Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics

My childhood was filled with music. Memories of choirs, bands, and private music lessons are ones I treasure as music remains a beautiful source of enjoyment and entertainment for me. Although I didn't homeschool, I credit my grandmother and parents for my early music education and fostering my love of music.

Maestro Classics,, like my parents and grandmother, are committed to helping young children discover the joy and beauty of music. Their "Stories in Music" series of CDs blend storytelling, great music, knowledge of history and composers, and an entertaining introduction to the orchestra and its components. According to the company mission statement, "Maestro Classics guides audiences as they expand their listening horizons and discover the magic that can only be called music".

There are currently 7 stories in the series with two in production. I received Maestro Classics latest release, "The Tortoise and the Hare", for free in exchange for this review. It arrived in high quality packaging covered with delightful illustrations of the story, a pocket to hold the mini story book accompaniment, and a section to hold the CD securely when not in use. The story booklet for "The Tortoise and the Hare" included a diagram of the orchestra with color photographs of the instruments organized in sections like a real orchestra, 2 pages of basic music theory, 2 pages of facts of turtles, tortoises, rabbits and hares, music and lyrics of an original song sung by one of the characters in the production, 4 puzzle pages and biography information of the conductor/composer, producer and narrator. Many good things came in this small package.

The "Tortoise and the Hare" CD retells the classic Aesop fable with a French twist. The Hare understanding he is well ahead in his race against the Tortoise takes time off from racing to visit a French Bistro. The twenty minute narrated story/music performance on the CD is followed by a 3 min. explanation of the story, a second performance of the "Pretzel Vendor of Paris" song, followed by a second opportunity to listen to the musical story performance designed to encourage application of newly acquired musical awareness. The total running time of the CD is approximately 54 minutes.

The "Tortoise and the Hare" was adapted for Maestro Classics by Bonnie Ward Simon, former executive director of the Washington Chamber Symphony and co-creator of the Symphony's successful "Concerts for Young People" series. "The Tortoise and the Hare" is one of the original works premiered by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. for their children's concerts. Simon created "Stories in Music" believing they, "introduce great music and classic stories, and provide the opportunity to develop important listening skills". (Maestro literature)

Every great story in the series has great music to accompany it. Stephen Simon conducted and composed all the music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra for the CDs. Simon served as music director of the Washington Chamber Symphony and resident chamber orchestra at the Kennedy Center for 25 years, and has guest conducted for symphonies all over the world. He was known as the "Magic Maestro" at the Kennedy Center, and according to his bio "loves music more than anything else in the world.....and believes that every concert should be wonderful entertainment".

The story of "The Tortoise and the Hare" is narrated by Yadu (aka Dr. Konrad Czynski, professor of Humanities at Minnesota State University-Moorhead). Yadu was the original narrator of the series at the Kennedy Center his voice rich and engaging on the CD. The music is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

The "Stories in Music" CDs are available for purchase on Maestro Classics website. They include:

*Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

*Juanita the Spanish Lobster

*Casey at the Bat

*The Sorceror's Apprentice

*Peter and the Wolf

*The Story of Swan Lake

*The Tortoise and the Hare

* A Soldier's Tale and My Name is Handel are currently in production.

All CDs with accompanying mini program book retail for $16.98 on the website. Customers can find local specialty children's stores offering the series through a search engine at Gift sets of storybook and CD are available for $24.99. Those wishing to purchase three or more CDs in the collection can take advantage of a special offer provided by the company of three CDs for $45.00. Look for coupon code MAESTRO45 on the website.

1 comment:

Maestro Classics said...

Hi Regeinia,

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