Our family’s classical music consumption usually happens on weekend mornings. Up too early. Kids too noisy. We turn on a classical music station. Its soothing sounds keep us sane when it feels like the rest of Toronto is sleeping.
I secretly hoped for the same calming effect when we travelled to Roy Thomson Hall for our first experience at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts, a five-concert series designed for kids, featuring the TSO with guest musicians and performers.
The little guys were captivated (and astonishingly stayed in their seats) for the one-hour orchestral presentation by the TSO’s roster of 88 incredible musicians. From the start, our children were most fascinated by “the guy” (guest conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong) swinging his arms wildly at centre stage. Their curiosity was continually quenched as the conductor interacted with the youngsters in the audience, asking questions and offering interesting stories to intro the musical pieces. The Halloween-themed concert Symphonic Spooks was extra intriguing with some musicians in costume and a young dance group.
Yes, there were moments of very loud whispers, and for sure you saw some fidgeting and seat flipping throughout the young crowd. But thankfully, no one seemed to mind. Kids and their adults in TOw were too busy enjoying the sounds and sights of an afternoon of live music.
A sign of a successful outing? Our five-year-old requested high-fives with the conductor on the way out. I think we’re hooked.
Getting there: Driving, there are lots of paid street parking ($4/hr) and private lots. On TTC, take the King St. streetcar and get off in front of Roy Thomson Hall at Simcoe or on subway get off at St. Andrew Station and walk west. It’s on the PATH.
Low-down: The Young People’s Concert Series (for 2 to 12-year-olds) is a five-concert series. (There is a holiday performance in December then three more concerts in 2015.) Always Saturdays at 2 and 4 pm. Tickets range from $20 to $32. Arrive early. There is a cozy pre-concert in the lobby.
Food: No food or drinks in the concert hall. Snacks and drinks for purchase before and after. (Adult drinks available.) There is no intermission during the Young People’s Concerts. There are a lot of restaurants in the area with some kid-friendly eats. Beware if you go farther south on some kind of ‘game day’ – many of the big restos like Boston Pizza and and Casey’s are usually busy. If you travel underground, you’ll find some fast-food options in the PATH.
What’s next: As your children’s music tastes develop, move on to the Light Classics, which presents the “greatest hits” from well-known classical composers. The What Makes it Great? series offers insight from a classical music expert followed by a performance post-intermission. Concert-goers in the 15 to 35 age group can join TSOUNDCHECK. This membership has reduced tickets and access to a community of young music lovers. (They host parties twice a year.) There is also curriculum-based education programs and TSO Student Concerts.
In the hood: Be sure to look at the sidewalk. The “Stars” of Canada’s Walk of Fame are along Simcoe and King streets. If you need to run the kiddos post-concert, head next door (west) to David Picaut Square (spacious concrete plaza). The CBC Building is southwest and the atrium is free. Mr. Dress Up’s treehouse is in there. The CBC Museum is also free but open only weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. The CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada are due south.