Judging from the sales numbers, most of us don’t think about classical music very often these days — and when we do, we tend to think of it as stuff for grown-ups. But kids can — and often do — love classical just as much as anything by Dan Zanes or Justin Roberts. Songs don’t endure for hundreds of years without being able to stand on their own, after all.
Nevertheless, classical could definitely use a family-friendly outreach effort, and for years now, it’s been getting it from Stephen and Bonnie Ward Simon, the couple behind the Stories in Music series that helps tell the tales behind some enduring classics — including “Peter and the Wolf,” “Swan Lake,” and now, with their latest release, Handel’s “Water Music.”
Adding entertaining narration — and occasionally lyrics — to the music, the series informs budding classical fans (and their parents) about the lives of the composers, the stories behind the songs, and the historical context of it all. It’s educational and it’s fun, and we knew we had to get the Simons on the phone for a chat about My Name Is Handel. Our conversation follows.
Let’s start off by talking about the Stories in Music series in general, and how it started.
Bonnie: Well, it came out of the series we did at the Kennedy Center. In fact, the whole idea of doing concerts for parents and children — or, as we like to call it, multi-generational education — came from a two-fold issue. One was that, when I became director of the Washington Chamber Symphony, we noticed a void in the audience between the ages of, say, 30 and 45. Where are they and why don’t they come? As a fellow parent, I said, “Well, they’re tired.” They come home from work, they do homework with their kids…you know. So we wanted to give parents something fun they could do with their children. Continue reading