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Family concert includes youth ballet

February 27, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

"Everything is possible with young ears," says Maryland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Elizabeth Schulze. Children tend to be so much more open to new things, she explains.

Young ears, and older ears, are invited to open up to the MSO's third annual family concert at 5 p.m., Saturday, March 1, at The Maryland Theatre. The performance will feature "Peter and The Wolf" and "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant."

Schulze strongly believes the Maryland Symphony Orchestra family concert is an important part of the orchestra's work.

There's nothing else that the MSO does that allows a whole family - parents and even very young children - to come together and experience the symphony orchestra, she says.


"Music has become so stratified," Schulze says. There are separate genres - pop, rap, hip-hop. Children need to know that classical music is not stuffy, she says.

"'Peter and The Wolf' is one of the pieces of music every child should know. It's great music," Schulze says.

And it's great fun. Sergei Prokofiev's music is not geared to be educational. It's entertaining, but it is instructive as well.

"Peter and The Wolf" introduces the instruments of the orchestra through the characters in the story. The cat is the clarinet, the duck is the oboe, the bird is the flute and Grandfather is the bassoon. That identification can last a lifetime. "It carries with you for years to come," Schulze says.

Schulze has conducted "Peter and The Wolf" with mimes and puppets but never before with ballet dancers. She's looking forward to the orchestra's collaboration with the Potomac Classical Youth Ballet Company.

"I was so excited by their work on our holiday concert," she says. Members of the dance troupe performed excerpts from "The Nutcracker" during the MSO's holiday concert performances last December.

"We've never done 'Peter and The Wolf,'" says Lauran Clowser, director of the dance company and The City Ballet School.

Nine dancers - Jessica Pike as Peter, Megan Schimmel as Grandfather, Jenna Simon as the duck, Karen Dunn as the wolf, Susan Johnston as the bird, Kristy Koppenhaver as the cat and Amanda Boyer, Rachel Hall and Elizabeth League as the hunters - will share the stage with the small chamber-sized orchestra. They will be dancing the width of the 31-foot proscenium arch but will have a depth of only 10 feet.

"It's a very big challenge," says Clowser, who along with the company's ballet mistress, Jennifer Green, choreographed and "set" the dance to the piece's narration.

Robert Aubry Davis, a host on XM satellite radio and Public Broadcasting's WETA radio and television programs, will narrate both "Peter and The Wolf" and "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant."

Davis, who has served as master of ceremonies for 10 MSO "Salute to Independence" concerts at Antietam National Battlefield, last appeared with the orchestra on The Maryland Theatre stage in November 2001, when he read "The Rubaiyat," the 12th-century love poem by Omar Khayyam.

Davis, who says he's been starving himself in anticipation of consuming "vast quantities of Germanic food" at Hagerstown's Schmankerl Stube restaurant across the street from the theater after the concert, is looking forward to Saturday's performance.

He narrated "Babar" at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., just last Saturday. The music came to be when the young daughter of a friend of French composer Francis Poulenc placed her storybook on his piano and asked him to play it, he says.

Schulze describes Poulenc's music as atmospheric. His music for "Babar" creates a mood she calls magical.

To accommodate a younger than usual house, Saturday's performance will be just one hour long.

If you go...

Maryland Symphony Orchestra

Third annual Family Concert: "Peter and The Wolf"

and "The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant"

5 p.m., Saturday, March 1

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.


Tickets cost $15 for adults and $18 for ages 12 and younger, and are available at the MSO box office at 13 S. Potomac St. or by calling 301-797-4000.

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