Flagey's mini maestros: It wasn't all bad in Belgium...

Flagey's mini maestros: It wasn't all bad in Belgium...
A Symfomania workshop. Credit: Wouter Van Vaerenbergh / Flagey

From student freebies and extended night trains to classical music classes and Brussels ranking in the top 50 cities worldwide, here's our weekly round-up of positive news from around Belgium to kickstart your weekend.

Today's positive pick

Classical music often doesn't have the best reputation with younger generations, but the 'Symfomania' workshops, organised by Brussels Philharmonic, aim to tackle these prejudices by introducing children to the world of symphonic music.

The workshops began over a decade ago, but the first of this season's Symfomania workshops was held last Sunday 8 October for the Brussels Philharmonic & Boris Giltburg Rachmaninov Festival, to celebrate the composer's 150th birthday. The next Rachmaninov concert will be on 12 November and the third and final workshop of the season will be during Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 on 2 December.

The idea behind the Symfomania sessions was never to create a "children's concert", Nico Moernaut, who has worked with the orchestra for over ten years, told The Brussels Times. "Even for children, we felt that we should offer them a real concert and not adapt the programme or make it shorter or make it more 'fun'".

Children are able to enjoy symphonic music, he added, but it always helps to understand what they are going to hear in the concert hall. "The idea is not to adapt the programme to the children, but rather to prepare the children for the programme."

While the adults enjoy the first part of the concert, therefore, the children familiarise themselves with the orchestral music they will be hearing during the second half with their families and the other audience members.

However, as the Rachmaninov concerts last Sunday and in November do not have an intermission, the workshops take place before the concert begins at 15:00. Parents can attend an introduction of the concert and guided tour of the Flagey cultural centre in the meantime.

'The more people we can share classical music with, the better'

The workshops are condensed and last for just 50 minutes. They are taught in either French or Dutch by music teachers or pedagogues to a maximum of 15 children. The teachers choose key moments from the symphony to take the children on a musical journey and not "get lost" during the concert.

The sessions include a broad spectrum of activities, from playing games with musical instruments – especially percussion – to using drawings to explain the feelings experienced while listening to the music.

Moernaut noted that, despite the educational benefits of classical music giving pupils an insight into history and culture, "there is less and less focus on musical education in Belgian schools," with a greater emphasis instead being placed on STEM subjects.

"If you don't know about classical music or never listen to it, it can seem very complicated, for both children and adults. People say "it's not for me" and "it's too boring". There are lots of prejudices with regards to symphonic music, and offering short workshops for children is the easiest and fastest way to remove that prejudice and get them to enjoy it more."

Classical music can be found everywhere, he added: "Many young people don't realise that much of pop and rock music comes from classical compositions and melodies. When you go to the cinema, many film soundtracks also use symphonic music: there is much more classical music in our lives than we would expect."

"Classical music is fun and beautiful, not boring or difficult, and the more people we can share it with, the better," Moernaut concluded.

To find more information on upcoming Symfomania workshops, see here.

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Other stories from this week to make you smile:

1. Brussels ranks in top 50 cities in the world

For the second year in a row, Brussels has ranked among the world's top 50 cities, ahead of increasingly popular locations such as Bangkok (39th), Warsaw (40th), Copenhagen (41st) and Hong Kong (46th). Read more here.

2. Bruges will light up in the colours of Northern Lights this winter

This year, for the fifth time, the light trail will plunge visitors into a magical world inspired by the Northern Lights. An ice rink, a winter bar and two Christmas markets will also be making a comeback. Read more here.

3. Company to distribute 1,000 free coffee machines to Brussels students

Coffee company Jacobs Douwe Egberts gave Senseo brand coffee machines to students at the Gare Maritime in Brussels' Tour & Taxis area on Wednesday, with more giveaways happening in Louvain-la-Neuve and Leuven too. Read more here.

4. Night train will connect four European capitals from spring 2024

The night train linking Brussels to Berlin via Amsterdam since May will be extended to Prague from next spring, European Sleeper announced on Tuesday. Read more here.

5. 'Renature Time': Around 100 activities organised to celebrate autumn in Brussels

Some 100 autumnal events and activities have been planned across the Belgian capital from 15 October until 12 November to celebrate the season as part of 'Renature Time' City-Nature month. Read more here.

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