An interactive musical show for kids, accompanied by their parents, Bach Yard encourages to share the joy of music with young kids, exploring a shared listening experience. Youngsters are introduced to that experience at Merkin Hall, where they are familiarized with different instruments, musical jargon and concert behavior, while acknowledging age appropriate attention span.
Originally coined Baby’s got Bach, with performances at LPR and the 92nd Street Y, the concept of the show (founded in 2010) has expanded its reach into a well visited communal outreach program for young kids and their parents, offering a lovely introduction to classical music to with series at Rochester, Princeton, and Kaufman Centers’ Merkin Hall’s youngest audiences, pre-k to early lower school ages.
With the participation of young “performers,” from the center’s own Special Music School, and Carnegie Hall’s educational outreach Ensemble Connect, the show also potentially attracts newcomers to the center’s diverse educational programs, like its Special Music School or the Lucy Moses School afternoon programs.
Recently named NPR’s From the Top talent show host, Shaham offers a strong presence as an accomplished international concert pianist, which she combines adequately with her extensive experience as an educator and her personal one, as a mother. Shaham also took the opportunity to personally connect with the kids, sharing that she was born in Jerusalem and only later became a New Yorker.
With great authority, she leads kids’ attention – and recognizing the lack thereof – with ample story time interactions, were kids are encouraged to move along with the storyline’s musical characters. A train ride that stops and has the kids stand up, following their musical’s station’s characteristic movements, to partake in a fiesta, a carousel ride and a marching band, inspire kids to actively identify music’s components, moods and tempi.
Incidentally, not all musical works – as the title may suggest – featured works by Bach. While Sunday’s show had kids immersed into works by Bach and Mozart, it also incorporated contemporary works by Avner Dorman, Arthur Honegger and Beata Moon.
Kids were also introduced to the concept of music composition, by becoming composers themselves in a playful activity, prior to the show on stage. Part of this orientation included blowing air through a straw, to visibly move little objects, as an introduction to the show’s instrumental zoo project, in this installment focused on wood wings.
Musicians from Ensemble Connect, then presented the different personal voices of their instruments, oboe, horn, flute, bassoon, and clarinet on stage. Pointing out that different voices are hard to be heard together, except when composed for different instruments, Shaham let the kids scream their name all together, then whisper, then had the instruments collaborate. Especially original was Shaham’s demonstration of the inner workings of instrumental sound with the help of a garden hose, symbolizing the horn’s untangled channels to its full length and powerful transmission of sound. Always making it easy for kids to connect their real-life experiences, to a specific experience in music, Shaham pointed out that every family member’s voice sounds different, with the tallest person having the deepest voice, when comparing the bassoon to the oboe. Some of the performers were dressed up, to portray different story characters, but while the music performances were all excellent, it all had more in common with the improvisational and low-key spirit of a summer camp slumber party, than a Broadway spectacle.
Directing kids throughout the different activity stations, the concert had started a little late but had a largely uninterrupted flow. Once, when things got a little loud, Shaham, while at the piano, encouraged parents to take kids that needed a break, out of the hall and return at a later point.
Only at the end, when all kids got invited to join Special Music School kids for a “performance” on stage, did it become clear that not all parents’ ambitions were limited to a wholesome afternoon of musical exploration. Ambitiously heaving their kids onto the stage, parents got excited about their kids’ exposure to yet another ingredient of the world of music, the attraction to a little bit of the stage’s star dust.
Shaham’s next Bach Yard at Merkin Hall, Spring Strings, will focus on the family of string instruments.