Introducing young children to the world of classical music - Chichester date

The sheer excitement of their young audiences has always been one of the great rewards as Southern Pro Musica celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Children's Concerts.
Jonathan Willcocks (contributed pic)Jonathan Willcocks (contributed pic)
Jonathan Willcocks (contributed pic)

They will be offering six concerts in three days: at Chichester Festival Theatre on Tuesday, January 16 at 10.45am and 1.30pm; at G Live, Guildford on Wednesday, January 17 at 10.45am and 1.30pm; and at Central Hall, Southampton on Thursday, January 18 at 10.45am and 1.30pm. Each concert will be the perfect introduction to live music for schools played by a full professional orchestra – an hour of exciting classical music to thrill and inspire children ages six-11, including music by Rossini, Piazzola, Haydn, Offenbach and Ron Goodwin. Jonathan Willcocks will be the conductor. Neil Henry will be the compere.

“Southern Pro Musica gave its first concert specifically for children in 1994,” Jonathan recalls. “Since then we have done more than 150 concerts for children in Chichester and Southampton and Portsmouth and Guildford and Dorking and lots of places but in in recent seasons we have honed in on three places where the venues are particularly good for the children to enjoy the music, Chichester Festival Theatre and G Live in Guildford and also the Central Hall in Southampton which like Chichester is in the round and all the seats are tiered so there's a great feeling of the children being surrounded. The whole idea is to bring the excitement of live orchestral music to children and for many of them it will be the first time that they have really experienced live music on this scale. Children are surrounded by canned music all the time but to see and hear live music in this way, in a way that is really interactive, is fantastic for them. And we've got a brilliant compere Neil Henry who is an actor and a musician but also a professional magician and he will include some incredible visual tricks which will be all part of the excitement.

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“We have found over the years that the structure of the programme that really engages with the children is colourful short pieces and some of them featuring solo instruments and there is also a story piece. There are also opportunities for the children to come up on stage and join the percussion section and I'll get several children to come and try conducting and also one the pieces that we're doing this year is the Can-Can and we get the children up and doing the high-kicking dancing. We've also got some really familiar pieces like the 633 Squadron. We have found over the years that it's quite hard to get the children to engage with slower, quieter pieces and we've also found that it's best that no pieces are more than five minutes. And also I do introduce the pieces. If there is a woodwind piece, I get the woodwind section to wave their instruments around.”

It is all about opportunity which means that it is all about making it possible to attend. So the prices are kept low and financial assistance is available for coach hire from [email protected]: “It is all aimed at getting schools to bring parties of children and so it is all structured around the timetable of the school day to make it as easy as possible for them.”