Philadelphia Orchestra caters to the under 10 set
December 3, 2012By Peter Crimmins
The Philadelphia Orchestra got a look at their future patrons over the weekend, when hundreds of parents brought their children to the Kimmel Center to see the Fabulous Philadelphians for the first time.
"Derek, my son, has been practicing his Christmas songs. He was very excited. He thought it would be a very fancy day in the city," said Sarah Hughes of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, calling out to her rambunctious 4-year old. "Did you wear a nice sweater? No sweat pants today!"
The holiday Family Concert, a programming tradition going back several generations, is a kid-friendly matinee where singing along, getting up from your seat, and making random noises is part of the occasion.
Romanian conductor Cristian Macelaru led the orchestra through a holiday song from his homeland (Strauss' "Eljen a Magyar"), from France (Bizet's "Farandole"), and excerpts from "The Nutcracker" completed by dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet. Macelru was coaxed off the podium by Santa Claus (using a teddy bear as a lure) so the Jolly Old Elf could give his own swinging spin to "Sleighride."
"Twas the Night Before Christmas" was read by Charlotte Blake Alston, with backup by the Orchestra, and the concert was wrapped up with a few sing-along carols.
"I love the family concert. I went to them as a kid," said Barbara Hoyer of Swarthmore, Pa., who brought her 7-year old son and 5-year old daughter to the show. "We used to ride buses from King of Prussia down the expressway. I remember driving past the rocks with all the ice on them."
Back then, the Orchestra performed at the Academy of Music. "It was incredible," said Hoyer. "The Academy was so ornate, with beautiful lights. I still remember it."
There was no ice display along the expressway on Saturday, as the weather was flirting with 60 degrees, and the Kimmel Center was not outfitted with lights or garlands. Many young patrons arrived with the own holiday finery. Girls wearing red-and-green plaid dresses over white or red leggings were not uncommon. Caroline Blakesley, 5, added silver shoes to the festive ensemble. "Those silver shoes go everywhere with us," said her mother, Lauryn. "They're her favorite."
"I liked it when they were dancing a the end, when the princess came a danced," said Caroline, who had the opportunity to meet the Pennsylvania Ballet dancers in the lobby after the show.
The Family Concerts are marketed as appropriate for children as young as 6, but many kids were much younger than that. Jeanette Bezinque brought her 17-month old daughter and strapped her 3-month old daughter to her chest during the concert. "For a toddler, it was a challenge. She was up, down, up, down," said Bizinque, who grew up playing the violin. "But she was engaged. It's a matter of balancing her energy."
For many, it was a day in the city, to hear the Orchestra, see the lights at Macy's, and get lunch downtown. "Classical music is such an important part of their cultural experience, Said Hoyer. "They need to have it in their head and heart. I need to show them what world-class musicians are like."