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May 8, 2014

Play On! - A Maestro Classics Review

In Vermont, we need to cover "fine arts" every year.  I always struggle with that.  There aren't many places nearby to see stellar plays and hear outstanding orchestras.  There are some suitable presentations, certainly, but they require a bit of travel and generally mean an entire day out.  I'm always on the look out for offerings that incorporate fine arts in some form, that are thorough, and make things uncomplicated for us (or me!).  Maestro Classics engaged us in more than the orchestra.  Along with the music of The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, we learned about instruments, poetry, and even steam engines!

Maestro Classics Review

Maestro Classics CDs are not just classical music CDs, but classical music for children.  The music is beautifully done by The London Philharmonic Orchestra.  Each story was narrated by Yadu.  There is so much information packed into the CDs, activity guides, and online learning, it will keep you very busy!

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Music by Stephen Simon • Story by Virginia Lee Burton

Maestro Classics Review

The Parent's Choice Gold, NAPPA Award Gold, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum, National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, The Teacher's Choice Award, Creative Child Magazine's Top Toy Award, ALSC's Editor's Choice, Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products, iParenting Media, School Library Journal Audio of the Week, and the ALA Booklist Editors Choice Award.
51 minutes
Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are finding themselves becoming obsolete.  They leave the city to dig a cellar for a new town hall.  The more people who come to watch the digging, the better and faster the pair dig.  Though this story is over sixty years old, many children still love to read this classic book about Mike and Mary Anne.  The music was composed much more recently by Stephen Simon (Maestro Classics' own conductor) for his children and grandchildren. 
On this CD, we learned so much more than just listening passively to music.  This was our introduction to Maestro Classics and I'm so glad I chose this one. 
We covered these topics:
  • Children's author Virginia Lee Burton who started writing and illustrating stories for her own children.
  • Irish bagpipes and how they differ from the better known Scottish pipes.
  • Sing along to the Mike Mulligan song.
  • How instruments are selected for the piece.  We even found out about a few unconventional "instruments" used (e.g., a scuba tank and an anvil).
There were physical activity suggestions for some of the music, such as pretending to be an airplane when you hear the instruments portraying airplanes.  Acting out parts of the story was encouraged (and FUN!).  The included 24-page booklet contains information about the conductor, singer, and piper; lyrics and music to the Mike Mulligan song; information about the Uilleann (pronounced ill-un) pipes; as well as a crossword puzzle, maze, and secret code to solve.

For more interaction with the musical piece, I also borrowed the book from the library, so we could look and listen along with the story.  The Maestro Classics website also has a section of Homeschool Music Curriculum Guides, making their CDs a possible unit study.  Grade levels are referenced in these guides.  We used the Mike Mulligan guide to learn about steam engines and the industrial revolution, how steam engines work, and found out why Ireland is called "Emerald Isle,"

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Music by Paul Dukas

Maestro Classics Review

Parent's Choice Silver, National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, Creative Child Magazine's Preferred Choice Award, Children's Music Web Award, and the ALA Booklist Editors Choice Award. 
41 minutes
Oh, Fritz, you lazy apprentice!  How could you have been so foolish?  Fritz doesn't care to perform the one tedious task assigned by his master and ends up making a huge mess of things.   This story of a sorcerer's apprentice is actually *very* old, nearly 2,000 years old.  The story originated with Greek author Lucian.  He traveled and told his stories.  His original moral was that there is no such thing as magic and if you believe in it, you are a fool.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German poet wrote his version in 1779.  Johann changed the moral to, "think about your actions, they may have unexpected consequences."  Eventually, in 1897, French composer Paul Dukas composed the now infamous piece of music.  Walt Disney created a film called Fantasia forty years later and used Dakas' composition as part of the soundtrack.

This activity booklet features information about the conductor, narrator, and producer; information about pitched percussion instruments and drum and bugle corps; and crossword, dot-to-dot, and secret code activities. We watched Disney's Fantasia with Mickey Mouse as the apprentice.  The boys loved it and I made sure we talked about making bad decisions.  We used the Homeschool  Music Curriculum Guide and learned to orchestrate our own music.

We took the music on our trip to the Grands last week and felt all inspired to hum or sing along.  Merrick claps and cheers for us whenever we involve music in our lives.

Other offerings from Maestro Classics include:
  • Swan Lake
  • Peter and the Wolf
  • Carnival of the Animals
  • Casey at the Bat
  • Handel's Water Music
  • Juanita the Spanish Lobster
  • Soldier's Tale
  • Tortoise and the Hare

Price $16.98 for the CD or $9.98 for the MP3 download (which includes a PDF of the booklet).
Age Range 6-12, though no one is ever too young or too old for classical music.

Find Maestro Classics on social media.

Up for a challenge?  See if you can determine which Maestro Classics CDs the sound bites on the More Fun with Music page come from.

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