Tafelmusik’s new digital album Baroque for Baby is curated by violinist and mother of two, Cristina Zacharias. We caught up with her recently to talk about the inspiration behind her kid-friendly playlist, the importance of music for young children, and what it’s like raising a family when both parents are musicians. Baroque for Baby will be available on digital platforms starting October 16, 2020.
“When you see a child respond to music, you see joy. You see the fundamental means of connection and expression that only music offers us.” — Cristina Zacharias
What was your initial reaction when Tafelmusik invited you to curate a digital album devoted to babies?
CZ: I was very excited to get started! My first step was to listen closely to the recordings that I might draw from for the playlist, and I was a bit surprised by what a trip down memory lane it turned out to be. Given that I was doing this in April, very soon after all of our concerts for the season were cancelled, and in a time of considerable uncertainty for musicians everywhere, it was quite emotional.
What is it about Tafelmusik’s core baroque repertoire that has particular appeal for younger listeners?
CZ: A lot of our favourite baroque repertoire is extremely accessible: it uses a relatively straight-forward harmonic language and a lot of repetition and dance elements. I focused in on those characteristics purposely, as I think that repetition and rhythm are a great entry point for music of all kinds.
There’s quite a range of moods represented here by different composers – it’s not simply a collection of lullabies! What criteria did you use to curate your selection?
CZ: I looked for music that I thought was particularly engaging for kids and I wanted to present a wide range of styles and moods. So I tried to feature all of the instruments that make up Tafelmusik’s core group (strings, winds, and harpsichord), and I looked for a variety of rhythmically or lyrically catchy pieces. I wanted to show lots of different versions of what baroque music could be, so I included a lot of different textures and contrasting styles of writing.
What’s your earliest musical memory? (live or recorded music).
CZ: I don’t have one particular memory that I can identify, but both choral music and 1970’s folk music were heard a lot in my house as I was growing up. Music was always playing somewhere in my home!
What’s it like to raise a young family when both parents, you and your husband Ed Reifel, are professional musicians?
CZ: Well, we have become very good tag-team jugglers! On one hand, both Ed and I have a lot more daytime hours spent at home (compared to a conventional 9-5 schedule), which is great. On the other hand, we have a lot of evening and weekend hours spent working, and that can be challenging. As musicians, we are accustomed to a flexible non-routine lifestyle, and that can be tricky to reconcile with school, kids’ activities and bedtimes.
Why is music so important for the development of young children?
CZ: When you see a child respond to music, you see joy. You see the fundamental means of connection and expression that only music offers us. There’s lots of science that offers specifics about exactly what kind of development music encourages, but I don’t think you need to understand that stuff to understand how innate music is for children, you just watch their reaction.
In addition to cuing up Baroque for Baby, do you have any suggestions on how to make music an integral part of the lives of young children?
CZ: I think including music as part of your daily routine is a great idea, and it doesn’t have to be music specifically aimed at kids! Live concerts of all kinds are great too.
Have you had a chance to test-drive Baroque for Baby with your own children? What’s the verdict?
CZ: Well, apparently the instrumentation doesn’t include enough drum set. Actually, my kids have heard a lot of this music at live Tafelmusik concerts and have really loved it. They always gravitate towards the dances, and the Marche des Matelots by Marin Marais (track 20 I believe) is a favourite in our house.