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Radio 3 Children's Breakfast - snap, crackle ... no pop

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Donald Macleod Donald Macleod | 12:40 UK Time, Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Girl_listening_to_radio.jpgOn Breakfast this morning (prompted by an article in today's Guardian) I asked any children or teenagers listening to the show to text in their favourite pieces of classical music. What a response! A wonderful, surprising and hugely encouraging list of works has emerged that reveals a lot about how we learn to love music.

In a recent top ten poll of children's favourite classical works, reported by Tom Service in The Guardian, John Williams' Harry Potter score and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf won the hearts of the young. From the flurry of texts from eager thumbs that came in almost immediately, it was clear that children's musical tastes are as rich and varied as those of the adults who listen to BBC Radio 3.

There was a broad sweep of popular works you'd expect to see, like Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube. Some suggestions, like Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King and Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain, are obvious favourites for children - they appeal because of their vivid orchestration and narrative power, not just because they're familiar from television. But there were also some really unexpected selections: a Bartok piano sonata (from a listener aged 15), the Barber violin concerto (aged 16) and the mad scene from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (aged 18).

Reading between the lines, I'm struck by how these young people first came across the music they love. I think it confirms something I've always known: that nothing beats performing music as a way of falling in love with it. I'm sure the 10-year-old cellist who adores Bach's solo suites is learning to play them, or at least aspires to; and I bet the same is true of the 9-year-old who wanted to hear a Mozart piano sonata. I'm tickled pink by the text from a young chorister whose favourite piece of music is Rubbra's Magnificat in A flat - not an obvious choice, and definitely not one that would make it into a top ten chart! But it's music that he knows, that he loves to sing, and that he's open to loving without the preconceptions and reservations that come, inevitably, with musical knowledge and with age.

So, a spontaneous and unregulated sample of youngsters listening to Radio 3 one rainy November morning loves the music of Honegger, Haydn, Bernstein, Poulenc, Sullivan, Khatchaturian, Zelenka, Shostakovich and Elgar. Their ears are obviously wide open. The trick, and the challenge, will be to keep them that way.


  • Comment number 1.

    A thread on the Platform 3 message board is discussing this. The original survey reported by Tom Service in the Guradian, came from Classic FM and there is some speculation on the message board about the very different responses from young listeners to Radio 3.


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