Want to incorporate classical music appreciation as a weekly component in your homeschool schedule? Come check out my kid-friendly, easy-on-the-parents Music Curriculum. You can try a free sample lesson HERE.
We are continuing to work through the February playlist. Check out previous lessons here:
- Wedding Day at Troldhaugen // Grieg
- Sleeping Beauty // Tchaikovsky
- Nessun Dorma // Puccini
- Salut d’Amour // Elgar
Next up? The ultimate love story: Romeo and Juliet. Has any piece of literature captivated writers, poets, and musicians more than the tragic story of Shakespeare’s ill-fated couple?
Many composers have used the story as inspiration, but Tchaikovsky’s version is probably the most familiar. This is the love theme. Have your kids try some musical sketching. Without telling them about the story, see what they come up with:
Perseverance for the Win
Tchaikovsky was just 28 years old when he tackled this subject matter, at the urging of a composer colleague. He put his heart and soul into the work.
And it was a colossal failure.
But this is what is interesting: Tchaikovsky listened to his critics. He was just 28 years old, and he knew he had a lot to learn. He took feedback and reworked the material – not once, but several times.
The version we know today premiered 16 years after Tchaikovsky’s first try.
What a lesson in perseverance.
Subject Integration: Literature
I talk a lot about the need to make classical music less abstract for young children, and one of my favorite ways to do that is through books. If you can engage the child in the story behind the music, they are more likely to feel connected to what’s going on in the music.
A piece based on one of the greatest stories ever written is the perfect candidate for this type of subject integration.
(Note: Last week on Instagram I posted a photo of this book to correlate with our Sleeping Beauty lesson. I plan to do this regularly, so follow me at @kristihillmusic if you are interested in pairing great books with great music!)
I have a few options for helping you use books to bring Tchaikovksy’s Romeo and Juliet to life:
- Shakespeare Retold by E. Nesbit // This is a beautiful book with accessible re-tellings of seven Shakespeare plays – including, of course, Romeo and Juliet. It also includes a brief Shakespeare biography, a timeline, and additional resources for helping engage your child in Shakespeare’s works.
- Romeo and Juliet for Kids by Lois Burdett // Part of a series, this book is tells the story entirely in rhyme, with whimsical illustrations done by kids. Other titles in the series here.
- Romeo and Juliet by Bruce Coville // This title is out of print, but there are several copies available used. I tend to favor picture books with artistic illustrations, and this one doesn’t disappoint – it’s beautiful.
- The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet by Geraldine McCaughrean // Only used copies available, so grab one of those – or do what I did and get it from the library. This is a great one to have in your arsenal because of the multiple opportunities to connect the stories with great classical music. In addition to Romeo and Juliet, this book includes Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and more. (And, if we are getting technical, Tchaikovsky’s original music was a suite, not a ballet. Hopefully your kids will not be traumatized by this slight inaccuracy.)
- Will’s Quill by Don Freeman // If learning a bit about Shakespeare peaks your child’s interest, pick up this charming tale of a country goose who befriends a young playwright named Will.
I hope these ideas help you engage your child in this classic Tchaikovsky work. It’s one of my favorites!
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