Karl Hirzer Calgary Phil Orchestra AdventureCalgary Philharmonic musicians and Associate Conductor Karl Hirzer are used to welcoming large groups of kids to the concert hall each season, but right now, there are no yellow school buses lined up in front of Arts Commons and no rows of excited students squirming in anticipation. So, the Calgary Phil decided to create a fun and educational tour of the Orchestra that kids in Calgary and across the country can experience from anywhere.

“We miss bringing students to the concert hall to experience live classical music and wanted to find a way to engage them while they’re at home,” says Hirzer, who leads the Calgary Phil’s education and outreach concerts. “We’ve been offering people several ways to connect with us online and this project is aimed at our youngest audience members and their families.”

An Orchestra Adventure (with Maestro Karl and friends) is a free four-part series providing an online musical journey through the four sections that make up a symphony orchestra: woodwinds, strings, brass, and percussion. Along the way, children encounter different instruments and some of the musicians who play them, as well as take a few side trips to discover interesting facts about music and famous composers. Each installment combines videos recorded at home with animation and clips from live orchestra performances.

“Kids are so curious and excited about music that we decided to capture that adventurous spirit and take them on a fun — and funny — musical journey through the instruments of the orchestra,” says Hirzer.

Shifting the focus from stage to screen required a team effort — several Calgary Phil musicians and staff members worked with local production company DDG to pull it off. Hirzer wrote the scripts with guidance from Education + Outreach Manager Alysha Bulmer, and he also plays the main role as Maestro Karl, a wide-eyed, enthusiastic, somewhat goofy host who interrupts the daily routines of the musicians to pepper them with questions. The musicians have fun playing along, filming themselves at home and sharing some surprising facts about their instruments. Each webisode features illustrations by Graphic Designer Omar Jeha, and excerpts of live-streams from past Orchestra performances.

The four 15-minute webisodes are perfect for parents and educators who want to share the symphony orchestra experience with children and spark a life-long love of classical music. They can look forward to a new webisode every two weeks or enjoy them whenever it’s convenient.

In the first installment, Wondrous Woodwinds, children visit four musicians at home and discover the unique characteristics of the clarinet, flute, bassoon, and oboe (and see if their breath can last as long as the oboe player’s) and learn about Mozart’s short but fascinating life. The webisode goes live on Tuesday, May 19 at 2 p.m. at calgaryphil.com/kids-project, followed by a new release every two weeks (Sensational Strings on June 3, Brilliant Brass on June 16, and Playful Percussion on June 30). The webisodes will remain on the website, providing a free and accessible resource for parents and educators in Calgary and beyond. This project was made possible by the generous support of the Rozsa Foundation and Calgary Foundation.

The new series is one of several ways people can experience the Orchestra online during this extended intermission. Calgary Phil All-Access is a one-stop-shop with links to recent videos, featured live-streams, blog posts, news from musicians, and more.

By Maureen McNamee
May 2020