Friday, May 6, 2011

L.A. Chamber Orchestra Brings 'Instrument Petting Zoo' to the Kiddos


CC's love of music hit a high note last Sunday, when she got the chance to play a trombone at an Instrument "Petting Zoo," courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

The orchestra's family concert series, held for the past 16 years at the Alex Theatre (right) in Glendale, gives kiddos the chance to sample flutes, trombones, violins and cellos before they get a taste of what the professionals can do on stage.

Only part of the fun hourlong concert pre-show, the Instrument Petting Zoo was packed with little ones eager to toot their own horns, literally. Kidspace Children's Museum and the California Science Center also offered fun activities, such as wind-powered painting and DNA-building, respectively.

CC waited in line patiently, eager to get her hands on some pipes, or strings, or anything that would make music. Once we got to the trombone, she was thrilled. It took a few puffs for her to produce any sound at all, but once she got it, it was showtime.

Soon after that, it was time to go inside for "Whimsical Winds," the live LACO performance hosted by the endearingly funny Alan Chapman, who also has a weekday radio show on Classical KUSC.

The family-filled audience listened as clarinetist Joshua Ranz led a sextet of French horns, bassoons and another clarinetist in a selection from Beethoven.

The musicians were lighthearted and kid-friendly, playing music that resembled animal sounds (horses! birds! and one mistaken for an elephant, which became a running joke) and explaining in child-accessible terms how each of the instruments worked. They seemed to be really enjoying themselves up there.

There was even a piece titled "Octoot" (a play on "octet") from the fictitious composer PDQ Bach (aka Peter Schickele) that had the kids giggling in their seats. It's amazing what music -- and funny noises from instruments -- can do.

At just under an hour, the performance was very much attuned (ha!) to the realities of children's attention spans. It was manageable and broken up into well-timed samples from Anthony Plog, Poulenc, in addition to Beethoven and the silly PDQ.

A Q&A with the musicians capped off a fun-filled afternoon. The questions ranged from "How long have you been playing together?" to "Why does your face get red when you play?" which elicited the most laughter.

CC didn't get her question in, unfortunately, but I was happy to hear what she was going to ask. "Why do they hold their hands inside the French horns?" she asked, referring to the musicians who were doing just that.

Good question, kiddo-- one that I couldn't answer. Luckily, Chapman said that anyone who had a question that didn't get answered could email info@laco.org.

We're on it!

While "Whimsical Winds" marked the third and final performance in the 2011 series, stay tuned for more information about 2012.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Box office: 350 S. Figueroa St., Ste. 183
Los Angeles, CA 90071
213-622-7001, ext. 215
Tickets: $16, $10
tickets@laco.org

(Note: Media tickets provided)

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