The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra could well be the title of a music textbook or a lecture series, but in the world of classical music, it’s better known as the renowned orchestral piece by British composer, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976).
Written in 1946 as a listening guide to the musical instruments in the orchestra and originally commissioned for a documentary film, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is a definitive piece for you to appreciate how different instruments in a symphony sound when played individually or together.
Listeners will almost feel like they are getting an educational tour around an orchestra, as various instruments from sections such as woodwind, strings, brass and percussion take turns to shine through the music. Typical of many 20th-century classical works, you will find dissonant sounds punctuating the entire score of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, but it certainly makes for intriguing listening, especially to the ears of young listeners.
The piece begins with the entire orchestra playing the theme, which is based on Henry Purcell’s Rondeau, the second movement from Abdelazer. If your child is learning the violin, you may recognise the tune from his/her music books. In fact, it is one of the pieces for the ABRSM 2016-2019 Grade 4 Violin examination.
Following the exuberant opening theme, several variations with divergent tempos take turns to introduce the various sections of an orchestra. For example, the bassoons march through Variation D; in Variation H, the harp plays the melody majestically. Then in Variation M, the last variation before the ending Fugue, percussions which usually play an accompanying role take to the centrestage with curious sounds made by the timpani, tambourine, triangle, xylophone and others.
Don’t miss the SSO’s interpretation of this famous work
As part of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) Concerts for Children Series, which included a performance of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, you can catch The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra being performed at the Victoria Concert Hall during the March term holiday in 2017.
Jason Lai | Photo: Alan Lim
SSO Associate Conductor Jason Lai – whom some may recognise from the Mediacorp OKTO production, Project Symphony – will give an exciting new spin to the well-loved piece with Jason’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra!
Stay tuned for the short piece specially composed by Jason to introduce the different instruments (and the musicians) in the orchestra, from flutes to bassoons, trumpets to tubas. Children who attend the concert can learn how to recognise the unique sound of each instrument and how each looks like; how different sounding instruments can come together to produce such great music. The use of a screen on stage will enhance your thrilling journey with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, not to mention, helpful for young audiences/beginners to better understand the music piece. Finally, audiences will be in for an added treat as the orchestra will also be playing Ravel’s Boléro, the French composer’s most famous piece.
SSO Concerts for Children: Jason’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
Sat, 18 Mar 2017, 2pm & 4pm Sun, 19 Mar 2017, 2pm
Victoria Concert Hall
Jason Lai, conductor
$32 (Category 1 seats – patron is seated closer to the stage) and $25 (Category 2 seats)