It’s as easy as apple pie: children’s laughter makes the (musical) world go round! Their sparkling eyes and excited looks, mouths wide open – if you are reading this, you’ve probably been to a few family concerts yourself, either with your own children or, like me, you borrowed your friends’ little ones for the day. Their refreshing openness, honesty and especially the hubbub as the music starts have made for some of my most joyful and inspiring afternoons in the concert hall. But what to do when you’re stuck at home and, as a once promising talent, your musical showcases are now strictly limited to the shower... sometimes for the sake of your own family? I followed Alice down the rabbit hole of educational and entertaining online resources to save you some shattering reviews from your own children.

Let’s start with the basics. What is an orchestra? Which instruments play in an orchestra? George meets the Sydney Youth Orchestra to find out all about the different instrument families, from the lyrical strings to the noisy brass – but what does a conductor actually do? Once you and your children have decided on your favourite section, you can extend your knowledge with virtual instrument guides offered by various orchestras. While both the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Konserthuset Stockholm explore modern instruments, members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment dive into the world of period instruments.

Are you up for a challenge yet? A strange object has been found in the Konserthuset and Iris, Theo and Tara are up for new adventures to find the rightful owner. The Concert Patrol is an incredibly imaginative way to learn more about the everyday life of an orchestra and concert hall and is available in Swedish with English subtitles. If you'd rather challenge your child’s inner percussionist than Sherlock Holmes, the LPO’s Timpani Moments are the ideal pastime. Find some oversized cooking pots and a couple of wooden spoons and let your children tap along to Mahler 5 or – depending on your tastes – Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. Since you’re already building a percussion set with kitchen utensils (it might be a good idea to order takeaway tonight!), why not try the first #RSNOChallenge and create a Samba Band? Their weekly challenges will encourage children to think creatively and explore sound in unique and exciting ways. And if you’re still thinking about a way to use that long-ignored box of Lego, you can take part in the #ENOLegoChallenge and recreate a scene from your (and your children’s) favourite opera.

Let’s get slightly more serious. Leonard Bernstein was more than a conductor and composer, he was a passionate educator too and his Young People’s Concerts are still considered brilliant gems of music education. They are currently available to watch in Austria, Germany and Switzerland via myFidelio, but there will also be limited streams in the US – we will let you know once the schedule has been announced. One of today’s best known musical educators is the violinist Nicola Benedetti. In 2019, she launched “With Nicky”, an online series of educational videos, to provide information, guidance and support for young musicians throughout their musical and personal development. Aspiring violinists will find plenty to get their teeth into. For a daily dose of creativity, tune in to Lincoln Center’s pop-up classroom, available on weekdays at 2pm ET on their Facebook Page and in the one-hour-long programme of the house’s Chamber Music Society, Inspector Pulse explains the world of classical music by solving puzzling cases. Who knew that there were strings inside a piano?! If your family’s interests lie in opera, English Touring Opera has you covered. They offer a range of digital teaching resources for their award-winning interactive opera for children aged 7 to 11, Laika the Spacedog. If you’re able to dig out your German skills from school, your children can help Papagena hunt the Fledermaus through the Theater an der Wien. Their immersive children’s opera is aimed at children over 5 and comes with dance- and sing-alongs, a pairs game, colouring pictures and even a manual to build your own laser trap at home.

Leonard Bernstein
© CBS Entertainment, used by permission of The Leonard Bernstein Office

One of the loveliest jewels I found during my treasure hunt is Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project. It pairs parents-to-be as well as new mothers and fathers with professional artists – although not strictly classical – to write their own lullabies for their babies, aiding child development and strengthening the bond between parent and child. But wouldn’t this be a wonderful idea for older children as well? Why not write down some shared memories – anything from your last camping holiday to building a bed linen tent in your living room – and encourage your children to do the same before setting them to music together?! BBC Ten Pieces can help you with the composition process. They open up the world of classical music to 7-14 year olds with exciting films, lesson plans, instrumental arrangements and BBC Bitesize: composing where you can choose from film to minimalist music to find inspiration for your lullaby.

For your mini-ballerina, Notes in Motions offers remote dance lessons for all grades. Join their teaching artists as they lead you (and, of course, your child) through some fun activities to keep you active and dancing. Dutch National Opera and Ballet offer short dance videos and a blueprint to build your own ballet theatre at home. As a nice side effect, your children might take up Dutch and if they become interested in the more technical side of the theatre, have a look at our own Behind the Scenes section.

Slowly and steadily we are getting used to the importance of social distancing these days and to online interactive possibilities instead. LSOPlay is a free interactive web app, allowing the viewer to experience the LSO on stage at the Barbican (anytime, anywhere) by watching the orchestra from four camera angles simultaneously. And there are more ways to make music together. Have your children ever dreamt of playing with virtuosos? Not that your guitar skills aren’t up to Miloš’ standards… The app NomadPlay can isolate any instrument from a recording to give you the thrill of playing in immersion with prestigious artists and ensembles. They offer a free subscription if you download the app until 17th April. Another chance to take part in an online orchestra is Jess Gillam’s Virtual Scratch Orchestra which will debut on 17th April. You can download the music and scores from her website, record yourself and submit the video via email. The first work will be David Bowie’s Where Are We Now?. If the live social element is missing, you can set up a virtual ensemble lesson (or performance) with your children’s friends – Brentwood School, for example, has organised an entire Chamber Music Concert with entrances from their students’ living rooms.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
© ROH | Bill Cooper

For longer distractions, there are countless full performances for children available online. Wigmore Hall offers a couple of concerts – one with the very intriguing title Sir Scallywag and the Battle of Stinky Bottom – and in the Digital Concert Hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker you can find endless offers of family concerts, children's operas – it's almost impossible to choose! The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal offers a lovely interactive concert Around the World in 80 Days (in French) and the cellist Steven Isserlis is playing a weekly children’s concert in his living room, streamed every Wednesday on Facebook. Your children won’t even miss out on opera. They can watch Jonathan Dove’s enchanting The Adventures of Pinocchio from Opera North, available on Marquee TV, or not one but two versions of The Magic Flute for children, either from the Wiener Staatsoper (in German and only available with a subscription) or the Liceu in Barcelona (in Catalan). Both houses offer a couple more operas for young audiences, including a child-friendly version of The Ring from Vienna, in case you need an entire afternoon off! There will also be two free streams from the Staatsoper: Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella and Wagner’s Die Feen. Once you’ve read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince it will stay with you forever and light up your darkest days. In 2018, MuTh (the concert hall of the Wiener Sängerknaben) commissioned Gerald Wirth to write a children's opera based on the fable and it is now available to watch online. After having to cancel their opera festival for children, the Opéra Comique presents a couple of productions online, including La Princesse légère, a lovely tale about a princess enjoying the ease of being a child.

Pippilotta Victualia Rollgardina Peppermint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking – do you remember the strongest girl in the world? The Swedish choreographer Pär Isberg choreographed a higgledy-piggledy production of Astrid Lindgren’s favourite character for the Helsinki Opera House. The Royal Ballet has two charming offers: Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf and once your children follow Alice down the rabbit hole into a wonderland world of bewitching characters, you can finally start your Home Office day or put your feet up with a glass of wine and enjoy a grown-up performance in our archive after a long day of music education...

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