Scotland

Big Ears and Little Ears tune in for children's concert

It's known as the Mozart Effect. The theory that playing classical music to babies - even while in the womb - stimulates growth and boosts IQ.

Medical opinion is divided, but parents - and many of Scotland's artistic organisations - seem to be keen to try it for themselves.

Hot on the heels of Scottish Opera, who commissioned an opera for babies - Baby O, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is now touring its own mini-classics concert for mini concert-goers.

Big Ears, Little Ears is the brainchild of the SCO's Louise Martin, who realised being a mum had put paid to her own concert going.

She met other parents who felt equally left out so she decided to try staging a concert where babies would be welcomed with open arms - and their carers would get to hear a proper grown-up concert at the same time.

Image caption The programme mixes Prokofiev and Mendelssohn with lullabies

No Twinkle Twinkle. This is a proper concert programme - Prokofiev and Mendelssohn alongside lullabies and folk songs. Has The Fidgety Bairn ever been performed to such an apt audience?

Fed, changed and hushed

Today's concert in St Andrews in the Square, in Glasgow, is the first of three, two of which are almost sold out.

There's more preparation required than your average concert, at least when it comes to the audience, who're wheeled in, bundled out, fed, changed and hushed ahead of the main event.

"We do have to think of the practicalities," said Louise Martin.

"It has to be at a sensible time of day, and the concerts have to be short, they can't be two hours long. People have to be able to move around easily."

Signs point to nappy changing and buggy parking, rather than the bar or car park.

The concerts are short - just 45 minutes - and take place in the morning. And far from programming gentle, peaceful music, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra deliberately chose lively music like Beethoven's seventh.

"I don't see any divisions between the sort of formal concerts the SCO normally do and these concerts - and I don't think the SCO do either," said Conductor Howard Moody.

"Any concert is about connecting the audience and the orchestra and this is a perfect example of that. Of course it's a challenge to compete with the noise levels - but you notice that when the parents are calm and quiet and listening to the music, the babies are too."

'Amazing opportunity'

Mezzo soprano Karen Cargill agrees. As the mother of a young toddler, who's in the audience today, she's prepared for any eventuality.

"I'm surprised they didn't get closer to the orchestra," she said.

"I was waiting for them to toddle right up, but I suspect the parents were holding them back.

"It's an amazing opportunity to get really close to your audience and if this encourages them to come along to sing, to shout, to dance, to not be intimidated by orchestras or concert halls, then that's what this is all about."

Initial ticket sales for the first three concerts suggest Louise Martin isn't the only mum to enjoy going to concerts with her baby. The SCO says it will listen to feedback before deciding whether to stage further events.

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