Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Maestro Classics: a review

We were delighted to have the opportunity to review two products from Maestro Classics

Maestro Classics Review
Maestro Classics produce classical music for children. The productions include a narrator and orchestra. Maestro Classics make music fun for children whilst explaining the background.

We received digital downloads of My name is Handel: the Story of Water Music

Maestro Classics Review
 and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

Maestro Classics Review

Recently, we had been learning about the Georgians: the series of English Kings called George, lasting from George I to George IV, with William IV thrown in at the end!  Handel, the famous composer, not only lived in the reigns of George I and George II but wrote music for both.

 George Frederick Handel first worked for George I when he was Elector of Hanover and then visited London. Handel outstayed his leave from the Elector but was caught out when his former boss became king George I of England. The story goes that the Water Music was written to placate George I.

 The scene where the music was first performed was familiar to the children-the Thames. OK, it probably looked different in Handel's day!
My name is Handel tells the story of Handels's life and centres around the circumstances in which he came to write the famous Water Music which was first played to George I as he traveled on the Thames in a royal barge.

One of our favourite London museums, the Maritime Museum,

even has a real royal barge. Hearing the music and particularly, for us, knowing some of the places brought the whole event into focus. I learned much that I hadn't know before. The second track gives an alternative version to the famous story that Handel had outstayed his leave of absence from Hanover. It also explains why London was such an attractive place to an entrepreneurial young musician.
The children loved the song My name is Handel set to the hornpipe from the Water Music.
In total there are six tracks in My name is Handel:

  • The Story of the Water Music. This is, by far, the longest track and tells the story of Handel and the Water Music interspersed with music. This is narrated by Yadu otherwise known as Konrad Czynski. The music is played by the London Philhamonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Simon.
  • About Handel and the Story
  • My name is Handel song-short but very popular here!
  • About the music with the Maestro-an explanation of some of the music with the conductor, Stephen Simon. This explains some terms such as overture and concerto.
  • Prepare to perform
  • My name is Handel sing-along.
The Maestro Classics website has an amazing, and free, section called Homeschool Music Curriculum guides for Maestro Classics CDs. Don't miss this: there are so many ideas and links. For Handel, these include information about the English monarchy along with a link to a portrait of George I; activities about floating; a link to how to make a flute; the recipe for fish and chips and much more. This guide is dividing into subject areas and there is sufficient for a study lasting at least a week.

My name is Handel has a recommended aged of 5+ and families. I wouldn't have any concerns about younger children listening in too. 

The second product that we reviewed was Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel. The website says that this is suitable for children aged 4+ and families. I think that an interested three year old would probably enjoy this too and it certainly appealed to my 5 and 7 year old.  The book of this name is popular here, we've spent time reading it and even made our own model steam shovel. So listening to the story was a winner. This production is a musical rendition of Virginia Lee Burton's classical book. Again the narrator is Yadu. The instrument chosen to play a leading role in the music was the Irish pipes. More about this instrument is explained in one of the tracks. 

Mike Mulligan  has seven tracks
  • Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel- the story with music.
  • About the author from the ellucidator, Bonnie Ward Simon. This is not a dry biography but an fascinating story of how the story came to be written and how Virginia Lee Burton welcomed children's input into her stories.
  • Mike Mulligan song
  • About the music with a particular explanation about the Irish pipes.
  • Now that you know a little more: the story again
  • Prepare to perform
  • Mike Mulligan song-sing-along
Like My name is Handel, this comes with a pdf with the words and music of the song, information about those taking part and about the music along with a crossword, a maze puzzle and a musical code puzzle.

Again, there is a curriculum guide with links including to a site showing how steam shovels work. 
This review has had me searching for where we can see a steam shovel in southern England, without much success-if anyone knows please do let me know.

What we thought
We loved these MP3 downloads. Both the children and I learnt from them although they were both about topics that weren't completely new to us. In many ways, I wish that we had used the Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel when we spent time learning about the book earlier. My five year old's comment about the download was 
I love every part of this.

My name is Handel was a worthwhile addition to our learning about the Georgians.
Highly recommended. I'm planning to buy more from the Maestro Classics range!
The Maestro Classics website has short tasters of each recording.

Both My name is Handel and Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel are available as CDs and MP downloads. The MP3s are $9.98 each which is about £5.92. The CDs cost $16.98 (about £10.07).

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