Some of our youngest music-lovers are about to get the chance to hear music produced on some of our oldest instruments or, at least, those inspired by instruments of yesteryear.
NZ Barok is the country's only orchestra specialising in music made popular by composers such as Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and Purcell during the Baroque era (roughly 1600-1750). Its core audience are lovers of early modern music who like to hear Baroque and classical masterpieces and lesser known compositions from the 18th century.
Now the orchestra is giving Auckland youngsters a chance to clap, dance and move along to music at its first Baby Baroque concerts. They're the brainchild of NZ Barok cellist Helen Brinkman, who has spent years working in early-childhood education and has seen babies and toddlers captivated by the sounds her cello (made in 1760) produces.
"Live music stimulates every cell in their bodies," Brinkman says.
"When I play to them, their reactions to the sounds are quite magical. Whatever they are doing stops and their eyes widen and they listen intently. Some crawl right up and put their hands on the cello; some begin to sing. You can't beat the experience of live music for kids."
The musicians have seen first-hand how children take to the instruments. Brinkman's son, Hamish, 8, was 4 when he started trying to play her cello. He now takes regular lessons and says he enjoys it because it makes a lovely sound. Similarly Clara, 4, the daughter of Baroque violinist Miranda Hutton, is learning to play and lists her favourite composer as Handel.
"I like violin because I can make noises with it," she says.
But if the sounds of the instruments and the music they make together are compelling, so are some of the stories behind them.
The Baroque violin, without chin or shoulder rests, is played with a pointed-tip bow that can trace its ancestry to bows used to shoot arrows; Sally Tibbles' Baroque flute is based on a 1720 instrument and bears scant resemblance to modern flutes. However, music written for the flute as a solo instrument fuelled its popularity and led to the growth of flute music in opera, ballet and chamber music.
Then there's the Baroque trumpet played by Peter Reid and based on a 1746 model. Most of us are familiar with trumpet fanfares but, for many decades, trumpets — being exceptionally loud — were an effective form of communication across battlefields.
At Saturday's Baby Baroque concerts, music will include Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits, Handel's Hornpipe from The Water Music and the Largo from Winter, part of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
What: NZ Barok — Baby Baroque
Where & when: St Luke's Church, Remuera, Saturday 14, 10.30-11.30am; St Peter's Anglican Church, Takapuna, Saturday 14, 2.30-3.30pm