Little Lambeth Review of PImlico Concert Nov. 2012.
Bach to Baby - a Classical Music Experience for Parents and Babies
It came up in a discussion recently that most of the events for babies either benefit the child or the parent but rarely both. Bach to Baby offers something which both baby and mum or dad can enjoy - a session of classical music.
Each month Bach to Baby creates a theme for its choice of music. It then plays at different venues around the capital. Parents attend with their children. Adults cost £10 and kids are free. The children can make all the funny sounds and noises they like, wander around freely (though not straying into the path of the musicians) and enjoy the music. Adults get to also enjoy the music whilst knowing their child isn't having to remain silent (which we know under a certain age is pretty impossible!)
They have recently started holding a Bach to Baby event in Pimlico. I went to check it out. The venue for the concert is a gorgeous old Victorian church. Coffee and tea are available at a price. Buggies are parked in an area of the church. Then you just pick a pew, sit back and enjoy the music. After an introduction to the musician and some information about the musical theme of the month, Miaomiao Yu, who set up this wonderful event, explained some of the background to each piece of music before it began. I sure many mums enjoyed hearing about something which stimulates the minds and isn't baby related.
The concert almost felt like it wasn't long enough. I forgot how much I loved listening to live classical music. The baby loved it and banged along to the songs before sleeping though a bit of Gershwin and a rousing version of America!
Bach to baby is held at different venues across the London. One concert is at Clapham and two others are nearby at Dulwich and Pimlico. Concerts are an hour long including nursery rhymes at the end. The concerts usually start at 10:30am. For more information about these concerts, visit the Bach to Baby website.
I recommend everyone do this at least once during their maternity leave!
Bach to Baby Concerts
Does the thought of the impending Christmas season bring out the worst of your cynical side? Do cheery middle-aged women ringing cow bells and wearing reindeer ears make you weep? When the family arrives with endless boxes of Fox’s chocolate biscuits making the same old jokes about the Queen’s speech while drinking globby glasses of eggnog, do you hide in your room and watch incessant reruns ofSeinfeld? If you said ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then a magical Camilla Pay concert played to a church full of babies with gummy smiles may not be your glass of glogg. For everyone else, grab your nearest niece or nephew, and treat yourself to a Bach to Baby concert.
These yummy mummy concerts are held all over London, and bring world-class classical performers to babies, toddlers and their parents. The series is organised by award-winning concert pianist Miaomiao Yu, who is the founder of the critically-acclaimed Classics With My Baby. Yu has travelled all over the world as a touring musician, and has featured on Channel 4 and the BBC. Yu said that after becoming a mother of two lively boys, she really missed popping out to watch concerts. Instead of moping about the house in her pjs, Yu decided to deliver a parent-and-baby series of concerts, where children could learn about classical music at a key developmental stage.
Guest artists at the series include pianist Grace Mo, Ruth O’Reilly on the French horn, violinist Elizabeth Cooney, flautist Saleta Suarez Ogando, Karen Stephenson on the cello, and many others. At St Alfege Church in Greenwich on Friday 23 November, it was the lovely Camilla Pay on her harp. She explained with a warm smile that she knew she wanted to be a harpist at just six-years-old. While babies crawled around determined to be the first to touch her harp, Pay, with calm intent and fierce concentration, played her way through memorable movie scores – theme tunes from The Godfather, Harry Potter, The Deer Hunter, Romeo and Juliet, and many others. Yu and Pay finished with a delightful set of nursery rhymes for the children. Pay has played her delicious harp with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and with artists such as Beyoncé , Michael Buble, and The Killers. Check out her music at camillapay.com
The strange thing about the concerts is that though you may go to one girding yourself up for a roomful of crying babies, you find instead that the music has a calming effect. Crawling and walking babies make a run towards the musician and their shiny instruments, while the newbies who are not quite mobile yet, find themselves drifting off to sleep in your arms.
Warning: You may just come out of a Camilla Pay concert thinking, ‘I’ve never been so happy in my entire life!’
Bach to Baby concerts take place across a number of London venues. Check out locations, timetables and prices here: bachtobaby.com
See below for what the press says about Classics with my Baby, Miaomiao's previous concert series.
Review by Philip Clark, Gramophone Magazine, 22nd February 2012.
Concerts for babies
Is it ever too early to introduce your child to live classical music?
Philip Clark 11:29am GMT 22nd February 2012
What age is too young to introduce your child to live music? As a relatively new parent – my son Humphrey was born in January 2011 – that’s a question I started pondering almost as soon as the first nappy was changed and the handlebars were fitted to the pram. Nursery rhymes are an essential rite-of-passage and the ditties my wife has picked up at the various playgroups she’s taken Humphrey to – ‘The Say Hello To The Sun Song’ and ‘There’s A Worm At The Bottom Of My Garden (And His Name Is Wiggly-Woo)’ – are charm itself. But my son’s named after Lyttelton and Searle! And if he is to become the hot jazz trumpeter or the 12-tone symphonist of my dreams, I needed to act now.
Which is exaggeration for comedic effect of course. Humphrey will discover his own pathway through life, but the parental instinct to share that which has been so rich and nourishing in your own life is triggered pretty much instantaneously, and so, on a perishingly cold January morning, I found myself at one of the Wigmore Hall’s For Crying Out Loud! concerts, aimed at ‘new parents and their babies’ – Humphrey balanced on one leg and a concert programme on the other.
Two weeks later Humphrey experienced his first London Symphony Orchestra gig, a concert for under-5s at LSO St Luke’s; then last week a violin and piano recital in Hampstead as part of the series Classics with my Baby. Never before at a concert have I witnessed one audience member hit another over the disputed ownership of a toy truck; never before have I sat through a programme that included Stravinsky and ‘The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round’.
A subtle but key distinction became clear from the off – there are ‘conventional’ concerts made baby-friendly, while other concerts have been tailor-made for young ears. The Wigmore Hall concert, well intentioned as it was – and I’m bound to say very well attended – fell awkwardly between the two. The Wilhelm Quartet opened with Vivaldi (Humphrey cried), Mozart (Humphrey ripped up the programme I’d given him to stop him crying), Schumann (Humphrey slept, worn out by the effort of ripping up the programme), Tchaikovsky (Humphrey was transfixed) before, bizarrely, the quartet played the slow (and very quiet) movement of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet just as a crescendo of bored, fidgety baby cries hit its peak. The Shostakovich was completely inaudible to parents – but shouldn’t a concert open to babies be trying to engage with them anyway? Stiff onstage announcements added to an uneasy formality, suggesting a concept that needs fine-tuning.
The LSO concert, by contrast, was spot on. Part-concert, part-music lesson, part-story time, part-pantomime, presenter Vanessa King and five players from the orchestra (flute, trombone, violin, cello, double bass) used ‘Goldilocks and The Three Bears’ to introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra. Daddy bear was the bass (Gramophone readers ought to be clued up enough to work out the rest), scampering up stairs was symbolised by some pretty mean pizzicato bass playing; a door slam by way of a Bartók pizzicato. Unlike For Crying Out Loud!, chunks of The Nutcracker Suite and Peer Gynt were given a context by King’s spirited story-telling skills. Paul The Trombonist, as he was introduced, was directly in front of us. In truth, Humphrey was too young to appreciate the story; but he knew there was something special about the sound of this grown man and his strange golden metal toy.
Classics with my Baby concerts happen in ten venues across London. Founded by pianist Miaomiao Yu and violinist Philippa Mo shortly after they became mothers, whatever the Wigmore Hall got wrong, they manage to get right. Short pieces by Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky, Schumann, Peter Warlock, Offenbach and Grieg was a programme I’d happily sit through under any circumstances. The babies danced, crawled and were moved in time with the music, and could interact with each other on strategically placed playmats. The concert ended with requests for nursery rhymes. Babies and parents left satisfied.
Given that he lives already in a musical environment, with Beethoven, Mingus and John Lee Hooker regularly blaring in the background, what am I expecting Humphrey to gain from the experience? It might be that he gets nothing out of it at all, and the whole classics-for-babies thing is just indulgent, wishful thinking. Then again, no one thinks introducing your child to ideas of language and narrative by showing them picture books is a waste of time, and I’d like Humphrey to be sonically literate too. Especially as, to be honest about it, the prospect of having to play football in the park fills me, Mr Indoors, with dread and I’m leaving that job to his mum.
Philip Clark, Gramophone