brief history, with some snippets of famous classical pieces featuring them thrown in... but perhaps this is a bit much to ask of everyone on a Sunday morning.

They also could have done with cracking straight into the carols as everyone was getting a bit tired/hungry by the tail end of the session when they were finally played. Ooh - and what they played didn't match our song-sheet handouts. Small niggles aside, however, this was a nice session and a pleasant and seasonal way to while away an hour on a Sunday morning before Christmas. The musicians were lovely and smiley, good with the kids and there was free squash... so all in all, this was a winner.

Thanks, Team JDP.

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