Laughter is a fine way to sneak a peek at the magic of a symphony orchestra
The composers may be dead, but not our interest in spreading love of orchestral music to new audiences.
As far as I know, no show has ever overthrown the dominance of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf as a children's introduction to the orchestra. Also great is Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
Not that people haven't tried to do something else.
Americans have been treated to Garrison Keillor's Young Lutheran take and, more recently, a clever Lemony Snicket-inspired mystery story, The Composer is Dead, by the Beaudelaire orphans' creator Daniel Handler and his composer buddy Nathaniel Stookey. It was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, and performed in Toronto two seasons ago.
I love Snicket's call to bows: "Those who want justice should go to the police station. Those who want something a little more interesting, should go to the orchestra."
There's a show running in England currently (live in Liverpool at Philharmonic Hall tonight, fyi) by funnyman Bill Bailey. It's called, appropriately enough, Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra. My guess is it's probably more suited to adults than children. Not having seen the show, I wonder how the comedian, who is at his sharpest when he isn't allowed to ramble, manages to sustain this over an evening.
I mention it, because it's being released on DVD and Blu-Ray today in the U.K.
Here is a promotional trailer, made last year at Royal Albert Hall.
Bailey is pretty nimble on a keyboard. Here's an old sketch of his, about the influence of Cockney music on classical composers: