Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Maestro Classics: Stories in Music {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

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Music. Something I love but lack where talent is concerned. Worship leader dad sings and plays the guitar, but mostly my kids are on their own when it comes to learning how to play other instruments.

Now, Music Appreciation I can do, and it's a subject I manage to sporadically fit into our homeschool schedule. Oh, what a blessing it is to be a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew when musical products are up for review! Maestro Classics™ offered Crew Members the opportunity to review two of four CDs from their new classical music CD series, Stories in Music™:
This award-winning series, created by conductor-composer Stephen Simon, offers a unique musical experience - stories put to music! Children hear beautiful stories narrated by Yadu, also known as Dr. Konrad Czynski, a professor of humanities at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, while enchanting musical scores are performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Stories in Music™ was created so parents and children can enjoy and understand symphonic music together in the comfort of home.

I chose The Sorcerer's Apprentice because of our family's love of fantastical stories that include wizards of all sorts and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel because this is a classic picture book that I somehow missed reading to my kids when they were little! Oh, and I also fell in love with the sound of the Uilleann bagpipes I heard in the preview on the website. :) I received physical CDs along with their 24-page booklet companions for this review, and they can be purchased for $16.98 each. MP3 downloads are also available for $9.98 each and include PDF versions of the activity booklets.
This classical music CD series is ideal for kids ages 6-12. Specifically, The Sorcerer's Apprentice says for ages 7+ and families, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel says for ages 5+ and families. My kids (ages 8, 12, and 14) and I listened to the CDs together, but my daughter is the one who completed the 24-page activity booklets included with each CD.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

It's hard not to be familiar with this timeless tale about a sorcerer and his lazy apprentice since it was made famous by Disney. Well, now's your chance to sit down with your children and listen to a beautiful narration of the story that accompanies the music of the original French composer, Paul Dukas.

Playing time of the CD is just under 42 minutes and includes several tracks that will entertain and educate the whole family:
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice narrated by Yadu and music conducted by Stephen Simon
  • Information about the 2000-year-old story written by a Greek author by Bonnie Ward Simon
  • March of the Brooms by Boston Crusaders Drum and Bugle Corps
  • Information about the music and how Paul Dukas transforms themes by Stephen Simon
  • Just the instrumental version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice
  • Prepare to perform some of the beats on kitchen percussion by Bonnie Ward Simon
  • Kitchen percussion play-along
You can listen to previews of each track on the website.  

Activity Booklet

The activity booklet for the Sorcerer's Apprentice features historical and musical information as well as fun activities for young children. The booklet can be conveniently stored in a pocket of the fold-out CD case.

Historical and Musical Information:
  • Short biographies of Stephen Simon (Conductor/Arranger), Bonnie Ward Simon (Executive Producer), and Yadu (Narrator)
  • Biography of Paul Dukas, original composer
  • History of the original story
  • Meet the Mallet Instruments
  • Sheet music for "March of the Brooms"
  • Drum and Bugle Corps information
  • Names and images of orchestra instruments
  • Dot-to-Dot
  • Crossword Puzzle
  • Apprentice Game

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Conductor/composer, Stephen Simon, brings to life Virginia Lee Burton's 1939 classic, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, with this award-winning musical CD. If you've never read this picture book to your children, it's an endearing tale of loyalty and friendship between Mike Mulligan and his beloved but outdated steam shovel, Mary Anne.

Playing time of this CD is just a little over 51 minutes and features several tracks for your listening enjoyment:
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, story with music
  • About the Author by Bonnie Ward Simon
  • Mike Mulligan song by Maestro Classics Jazz Quartet
  • About the Music, lesson with composer, Stephen Simon   
  • Listen again to Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
  • Prepare to Perform
  • Mike Mulligan sing-along, accompaniment only
You can listen to previews of these tracks on the website.

Activity Booklet

This booklet contains similar information and activities as mentioned above for The Sorcerer's Apprentice. It can also be stored in a pocket of the fold-out CD case.

Historical and Musical Information
  • Two-page biography of conductor/composer, Stephen Simon
  • One-page biographies of Bonnie Ward Simon, elucidator and Yadu, narrator
  • Brief biographies of James Shaffran, tenor; Sebastian Simon, little boy; and Paul Brennan, piper
  • Mike Mulligan Song, music and words by Stephen Simon
  • Information about the Uilleann Pipes
  • Dot-to-Dot
  • Crossword Puzzle
  • Code/Puzzle
  • Word Search
  • Maze
*I thought it was neat that my kids recognized a couple of inspired tunes in the Mike Mulligan composition. One tune was from "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" which my daughter was learning how to play on the keyboard, and the other tune was from "Drunken Sailor" to which my kids shouted, "Sponge Bob!" My kids didn't know the "Sponge Bob music" was from a song called "Drunken Sailor." They just knew the tune from the show. Now, I don't recommend gathering the family together to listen to the original song with lyrics, however, it is a pretty catchy tune!

I like products that inspire us to go even further. Books. I love books! So, once we received the CDs, I immediately reserved Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and a version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice from the library. It was great for my daughter to be able to follow along in the Mike Mulligan picture book with the narrator on the CD.

I also couldn't resist reserving Disney's Fantasia from the library so my children could see the very same Mickey sorcerer that I watched as a child. For a moment I wished I was more of a saver and had kept my sons' star-and-moon speckled, Mickey wizard hats that my sister bought for them while vacationing at Disneyland. I doubt I could've bribed my oldest to wear one, but I bet my daughter would have humored me while listening to the "March of the Brooms!"

Overall, these CDs were really fun and educational. It's easy to incorporate music instruction and enjoyment into a homeschool schedule with materials like this. I am impressed with the quality and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Maestro Classics­™ to other families! Check out how other crew mates felt about all four of these CDs by clicking the banner below.

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