“Carnival of the Animals” by French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns is a childhood favorite. He composed “Carnival of the Animals” in 1886 under the title, “Grand Zoological Fantasy.”
Originally, it was composed as a joke and was performed at a Mardi Gras concert for a few of his closest friends. Saint-Saëns did not allow the score to be performed in public during his lifetime because he was concerned that people would not understand his humor. However, two months after his death in 1922, the Colonne Orchestra in Paris performed “Carnival of the Animals” to the delight of hundreds.
It has been a favorite of children ever since.
There are fourteen sections describing lions, hens, roosters, wild asses, tortoises, elephants, kangaroos, fish, cuckoo birds, fossils, swans, and pianists (he believed that early pianists were dangerous beasts!). In the 1940s Ogden Nash wrote a series of humorous verses for “Carnival” and in 1995, Bruce Adolphe updated Nash’s version and wrote another series of kid-friendly poems for “Carnival” recited by Itzhak Perlman.
When I was in my master’s program, I wrote a unit for fourth-grade students based on “Carnival of the Animals.” My goal was to help students understand how the principles and elements of music become the thread interweaving all subjects; such as correlations between math and music and the relationship between music, poetry, rhythm and vibrations and how to combine math and technology to create an online business. More on this later…
Here are some suggestions on how to use “Carnival of the Animals” with your children:
There are several versions of “Carnival”—some include the narrations, and some do not. I would get both.
Play the non-narrated versions and try to guess what animal is being portrayed by the music—it will help to develop your child’s aural or listening skills.
Next, play the narrated versions and then try your hand at creating your own alliterations for each animal. For instance, years ago my kids came up with these alliterations and artwork for “Carnival”
“Randy Rooster rambunctiously ranted rapturous raps reawakening radical Roger Rat.”
Afterwards, they each drew a picture to go along with their animals. My youngest son took his alliterations and made greeting cards for his friends.
So, put on your creative thinking hats and come up with your own alliterations and drawings for this amazing piece of music!
CD: Classics for Children, Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops (contains both narrations by Ogden Nash and the non-narration)
CD: Classical Zoo with Itzhak Perlman, the narrator
Book: Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids, by Barrie C. Turner
Puppets, Prop Sets, Animal visors, Posters, and Books: see Music and Motion (800-445-0649)