Kids preview: Recitals for Wrigglers

You're never too young to enjoy the sounds of Beethoven and Bach, as these popular concerts for babies and pre-schoolers are proving.

Having witnessed the positive impact on tiny ears of hearing live classical music, Louise Bevan and Clea Friend wanted to bring their own musical talents to bear on a project dedicated to babies and toddlers. Nine concerts later, Recitals for Wrigglers is a hit with both children and carers.

What prompted you to start Recitals for Wrigglers?
We wanted to create a concert aimed directly at pre-schoolers, that would be an interactive experience, bringing them live classical music at close quarters. We know that classical music has a profound effect on babies and children, but ordinary concerts aren't tailored to young ears.

We both saw that there was a window for what we had in mind so began formulating ideas. It was important to us that the concept was not exclusive in any way, therefore we decided to keep our ticket prices low and to use smaller community spaces rather than large concert halls.

Our world is saturated with piped music everywhere we go – cafes, shops, lifts and waiting rooms – and it's crucial that new ears learn that these sounds are made by a skilled person with an instrument and that it sounds far better live.

How do you structure the concerts? In what way do they differ from an ordinary recital?
We've spent many hours perfecting the format we have now. The recitals are 30 minutes long, and we find that's long enough to engage and challenge toddlers but not so long that they lose interest.

The first 15 minutes is standard classical repertoire, with minimal chat from us. Perhaps a short description or picture to spark their visual mind but primarily real classical music that is as much for the parents as the children!

Then we tell a story – a traditional fable or myth, using language and concepts that will be familiar in the world of the toddler or pre-schooler. The story is punctuated by short musical excerpts to illustrate various points and to allow babies and children to join in.

We spend the last five minutes of the concert sharing our bag of percussion instruments, singing and playing familiar nursery rhymes and songs. This comes at a time where they might be getting ready to do something else and it's nice for them to participate and also hear music that they likely know.

All of our programmes contain a theme throughout, for example The Hare and the Tortoise, which explores fast and slow, or Wriggle Around the World (Edinburgh Fringe sell-out in 2015 and 2016) which features music from around the world. We now have nine programmes and are working on our tenth.'

What age of babies/toddlers have people been bringing along?
We have all ages from new born to early years. We sometimes have older siblings of school age if schools are closed for any reason, and we find that they enjoy our concerts too!

What kind of works are in your repertoire?
We play Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Debussy, Bartok and much more. We have also been very lucky to have pieces written for us by the incredible African musician Eugene Skeef and Paul Englishby in the past two years.

For our upcoming concert at Holyrood Palace the talented Suzanne Parry has written us music with a royal theme.

What has the response to your concerts been like so far, from both little ones and their carers?
The response has been fabulous and many parents who aren't that familiar with classical music are surprised to see the reaction and attentiveness of their child when we start playing.

A lot of parents have also observed their usually active child relaxing during our concerts! The physical and emotional reaction is so strong when the vibrations from an acoustic instrument are felt close up, that the mood of a child can be changed in an instant and this is very evident throughout our concerts.

Many parents and carers also comment that it is a treat for them to hear live music, too. We are passionate about introducing wee ones to live classical music and enjoy steering them on a journey for the time that we have with them.

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