Children’s Concert


Coming Soon!

The Concert for Children will be held on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 1:15pm in the BJ Haan Auditorium on the campus of Dordt College.  Guest artist for this years concert will be Douglas Yeo on bass trombone.  Look for more information in early September 2017.



The Children’s Concert on Friday,  February 24 @ 1:15pm has been cancelled due to the snowstorm.

The Okee Dokee Brothers Children’s Concert

Friday, February 24, 2017

1:15pm – BJ Haan Auditorium

(performance for school/homeschool children only – this concert is not open to the public.  If you are an elementary school teacher or homeschool parent of a 2nd or 3rd grader, please contact the NISO office by Friday, January 27, 2017.)


The Okee Dokee Brothers—childhood friends Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander—have warmed hearts of audiences young and old alike with their performances and recordings of Americana folk music born of their shared passion for the natural world. Winners of a Grammy Award for their 2012 album Can You Canoe, a musical travelogue of their canoe trip down the Mississippi River, the Okee Dokee Brothers bring their witty, lyrical music to family audiences with the goal of inspiring children and their parents to get outside and experience nature. Their most recent album is Through the Woods, which features music inspired by their trek along the Appalachian Trail; it earned a 2014 Grammy nomination for Best Children’s Album.

Curious who The Okee Dokee Brothers are?  Check out the following link!

Click here for The Okee Dokee Brothers website!


Click here for the Teachers Guide to The Okee Dokee Brothers Concert.



(performance for school/homeschool children only

– this concert is not open to the public)

“Here’s the Story”

John Bailey, Flute

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

1:15pm – BJ Haan Auditorium

Evening Concert

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

7:30pm – B.J. Haan Auditorium

Welcome to the 2016 NISO Concert For Children! We are delighted that you can join us for this exciting concert featuring great symphonic music performed by the orchestra, a virtuoso flutist, and a memorable presentation of Grand Canyon Suite  by Ferde Grofé.

Please review all of the material below and use whatever parts you wish to prepare your students for a wonderful musical experience.


Most music that we hear today has words or lyrics: hymns, popular music (rock, folk, country, etc.), patriotic songs, etc. When music has words, the meaning of the music is pretty easy to understand. The words tell us the intentions of the notes we hear.

Symphonic music, however, has no words. So how do we know the meaning the composer and music intend to convey?

Symphonic music can really be divided into two types of music:

  • Absolute Music
  • Programmatic (Program) Music

Absolute music could easily be defined as “Abstract” music. This is music for music’s sake. This is music that has no program: no exact intention of the meaning of the music other than what the composer suggests in his or her moods. Often, the easiest way to spot a work of “Absolute” music at a concert is when the composer has a plain title, such as Symphony, Concerto, Sonata, etc. These titles don’t really give us a story or picture of what the music means to convey: rather they tell us about the form of the piece, and are often followed a key (for example, G major or D minor) and a number (for example, Symphony no. 104 or Piano Concerto no. 3).

In contrast to Absolute music is Programmatic (Program) music. This is music that does tell a story, or paint a picture, or describe a specific mood. This is an explicit type of music written by the composer, who wants you to feel or imagine a very particular idea, such as a story, scene, or character, through his or her music.

In general, there are three main kinds of program music:

  • Concert Overtures
  • Tone Poems
  • A suite or arrangement of a dramatic musical work for orchestra

In today’s concert, you will hear an example of each of these types of pieces.

Bedřich Smetana (1824 – 1884)smetana

  • Smetana was introduced to music by his father and began performing and composing at a young age; his first public performance was at age 6.
  • After completing his studies, Smetana undertook a tour of western Bohemia to establish himself as a concert pianist, but the tour was unsuccessful.

What country is Bohemia part of today?

  • Smetana spent some time living in Sweden where he served as a teacher and choirmaster and began composing large-scale orchestral works.
  • Upon his return to Prague, he immersed himself in the musical culture of the city and composed works that reflected his growing interest in Czech music.
  • By the time Smetana composed The Moldau, he was completely deaf but he continued composing for the rest of his life.
  • Smetana is highly regarded as the father of Czech music, even though other composers (like Antonín Dvořák) are viewed as more significant.

the-maoldauThe Moldau (1874)

  • The Moldau (or the “Vltava” as the Czechs call it) is a river that runs through the Czech Republic, and cuts through the largest city in that country, Prague.
  • Smetana’s musical composition, The Moldau, describes the journey of this river, from a few drops of water, to the roaring sound of the river as it empties into the larger German river, The Elbe.
  • The Moldau is a tone poem, and is the second movement (section) of a larger composition, entitled My Country (Ma Vlast in Czech) that glorifies different elements of Czech history, culture, and topography.
  • Tone Poem:

A rather complex orchestral work in one movement (no long breaks) that develops a poetic idea, creates a mood, or suggests a scene. (The term “Tone poem” was first coined by the composer Franz Liszt for his composition Les Préludes).

  • The story behind The Moldau:

Here is how Smetana described the music for The Moldau in his very own words:

“The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer’s wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night’s moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St. John’s Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the (river) Elbe.”

  • Smetana begins The Moldau with a very simple flute solo, soon joined by another flute solo, and then later by two clarinets to represent the “two small springs.” The theme is a rapid succession of sixteenth notes:


  • Smetana then introduces “The River” theme; the most popular and memorable theme of this entire piece. The violins play this haunting melody. Feel free to hum along to this melody as you listen to this piece!


  • The next section is the “Forest hunt.” Smetana features the French horns and trumpets in fanfares and hunting calls in this section.
  • The river then flows alongside a country (peasant) wedding. Czech wedding receptions are full of food, music, and dancing. The national dance of the Czechs is the “Polka” which you will hear in the following theme:


  • The music then moves into one of its most beautiful and magical parts. Smetana calls it “Moonlight: Dance of the Mermaids.” Muted strings, harp arpeggios, and soft murmurs of the trombone section portray the light of the moon on the surface of the river, and the gentle movement of mermaids underneath.
  • pragueLater, “The River” theme reappears, and there are more orchestral forces which represent the intensity of the river. This leads into the “St. John’s Rapids” section, which includes timpani rolls, piccolo trills, and loud cymbal crashes.
  • The Moldau ends with a picture of the magestic city of Prague. The winds and brass portray the “Vyšehrad” theme, which is the ancient castle which is associated with Czech kings. This music has a hymn-like quality:

Listen to the following recording: Smetana: The Moldau


  1. What adjective would you use for the opening picture of two streams?  How does the tone quality of the flute fit that picture?  Does the music portray the streams to be swirling? Bubbling? Rough? Turbulent?
  2. Can you hear a melody that sounds like a fanfare?  How does the tone quality of the horns fit a hunting scene?
  3. In the section about the peasant wedding, does the music tell us that the dancing is smooth and elegant ballet dancing or jolly flat-footed country dancing?
  4. What adjective would you use for the picture of the rapids (St. John Rapids)?  What musical features fit that picture?  Does the music at this point portray the stream to be smooth? Swirling? Bubbling? Rough? Turbulent?
  5. The end of this long picture of a river is grand as the river enters the ocean in the great city of Prague. What musical features make the music grand? Does the music portray this part of the river to be rough? Swirling? Smooth and broad?
  6. At the end of the piece, the river vanishes in the distance.  What musical features picture that vanishing?

Linda Robbins Colemancoleman

  • Born in Des Moines, Coleman began studying the piano at age 3 and has been performing since age 6.
  • A graduate of Drake University, she also played French horn and mallet percussion in bands, orchestras, and jazz bands.
  • Coleman has worked as a pianist, composer, publicist, writer, and arts consultant for more than 40 years.
  • When she is not working, Coleman likes to garden, build things using power tools, write poetry, read, and play with her three cats.
  • Coleman says, “Writing music for orchestras was not something I planned to do. After college, and for twenty years I worked in theatre. I scored 35 plays and taught sound editing and design at Drake. I wrote ‘In Good King Charles’s Golden Days’ to be the overture to the play by George Bernard Shaw. (That is why it has such a long title!) Later on, I wanted to see if my theatre music would adapt well to the concert hall. This overture seemed like a good place to begin. It was my first orchestra piece. A conductor liked it and performed it. The audience liked it, too, so I wrote more orchestra pieces. And here I am.”

In Good King Charles’s Golden Days (1995)

  • In Good King Charles’s Golden Days is an example of a concert overture; a piece that evokes a drama, place, or idea, but intended for independent performance. Some famous examples of concert overtures includes Tchaikovksy’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture and Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave.
  • In Good King Charles’s Golden Days (or “Charlie” as Linda Robbins-Coleman affectionately calls it) is a comedy that takes a touching and satirical look at politics and science in the time of King Charles II of England, who lived at the very same time as Sir Isaac Newton, the famous scientist.
  • Robbins-Coleman captures the hustle and bustle and comedy of King Charles right from the beginning of her overture. In order to evoke the music of the 17th century, she employs the harpsichord, a popular instrument from the day. The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument (looks like a piano, but the colors of the keys seem to be in reverse). Unlike the piano, which has hammers that hit the strings, the harpsichord has bird quills which literally pluck the strings of the instrument.

Listen to the following recording: Coleman: In Good King Charles’s Golden Days


  1. What musical features make King Charlie’s court sound happy, even exuberant?
  2. What musical features make King Charlie’s court sound busy and bustling?
  3. Many instruments take turns playing short solos. What solo instruments can you identify?  Can you hear the harpsichord?

François Borne (1840 – 1920)borne

  • Borne is a French flutist and composer who served as flutist with the principal opera company in Bordeaux and as professor at the conservatory in Toulouse.
  • He is known for his technical contributions to the development of the Boehm system, the design of open holes and keywork used on the modern flute.
  • Borne’s familiarity with operatic literature resulted in his writing a number of compositions based on tunes from popular operas of his day.
  • His Fantasie Brillante on Themes from Carmen is by far Borne’s most famous and most performed composition.

Fantasie Brillante on Themes from Carmen (1900)

  • While Borne arranged these melodies for flute and orchestra, the real composer of this piece is Georges Bizet. Bizet composed his most famous work (probably the most famous work in all of the opera repertoire) in the last year of his life. When Carmen was first premiered, the critics hated the opera, and Bizet died at the young age of 37, believing his final opera was a disaster.

Listen to the following recording: Borne (Bizet) Fantaisie Brillante on Themes from ‘Carmen’


  1. The melodies of this piece all come from an opera titled Carmen. Do you recognize any of the melodies?
  2. Why is this piece called a “fantasy”? Why is it called “brilliante”?
  3. What is a virtuoso?  Why would someone playing this piece have to be a virtuoso?

baileyJohn Bailey (b. 1958)

  • Born in Maryland into a non-musical family, Bailey heard a Baltimore Symphony Young Person’s Concert and came home and announced that he wanted to play the piccolo.
  • His first lessons were from his band director in Washington, D.C., who taught him clarinet (his family owned a clarinet) and then flute.
  • He studied at Indiana University (the largest music school in the US) and then at Northwestern University in Chicago.
  • He spent his Junior year of college as an exchange student at the Vienna Conservatory, studying with the piccoloist of the Vienna Philharmonic.
  • He has served as professor of Flute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 1986 (30 years so far!), and principal flutist with Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra.
  • He is the program chair for this year’s National Flute Association annual national convention (2500 flutists from around the world met for 4 days in San Diego this past August).

Ferde Grofé (1892 – 1972)grofe

  • Born in New York City, Grofé came from a long family line of professional musicians who performed in opera companies and symphony orchestras.
  • After his father died in 1899, his mother took him to Europe to study music in Leipzig, Germany; the piano became Grofé’s favored instrument.
  • Grofé held a variety of jobs to supplement his work as a musician until he started playing piano with the Paul Whiteman orchestra in 1920.
  • During his time with the Paul Whiteman orchestra, Grofé wrote hundreds of arrangements of popular songs; of which Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is the most memorable.
  • Grofé is also well-known for his original compositions, including film scores and orchestral works such as Mississippi Suite and Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Suite (1929-31)canyon-1

  • In 1916, the twenty-four-year-old Grofé strapped gas cans to a vintage jeep and drove across the Arizona desert to watch the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.

Years later, he described what he saw:

I first saw the dawn because we got there the night before and camped. I was spellbound in the silence, you know, because as it got lighter and brighter then you could hear the birds chirping and nature coming to life. All of a sudden, bingo! There it was, the sun. I could hardly describe it in words because words would be inadequate.”

  • Grofé used every instrument in the orchestra to bring his compositions to life. In the “Grand Canyon Suite,” he evoked the natural sounds he’d heard on his visit there. He made the woodwinds sound like birds and the trumpets sound like crickets.
  • The Grand Canyon Suite uses a very large orchestra, and when instruments couldn’t mimic real life, Grofé found ways to incorporate the actual sounds into his music.

Here is a list of all the instruments Grofé uses:

3 Flutes (1 piccolo)

3 Oboes (1 English horn)

3 Clarinets (1 Bass Clarinet)

3 Bassoons (1 Contrabassoon)

4 French Horns

3 Trumpets

3 Trombones and 1 Tuba




Piano and Celesta

Strings (Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, and Contrabass)

  • Grofé especially uses the percussion section to mimic the sounds of the Grand Canyon. He uses all of these instruments in the percussion section:

Glockenspiel (Bells)



Bass Drum

Snare Drum

Wind Machine (see picture)


Horse Hooves (two coconut shells)

2 Suspended Cymbals

Lightening Machine

  • The Grand Canyon Suite is a Symphony of Tone Poems of sorts. To be specific, it is composed of five tone poems that describe very particular aspects of the Grand Canyon and the desert:

(1) “Sunrise”

(2) “Painted Desert”

(3) “On the Trail”

(4) “Sunset”

(5) “Cloudburst.” Grofé calls the end sections of this movement: “Moon Comes From Behind the Clouds” and “Nature Rejoices In All Its Grandeur.”

  • canyon-2“Cloudburst” was conceived during Grofé’s honeymoon in Minnesota. Apparently, he was caught outside when a storm hit. His son says he played a personal role in creating the famous rhythmic figure for the “On the Trail” movement. When Grofe Jr. was a year old, his father was looking for a way to depict a man on horseback or mule.

“My father was wheeling me around in a baby carriage. And across the street from the apartment, there were some pile drivers putting in pilings for a building. And that makes that `thunk, clunk, thunk, thunk, thunk,’ you know, type of sound. My baby buggy had a squeak in it. And the squeak went `squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak.’ And out of that came ‘On the Trail.'”

  • Ferde Grofé is sometimes referred to as America’s tone poem composer. He was a sentimentalist. His favorite composer was Tchaikovsky. His son says Grofé saw a wide range of emotional possibilities in the “Grand Canyon.”

“‘Sunrise,’ birth; ‘Painted Desert,’ the mystique, the unknown, the divine unknown, if you like; ‘On the Trail,’ the human comedy; ‘Sunset,’ death. And then ‘Cloudburst’ is death and resurrection, the battle of good and evil. And I think that’s why most people find it so important, because they can identify some emotion in themselves in his work.”

Listen to the following recording: Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite



  1. What musical features portray the stillness of early morning?
  2. What instrument pictures birds chirping?
  3. What musical features portray the sun slowly rising?
  4. Is there a point in the music at which you “see” the sun just coming over the horizon?

Painted Desert

  1. What is the mood of “Painted Desert”?  What musical features create that mood?
  2. The unique tone of different instruments is often called “Instrumental tone color.” What “colors” do you hear in “Painted Desert”?

On the Trail

  1. What instrument imitates the sound of a donkey’s clop-clop steps?
  2. Can you tap the rhythm of the donkey’s steps?
  3. What instrument imitates the donkey’s bray?


  1. What instrument plays alone at the very beginning?  What added device makes its town sound different?
  2. What is the mood of “Sunset”?  What musical features create that mood?


  1. In what other movements did we hear the opening melodies?
  2. When the storm begins, what instrument pictures the rising wind?  What instruments picture the thunder?  What instruments picture the lightning?
  3. Is there a moment in the music at which the storm is clearly “over”?
  4. What is the mood of the music after the storm is over—quiet and peaceful? Sad and disturbed? Grand and triuimphant?