Child’s Play

Attending a librarians’ training event at the University of Cambridge, I was interested to see a Special Collections LibGuide – one on Children’s Literature in Cambridge libraries. It made me wonder what  might be in the Pendlebury Library of Music aimed at children.  Granted,  the foremost purpose  of the library is to support the Undergraduate teaching of the Music Tripos at the University, I nevertheless managed to find a few items…

Peter Maxwell Davies: Cinderella; an opera in two acts for children to play and sing. Vocal score Pb.261.93D.C1

Cinderella - Peter Maxwell Davies. Classmark Pb.261.93D.C1

Cinderella – Peter Maxwell Davies. Classmark Pb.261.93D.C1

Cinderella is a light-hearted pantomime opera based on the traditional story, with a few new twists by the composer Peter Maxwell Davis, who became an Honorary Fellow of Homerton College in 2009. The first performances of Cinderella were given by children in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, reportedly  who were non-specialist and had shown no unusual interest in, or aptitude for music.  It premiered on 21st June 1980 at the St Magnus Festival in Orkney by  pupils of the Papdale Primary School and Kirkwall Grammar School, conducted by Glenys Hughes. All vocal parts are written within the range of children’s normal unbroken voices, although the three Ugly Sisters can be played by older boys singing an octave lower than written.

Pincus and the pig [sound recording] : Shirim Klezmer Orchestra: a klezmer tale based on Serge Prokofiev’s Peter and the wolf. CD.Z.473

Pincus and the Pig, is a Klezmer reworking of Prokofiev’s familiar Peter and the Wolf. A review on the Klezmer Shack website claims the narrator ( the piece’s author, Maurice Sendak, perhaps best known for Where the Wild Things Are) and the Klezmer Shirim Orchestra have taken a wonderful children’s classical music piece and turned it into something beyond special and fun.

Sendak’s story is told the way one can imagine a modern Jewish zayde (grandfather) telling it. “Oy! Vay! The gate is open! Is Pincus looking to get killed again? Surely Chozzer, that devil pig, and his gang of shmutsik wild swine will pound poor Pincus into chopped liver.”


Nicholas Maw (1935-2009)

Caroline Pink by Nicholas Maw

Caroline Pink by Nicholas Maw

Calico Pie, Nicholas Maw

Calico Pie, Nicholas Maw

A couple of highly effective and entertaining collections of nonsense rhymes set to music by Nicholas Maw,  Composer (Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College Cambridge 1966-69).

The texts are, in the main, traditional, but rhymes by Lear, Carroll and Durfey are also included.  Caroline pink & other nonsense rhymes; songs and rounds for children, Classmark 897.E.M7 and Calico pie & other nonsense rhymes; songs and rounds for children, classmark 897.E.M6 are both available for loan from the Pendlebury Library.

Gade, Niels Wilhelm.  Five Christmas pieces for children : op. 36.  Classmark:XPa.340.18B.X2

Five Christmas Pieces for Children, Niels W Gade

Five Christmas Pieces for Children, Niels W Gade

Five Christmas Pieces for Children, op.36.  1859 published by Augener.  Our copy in a bound leather volume with the crest of Richard Pendlebury embossed on the front, actually has 6 pieces:

  1. The Christmas Bells
  2. Christmas Song
  3. The Christmas Tree
  4. Boy’s Merry Go-round
  5. Dance of the Little Girls
  6. Good Night

Niels Wilhelm Gade ( 1817 – 1890) was a Danish composer, conductor, violinist, organist  and teacher. He is considered the most important Danish musician of his day.  Supported by a fellowship from the Danish government, Gade moved to Leipzig, teaching at the Conservatory  there, working as an assistant conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and befriending Mendelssohn, who had an important influence on his music.

Jonathan Dove: Opera North Pinocchio DVD.C.220

Pinocchio image from DVD booklet

Pinocchio image from DVD booklet

The Pendlebury Library has a copy of Opera North’s enchanting staging of The Adventures of Pinocchio, Jonathan Dove’’s 21st opera. A full-length, through-composed grand opera with 29 characters, a sizeable chorus and a profound symphonic score, it has some stunning  effects with visual delights, and amazing costumes, make-up and prosthetics.

Pinocchio image from DVD booklet

Pinocchio image from DVD booklet

Jonathan Dove with Adventures of Pinocchio  has created an opera in two acts for all the family.   A review of this work appears in the Independent.  As a pianist/organist/violist, and having studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge University, he went straight into the theatre. He spent ten years playing at opera rehearsals, and doing chamber arrangements for City of Birmingham Touring Opera: providing him with a well-grounded training in orchestration.

Dove’s musical retelling, with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton, of Carlo Collodi’s tale about a mendacious marionette has toured to packed houses and ecstatic reviews, thus reinforcing his position as the one composer who repeatedly hits the mark.

Finally, one of my favourites is in our Rare Books Collection, published in the 1830’s, with the snappy title of:

dr-watts-divine-and-moral-songs-set-to-music-2“Dr. Watts’ Divine & Moral Songs set to music and adapted especially for the use of children by Mrs. Brent”

A review by Kathleen O’Bannon, Christian Classics Ethereal Library asserts that:

Divine and Moral Songs for Children became a ubiquitous children’s book throughout England for nearly two hundred years. By the mid-19th century, the book existed in over a thousand editions. So well-known were some of the children’s poems that Lewis Carroll parodied them in Alice in Wonderland and Charles Dickens referenced them in David Copperfield.

Dr Watt's song "Against Pride in Clothes"

Dr Watt’s song “Against Pride in Clothes”

As the title suggests, it is full of “improving” songs such as

  • Against Idleness and Mischief
  • The Sluggard
  • Obedience to Parents
  • Against Quarrelling & Fighting
  • Against Pride in Clothes
  • The Danger of Delay
  • Against Scoffing and Calling names
  • Against Swearing and Cursing
  • Solemn Thoughts of God and Death
  • And:

The Thief :

“oft we see a young beginner,
practice little pilf’ring ways
‘till grown up a harden’d sinner
then the gallows ends his days”

 Most seem to be full of severe admonishments, designed to scare the living daylights out of a small child, such as “one strike of his Almighty Rod will strike young sinners quick to Hell” ….

Clearly no “Wheels on the Bus” or Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” for these poor children!


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