A children's guide to the orchestra...

The HK Philharmonic performance of Siegfried this weekend was marvellous; we are seriously fortunate to have a world-class orchestra on our doorstep and to be able to attend their concerts without having to sell an organ to pay for the tickets!

Enhancing the performance was my pleasure at seeing a number of extremely well behaved children in attendance. Watching their delight as the story developed added to my joy. One little boy, sitting up in the gods, had a wonderful time nodding his head in time with the crashes of Mime's anvil at the end of the first act. At no point did any of the children distract those around them. Wagner can be complex for adults and sitting reasonably still in order to listen to four hours' worth of music is a task many of us in the audience found a challenge. The parents who had decided to bring their offspring had clearly thought carefully about their decision.

I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend concerts as a child and the habit has remained with me. Exposing your son or daughter to the joys of a live orchestra can give them such enjoyment but a few guidelines might be useful:

1: Choose your concert wisely! Many orchestras will offer children's programmes which could be a good place to start. Have a look at a few websites such as HK Phil which also offers an excellent Siegfried podcast.

2: Read up on the piece, composer, orchestra before you go. If your child is not a musician, explain how the orchestra is seated.

3: Explain the etiquette of attending a concert: the respect we show for the leader and conductor, the times that we clap to show appreciation, the need to keep quiet in order not to disturb others.

4: Direct your child's attention: give them players to look out for, parts of the piece to listen for, conductor's signals to be aware of.

5: Have fun! Discuss your joint reactions during the interval. Anyone who is heading for a school interview will benefit enormously from this exercise.

You may well have found a shared pleasure which you will be able to enjoy together for years to come.


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