Sometimes nothing is as soothing, moving or inspiring as a piece of classical music. And the enjoyment of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and others is certainly not limited to adults. So if you're looking for fun and informative ways to introduce classical music to your children and family, we've got just the ticket. These videos and movies are brilliant combinations of sound, color, music and story.
All of our test families found "Beethoven Lives Upstairs" to be music to their ears (and a visual treat, too). Many were inspired to further explore Beethoven's life and work via other activities. "I was pleasantly surprised," said Mary B. "I thought it wouldn't hold my five-year-old boy's interest, but he was even asking appropriate questions. We all enjoyed watching it. We talked about who Beethoven was and how he was hearing- impaired (my son has a slight hearing impairment, so this was significant to him). Now we have to look up how Beethoven died, because my son really wants to know!"
Take your child to see the real thing. Check out classical concerts and music activities that are geared for children.
Recent research suggests that classical music possibly stimulates brain function in babies and young children. And if you have a budding musician in the household, you already know how exciting it can be for kids to discover this wonderful music genre. Enjoy!
(Walt Disney Pictures, rated G, ages 4-up)
In this new animated movie, inspired by the 1940 Disney classic, Fantasia, audiences are treated to new animation and storytelling and classical arrangements performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Scenes of 1930s New York pulse to George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," a fairy/sprite flits through the forest while Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" is played. As tribute, the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment starring Mickey Mouse, from the original film, also appears here. If you missed the opportunity to see it in an IMAX theater or during its recent re-release in traditional cineplexes, the home video version will be released on November 14, 2000, in time fore holiday giving.
Dr. Seuss's My Many Colored Days
(Notes Alive, 1-888-666-6837, ages 3-up)
A posthumously published picture book by the inimitable Dr. Seuss becomes a tour de force of colors, feelings and music. A boy and his dog act out the many-and always changing-moods they experience (on a bright blue day, they want to soar like birds, for example). Award-winning actress Holly Hunter narrates the story accompanied by original music from the Minnesota Orchestra. As a bonus, a section on the making of the video includes an interview with Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss's (Theodor Geisel's) widow. Some reviewing families had trouble finding "My Many Colored Days" in a video store--public libraries seemed to be a better source on this one. "The kids liked it a lot and my husband and I enjoyed it as well," Mary B. said about it. "I'm not one for classical music, but if there was another video like this one, I think it's definitely positive exposure for the kids."
Beethoven Lives Upstairs
(Devine Entertainment, 877-338-4633, ages 5-up)
Inspired by the Classical Kids audio recording of the same name, this video whisks viewers to 19th-century Vienna, where a young boy comes to know the eccentric man renting a room in his mother's house-Ludwig van Beethoven. Beautiful scenery and an inventive story; contains many facts about the composer's life and work.
"We watched "Beethoven Lives Upstairs' yesterday, and it was a great movie," said Amy Mayfield. "Our only special preparation was talking about Beethoven as a pianist since Addison (7) is currently taking piano lessons. We listen to classical music and jazz/blues so the children are already comfortable identifying instruments, musical styles, etc. Both Addison (7) and Kyle (5) liked the movie very much and it was interesting to hear their specific comments on Beethoven as a person (Addison did not think he was so nice). We have not been to a classical concert yet, but I think that is next on the list."
Beth W. of Nebraska commented, "'Beethoven Lives Upstairs' is simply wonderful. All of our children, ages nine-to-17, love this video. The boys both play instruments (the nine-year-old plays piano and the 11-year-old plays the drums and bells). I know they really enjoyed this, because I tried to pull them away from it in the middle for a short errand--no one wanted to leave it."
Another of our families, from upstate New York, was similarly inspired. "Both Ryan (11) and Rachel (9) will be playing musical instruments when school starts, and I was impressed by all that Ryan already knew. Rachel said that she was inspired. I might explore more classical music now."
Take It From Me: "As a follow-up, we checked out the CD "Beethoven for Dummies" from the library," Many of his popular pieces are on this disc, and everyone liked hearing the music again and again. It was interesting to hear even my youngest child talking about some of the chronological events surrounding the music. He really picked up so much from this video. Brilliant!" --Beth W.