The Merry Pranks of Master Till – A New Tale of Til Eulenspiegel

Classical music is good. This is not up for debate. Everyone knows it. They use the works of famous composers in commercials, movies, television shows, cartoons, fireworks displays, and pretty much any other time they need an awesome tune. Arias, overtures, cantatas, symphonies, and even tone poems are all enjoyed by the average American daily, even if they don’t know it. The problem is, even though we all love this music and are exposed to it regularly, it somehow seems inaccessible to us. So then the question becomes, how do we introduce people to what we in the know call “the good stuff?”

As a part of my new role of “children’s music reviewer,” I was sent (totally free, by the way), a new album called “Merry Pranks of Master Till,” which is part of an amazing series called Maestro Classics. This, people. This is how you introduce folks to the stuff. This series takes important classical works and tells their stories, thanks to narrator Yadu, and intertwines the actual music throughout the narrative, played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Stephen Simon. They have plenty of other stories, including Handel’s Water Music, which I was also sent, and which also stars one of my favorite singing friends, baritone James “I’ve Been to His House” Shaffran. He’s awesome. You should check him out.

Well, anyway, the latest album tells the story of Richard Strauss’ epic tone poem, Til Eulenspiegel. It just came out last month (the CD, not the tone poem), and it not only tells an entertaining tale of that crazy German prankster Til, but it also explains what a tone poem is and lets kids (or adults for that matter) hear how the stories are brought to life via the music. It seems like a great way for children to be introduced to all sorts of music that they might not otherwise understand. Yes, it seems like it. But is it? It had to be tested!

Settling the kids into the car for a long road trip to Boston, I put on Merry Pranks of Master Till, just to see what would happen. What happened was silence. I thought maybe it put them to sleep. But no, eventually Edward, who has the attention span of an average American Tenor Dad, started fussing and banging and making a general ruckus, which made Ruby very upset. “EDWARD!” she shrieked. “I’m trying to hear the STORY!” So there you have it.

Ruby, who is 8, really enjoyed the stories and the music, and she can now tell me lots of things about Richard Strauss, tone poems, and Til Eulenspiegel. Edward, who is 5, actually enjoyed the music a lot I think, but he was uninterested in that slow and boring narration, full of words and absent any explosions and/or Optimus Primes. Your children may be at different levels as well, but I will say that the CD cover lists the disc as appropriate for ages 7+, which we found to be true in our family.

I will definitely check out more of these albums from Maestro Classics, especially as Edward approaches age 7. Ruby already loves them, and even I am learning new things from the narration. When you combine great music with a compelling story, you get something that the whole family can, and will, enjoy. Do your family a favor and try these out. They might not get you an invite to Jim Shaffran’s house, but you’ll learn something either way.

Posted in Edward, Music, Review, Ruby, Tenor Tuesday, Uncategorized.

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