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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #60
July 09, 2008

Sounds of Summer

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 + Outdoor Concert Under the Stars

While the debate about the educational value of introducing babies to classical music continues, our anecdotal evidence tells us that kids respond to good music with their whole bodies - from ears to brain to wiggly bodies. Fantasia, with elephants dancing in tutus and Mickey Mouse playing The Sorcerer's Apprentice, offers a perfect introduction to classical music, from Bach to Stravinsky. Seventy years ago, Walt Disney had the radical notion to animate short films to memorable music. Generations have learned Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite from celluloid, and your kids will soon be bopping along to Beethoven and Mussorsky while watching stories created to accompany the famous tunes. With very little dialogue and a wondrous score recorded by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Philharmonic, Fantasia broke all the rules in 1940, and Disney's updated Fantasia 2000 (performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of James Levine) has an exquisite ode to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, that is sure to delight a new generation.

Listening to live music is a treat, yet most kids are too young to sit through hours in a concert hall. For us, the ideal family night out is to spread a blanket under the stars and enjoy our city's free outdoor music. We like to bring a picnic while the sun sets (save dessert for intermission!), and then let the kids wiggle and wriggle while we relax to music under the stars, a yummy summer treat. If you search your local paper, you will likely be surprised with the variety of free performances offered -- we've found puppetry, folk tales, tumbling, drumming and music from around the world. We have also discovered that often, these concerts take place in parks we do not routinely visit, and it gives our kids a chance to explore parts of our city that are new. We like to let our kids help choose what we see, hoping their input will keep them engaged. And they are -- we find kids are natural enthusiasts and dance the night away. Turns out, music appreciation for kids is a walk in the park!

Film Title: Fantasia or Fantasia 2000
Directed By: Various Arists
1940, Rated G, 120 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why It's Worth It: We think you shouldn't grow up without this one. Fantasia offers an enticing introduction to classical music while breaking the barriers of what animation was supposed to do (this was 1940, remember) and while Fantasia 2000 has a more modern approach, some of the segments are spectacular. The animation segments are all short and antsy kids only have a few moments to wait until another short film begins.
  • Red Flags: There are none! This is a squeaky clean classic that should be on your permanent DVD shelf.
  • Music from the Fantasia: Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite, Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Stravinsky's The Rites of Spring, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, Mussorsky's Night on Bald Mountain,
  • Music from Fantasia 2000: Beethoven's Symphony #5, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Shostakovich, Piano Concerto # 2 Allegro Opus 102, Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals, Finale, Dukas, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance, Stravinsky, Firebird Suite.
  • Further Viewing: There are many wonderful films that can help introduce kids to music. We love Mr. Holland's Opus, Music of the Heart, The Chorus, Fantasia 2000, and last year's August Rush.

Our Tips for Talking with your kids about this film:

  • Cinema Savvy: Fantasia was the first film released in sterophonic sound; ironically (or more likely as part of a brilliant marketing campaign), Fantasia 2000 was the first film released in IMAX format.


An Outdoor Concert

Age Recommendation: Stroller Babes to Grandparents

Time Allotment: Usually, a few hours

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure:

  • What We Learned: The audience is listening, and they like to gather as early in order to spread out on blankets and picnic before the show. Bring chairs and a blanket, so you can spread out on the ground during the concert -- that is, if your kids aren't on their feet the whole time
  • Picnics Up The Fun Factor: It's fun to picnic before the concert. Bring a picnic dinner if rules permit. You may even catch the the orchestra setting up. Some theatres have food on site but lines can be long and food can be pricey.
  • Hot Days, Cool Nights: It may be warm while the sun is out, but depending on where you live, when the sun goes down, be prepared with the necessities -blankets, sweaters, bug spray.
  • Tune Into Your Kids' Interests: We took our kids to symphony concert, but any live performance will do. There is a myriad of music from which you can choose -- classical, jazz, world and pop. Log on to your theatre's website and see what is in tune with your family's interest.

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:
  • Anywhere: Google your city + outdoor concert, 2008 summer concerts, or free concerts.
  • Boston: The Hatch Shell, near the Charles River Esplanade hosts outdoor concerts on weekends and many weeknights throughout the summer. The grass pavilion in front of the stage is a perfect spot to set up picnics, sunbathe or throw a frisbee. Check the DCR's Hatch Shell Events schedule.
  • Chicago: The Grammy-nominated Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus perform free in their permanent home - the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Check the Grant Park Music Festival schedule for dates and times. For a variety of free concert performances around town also check the Chicago Park District's Calendar of Events. This month you'll find everything from Jazz to children's music.
  • Houston: Catch the magic of an outdoor summer concert with the Houston Symphony. For many performances the seating on the lawn is open to the public with no tickets required. The concession stand at Miller Outdoor Theater provides refreshments and picnic supplies and helps to fund many of the complimentary events. Don't forget your blanket or lawn chairs. From Tchaikovsky to Beethoven, this night under the stars is sure to please.
  • New York: Whether you're taking in an intimate classical concert, world music in the afternoon or the Philharmonic in the evening, opportunities abound for free music outdoors. Throughout July, head over to Bryant Park and enjoy Tuesdays @ 5: Classic Kids, a weekly classical music series which features extraordinary talented young virtuosi. These concerts are held on the Upper Terrace from 5:00-6:00 pm. The week of July 8-15, the New York Philharmonic presents its free concerts in the parks series throughout New York City. Tuesday, July 15th is the concert on The Great Lawn in Central Park. Concerts start at 8:00 pm and are followed by fireworks.  Finally, check out the concert roster for the City Parks Foundation's 23rd season of Central Park SummerStage. This performing arts festival presents wonderful pickings from many music genres from folk and rock to world and rap and many places in between.  Get there early to save a spot! Click here for directions.
  • San Francisco: In the summer, the sweet sounds of music in San Francisco are a stone's throw away. As always, the San Francisco Jazz Festival is rightfully venerated for its Summerfest, a series of free concerts held Thursday evenings from 6-7:30 p.m. simultaneously in the heart of San Francisco's shopping district, and in Palo Alto, at the Stanford Shopping Center.  The Stern Grove Festival features fabulous free concerts on Sundays, with performances ranging from the San Francisco Opera and world-renowned San Francisco Symphony, to Latin, Hawaiian and Afrofunk grooves and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. In August, a free concert featuring a salsa band is scheduled for the Alameda Crab Cove Visitor Center .  In Berkeley, check out the great free Summer Noon Concerts, featuring local and internationally-known jazz musicians every Thursday. Further inland, Concord has a lengthy list of free concerts running all summer to keep you and your kids humming.
  • Washington, D.C.: The National Symphony Orchestra performs free at The Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Rock Creek Park, July 18th and 19th. Check website for details - some free concerts still require you pick up tickets in advance. The National Capital Park Service also sponsors a number of concerts around the city - most are free. Click here for a list of locations and performances included in the 2008 Summer Concert series.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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