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Petites Promenades
Music for Kids

"A legendary ballerina. The beautiful wife of a world famous musician. One of Chicago's leading real estate executives. Several ethnic dance troupes, a timpani player and a group of tiny tots sawing away at three-quarter size fiddles."

These and more are the ingredients of a distinct series of concerts offered each year by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Special Services office. They are called "Petites Promenades", a dandified way of saying the CSO is producing some pretty good sounds for kids. Little kids.

The "Petites Promenades" are staged in the Grand Ballroom of the Palmer House in downtown Chicago. The orchestra is surrounded by boys and girls, seated on the floor while their parents literally take back seats around the room. The youngsters, five years old and up, attend back-to-back performances on Saturday mornings during the regular concert season of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Programs this year are scheduled for December 16, January 13, March 17 and April 21.

Under the artistic supervision of Associate Conductor Henry Mazer, the "Petites Promenades" have an atmosphere of informality for easy listening by children normally ready for maximum fidgeting after five minutes in a fixed position. Mazer and his special guests obviously relate well to the kids: fidgeting.. the kind which stems from boredom.. simply doesn't exist. In fact, the young audience can articulate their feelings for what they see and hear with spontaneous movement.

The programs are designed to intrigue the children and capture their inherent inquisitiveness and imagination. Example: every boy and girl likes to pound away at something... pot, pan, drum or cymbal. Percussion instruments are introduced to the children through the virtousity of CSO Principal Percussionist, Gordon Peters. The theory seems to be that if the kids insist on making percussive noises, Mazer and his associates will show them how attractive organized percussive sounds really are.

Story telling fits into the picture, too. Valerie Solti, wife of the Chicago Symphony Music Director, recently narrated a specially prepared version of "Hansel and Gretel", set to music by Humperdinck. Those attending not only heard the story with its delightful musical punctuation marks but also saw the story come to life through the medium of puppetry. Famed ballet teacher and dancer Maria Tallchief brought her young corps of dancers for one of the programs and Mazer, an enthusiastic promoter of the Suzuki method of violin training for youngsters recently had a group of them front and center to show their little peers what a little practice can do in "The Little Folk Festival."

Obviously, the series had method behind all the floss and the fancy title. Simply put, the "Petites Promenades" are designed to introduce youngsters to very fine music, played by some of the world's best musicians, in a setting that captures the attention of all the awaking senses in the children. The programs succeed uncommonly well.

Illinois Parks and Recreation 6 September/October, 1978

There is nothing really profound about the philosophy built into these programs. The youngsters receive an introduction to music wrapped up into modes acceptable to little people that age: the sounds of music, of course, verbalization in a form they can relate to and visualization.. .the movement of dance or the charm of puppets.

There is one other ingredient which fits nicely. Without it, the series would not work. Mazer and his associates like kids and the kids know it.

Information on the new "Petites Promenades" series is available by calling the Education Secretary of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at 435-8143 or writing to 220 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60604.

Illinois Parks and Recreation 7 September/October, 1978

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