I think the first time I experienced an orchestra playing classical music live was at a Classical Spectacular concert when I was a kid. I don’t remember much about the music, but I remember it was different and fun and, well, spectacular.
I didn’t run home and vow to be a classical musician and sign up for conducting lessons then and there, but the seed was sown. It made orchestral and classical music and its performance something real and understandable to my young mind and I knew it was a thing in the world that could be enjoyed. I’ve come to realise that this is a lot more than a lot of people get when it comes to experiences of this kind, either as a child or otherwise. First impressions are important.
There are in fact many such concerts and events staged in concert halls, parks, churches and venues up and down the country that are specifically tailored for audiences unfamiliar with classical music and attending concerts. Their aim is to play popular, accessible pieces that are easy to enjoy and have wide appeal, while also providing a fun and stress-free night out getting to know new music without having to worry about etiquette or repertoire.
The Classical Spectacular concerts even have a laser show to dazzle the youngsters and a program incorporating many of the famous pieces regular listeners will already recognise but won’t have had the opportunity to see performed in a live concert. The Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture finale even has the cannons and indoor fireworks!
As I grew more and more enamoured with classical music and studied, listened to and learned to play it, I went on a journey of appreciation through the years that traversed the easy classics of Mozart and Haydn, the emotional romantics of Chopin and Rachmaninov, the transcendent baroque purity of Bach and the modernist neo-classicism of Stravinsky and out the other side in every direction.
Many a dyed-in-the-wool classical enthusiast like me tend to scoff snootily at the unashamed populist motivations of events like the Classical Spectacular, but I personally give them their enthusiastic due for what they’re trying to achieve. I remember how it all started for me and how it could all start for some other kid out there who might be lucky enough to have parents willing to take a chance on something new. It gives people the chance to experience classical music but without having to worry about what to see or how to behave – the primary focus is on fun, which is the best way to get anybody interested in anything.
So if you do have a family, I can’t recommend a night like this enough. You can even book special catering tickets so it becomes a real evening out. Most importantly, it will be something different, something new, something fun and potentially the start of something wonderful for your children and, who knows, maybe for you too.