Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Classics for Kids to Know - Flight of the Bumblebee

The Flight of the Bumblebee is actually an interlude from an opera (open a duplicate tab and click links to listen to different versions).  The Tale of the Tsar Saltan was composed between 1899 and 1900 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  It occurs at the end of act three when the Tsar's son is turned into an insect so he can go visit his dad.  However, the piece is a popular favorite as a stand alone (click this link to see which instruments are playing which parts).

The frantic tone makes it especially fun to use with your preschool and kindergarten kids at clean up time.  Can we clean up faster than the bumblebee?  It also can be fun to suddenly play it while this younger age group is coloring and see how their scribbles change.  Just be sure to have something soothing ready to follow.

Flight of the bumblebee is a wonderful piece to help children listen to what a fast tempo classical piece can sound like, pick out high sounds and low sounds AND for listening to how musical instruments can be used to represent character - especially alongside the Carnival of the Animals.

The piece has been redone in a number of versions at this point and musicians like, Oliver Lewis and Eric Speed like to test themselves and see how fast they can play (again, clicking the links will take you to a youtube video where you will be able to watch and listen to the related version of the piece).  Listen to musicians play it with different instruments to learn more about how the sound of the instrument changes the sound of the whole piece and in which ways it stays the same.
Piano - David Helfgott
Guitar (Electric) - Nuno Bettencourt
Trombone - Tommy Pederson
Philharmonic Wind Orchestra: Clarinet - Milan Rericha

Flight of the Bumblebee is also closely associated with the green hornet (click this link to hear) because a jazzy rearrangement of it was used for the radio program and the television series (this arrangement was used again in the movie Kill Bill).  If you've listened to the piece a number of times with them first, play it without telling them what it is and see if they recognize the original within the jazz arrangement.  Whether they do or don't recognize the piece in its new form.  Point it out to them.  Listen again and point out the similar melody, tempo and feeling even within the new arrangement.

Just have fun dancing and running around to this one.  Maybe you'd like to play it for them outside.

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