Classical Music for Dummies

The orchestra makes music for the rest of us.

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Classical music tends to attract middle-schoolers and grandmas, but hardly anybody in between. Tonight, the Cleveland Orchestra hopes to change that with Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." Perhaps the world's most popular educational score, the 1945 masterpiece brilliantly embraces both the young and young-at-heart. "It's not childish, but it's not highbrow either," says Andrew Grams, assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, who leads today's performance as part of the Family Series.

The orchestra begins the program by performing a simple, catchy theme by 17th-century British composer Henry Purcell. After that, different sections of the ensemble — woodwinds, strings, brass, and percussion — take turns playing variations, with help from a narrator, who points out what's going on. All the sections reunite at the end. "[Britten] captures the essence of each instrument and really makes each one stand out," says Grams. "Classical music can infiltrate your life at any point and affect you in some way. In a program like this, there's a unifying effect in people of different ages and perspectives enjoying a shared experience."
Sat., Nov. 11, 11 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.

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