Some thoughts from Paul Rissmann about music for young people
"It baffles me how little classical music has been written for young audiences. The two greats - Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals – both of them unquestionably magnificent, date back to 1936 and 1886 respectively. Sadly, there seems to be a chronic lack of new repertoire designed to appeal to children. To bridge this gap, I started to explore the possibility of creating new musical adventures for young audiences. But in this digital age I questioned if there was a more modern way to present classical musicians. Given how saturated our lives are by new media, how challenging is it for a 5-year-old child to sit still for 60 minutes in a concert hall? And more importantly – why should we even expect them to do that?
Whenever I performed an orchestral concert for young people, I began experimenting with my own presentational style. Sometimes I’d insert a narrative into a classical work, telling the story behind the music over the music. I found fun ways to invite huge audiences to instantly participate with the musicians, and I projected visuals above the orchestra. None of these techniques were designed simply to entertain – my main goal was to take the children’s eyes and ears into the heart of the performance and to connect to the music.
But often this felt like a compromise. What was actually needed was a new, child-centred repertoire - that was rewarding (for both the audience and the players) and which balanced focused listening with meaningful participation. So I began to create my own.
As Children's Composer for Music in the Round, I have written a whole series of works for award-winning Ensemble 360 and narrator Polly Ives. With their support, I have been motivated to explore and develop the potential of a truly interactive children’s concert. There is something quite magical when everyone in a concert hall comes together to make music. And most importantly, the huge divide between stage and stalls, audience and orchestra suddenly vanishes."