Long before the National Curriculum, Ernest Read had the idea that concerts for children should include as much participation as possible. This could account for the popularity of the concerts by the Ernest Read Music Association (now in their 51st year) which continue to provide hundreds of children in the London area with their first experience of classical music.
The format has changed little. The programme is targeted at 7 to 12-year-olds, usually featuring short pieces which tell a story or paint a picture. The February concert at the Royal Festival Hall opened with the Villa Borghese and the Appian Way from Respighi's Pines of Rome, and ended with movements from the Mother Goose Suite and the Sabre Dance by Khatchaturian.
The theme of the concert was percussion and the programme included the Scherzo from a concerto for snare drum, bongos, timpani and cymbals by British composer Leonard Salzedo. This was an ideal piece to introduce children to orchestral versions of the instruments they play in school. A children's choir sang the Drinking Song from la Traviata and the audience joined in Clementine.
David Kossoff was the narrator in The Nutcracker. Phil Ellis was an enthusiastic conductor and compre.
The association produces gifts and souvenirs, as well as illustrated programmes containing work by children and notes on the music. For many years it has run a song-writing competition and has now branched into foyer music and teaching packs which link the music with the national curriculum.
The Ernest Read Music Association, Cotswold Avenue, New Malden, KT3 5EU. Next concerts March 9 and May 11 at the Royal Festival Hall, 0181 338 0777