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Peter and the Wolf
I came across a recommendation recently for the Maestro Classics series, and decided to give it a try. I selected Peter and the Wolf from the few that were available at our local library through their inter-library loan program. This was a new story to me and it sounded like something my daughter would like. I have been listening to audiobooks in the car on long trips but turned this on instead one morning because I wanted her to really focus on listening and knew there would be fewer distractions.
The CD begins with the narrator introducing the characters of the story and which instruments represent them. Each instrument plays for a short time before moving on to the next character, so the listener can get a feel for the character and familiarize themselves with the sound of each instrument. The story itself is about 25 minutes long, with the narrator speaking a line or two at a time and then the orchestra playing to illustrate.
I really loved how calming the narrator’s voice is, and how each character’s melody helps you to picture what is going on in the story. The London Philharmonic Orchestra is, of course, brilliant, and I found they did a beautiful job of playing this piece in such a way that you really get a feel for the story. The story is perfect for young children, although one part with the duck could be a bit scary for them until they hear the ending.
As we listened the first time, I discussed what we were hearing with my daughter and asked her a few questions about what she thought would happen next.
I tried not to interrupt often, but to also draw attention to different sounds and guide her in understanding what was happening as we heard each instrument. She would also ask questions, which I enjoyed because it means she was engaging with the story. It was great to watch her face, especially as the story would get to a more dramatic point here and there. You could tell that she really understood the suspense.
Afterwards, we talked about the story and I asked her how she felt about parts and she shared her thoughts. She told me some of the parts that stuck out to her, in her own words, without any direct prompting. I was very excited to hear her ask later that day, and other days as well, to listen again.
This is a great introduction to music for preschoolers.
The way the story and music are presented is a good way for your preschooler to begin listening to the instruments that make up the orchestra. They hear each instrument played both individually and along with other instruments, as well as hearing the name of the instrument as each one is introduced. As the story is told, the music will match the emotion of that part of the story. Your child will hear light, playful music as the bird flies around; loud, booming music as the angry grandfather stomps his feet; and quick, suspenseful music as the wolf chases the other animals. This is beneficial to helping your preschooler picture and feel what the narrator is describing. It also teaches the child to hear emotion in other music as well.
Another benefit, which I hadn’t expected, is the discussion and introduction to narration that the music and story led to. Ask your child what they think, using specific questions. “What do you think will happen next? How does this part make you feel? Do you hear the action that the narrator just described?” You don’t have to ask them to repeat anything back to you, but encourage them to talk about what they think and guide the conversation as long as they are interested. If they can repeat back parts of the story to you in their own words, that will really tell you that they understood and remember what they heard. Listen throughout the week as they play pretend and see if you don’t hear them retelling their favorite parts.
There is actually more to this CD that I am excited to explore later, as well.
The tracks that follow the story include info about the composer and an instrumental version, among others. I try to “follow the child”, and these tracks were not catching my daughter’s interest in the same way, so I opted to leave them for another day so as to not discourage her from the parts that she was interested in at the time. I am definitely going to use them in the future to build on what she already knows and expand her knowledge of the composer.
There are several other stories in the series.
The full set of Maestro Classics includes 12 CDs. We are going to listen to Casey at the Bat next, and I am also interested in The Story of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
Which story are you or your child most interested in? Share with us in the comments!