The mind of a child is free, David Gonzales says. It is not cluttered by the worries and deadlines of adulthood. Because of this, the professional storyteller says, it is important to nurture children’s inherent curiosity and creativity.
“A young person’s imagination is wide open,” he says. “Their sense of joy is palpable, and they inspire me to be the best I can, so the future will be a better place.”
Gonzales and pianist Frederic Chiu will perform two classics, “The Carnival of Animals,” by French romantic composer Camille Saint-Saens, and “Peter and the Wolf,” by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev on Sunday at the Lied Center.
Gonzales says the production will be a mix of the traditional and modern, as the two artists have updated the narration for the works and changed the musical accompaniment.
“The interesting thing here,” Gonzales says, “is that both of these pieces were written for orchestra, for ensemble, but Frederic Chiu is playing them solo, which is stunning. I have adapted ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ so I’ll be doing an original version of the text. The ‘Carnival’ piece is always given an introduction, and I’ve written a suite of poems to introduce each of the animals. A distinguishing factor here is that I’m a poet and musician. I use the music in very concrete ways to inspire the poetry.”
For Frederic Chiu, performing classical music for children is especially important. He says it is disappearing from modern culture.
“The classic repertoire,” the pianist says, “it’s something we hardly hear anymore in our daily life. You used to hear bits of it in commercials or a movie. Today, unless you spend your time looking for it, you can spend your life avoiding classical music. Yet, here is where I believe humans have created their greatest creative works. I think it would be, really, a great loss for people, any person in their life, if they didn’t come across some of the real great works in classical music. That’s why composers wrote these pieces, because they knew, throughout history, they needed something to grab young audiences and hook them to the music, to educate them without knowing it.”
The combination of these two works is an obvious one for Chiu, as he was personally influenced by the music as a child. Prokofiev in particular was an inspiration for him.
“I grew up listening to ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ all those pieces.” he says. “I think ‘Peter and the Wolf’ in particular struck me, and Prokofiev in general was a composer I listened to a lot. My parents were big classical music fans, particularly piano. Somehow, I had a very deep, close connection to that music.”
According to Gonzales, the two performers met at an arts festival and became friends. Afterward, it was Chiu who approached Gonzales about performing these two classic works together. Gonzales says writing for the pieces was a very natural process.
“I went to Frederic’s home and he played through the pieces. I was immediately struck by the humor, creativity and whimsy of it. The (writing) just flew out of my pen. I’d been writing difficult, challenging stuff about pollution, it was gnarly and tough. It was a delight to bring this music forward. We had a very easy, rich period of collaboration, putting this together.”
The Lied Center’s Associate Director, Karen Christilles, says she’s very excited about the performance. In particular, she’s excited to have Gonzales perform, as he’s scheduled to do additional work with younger children through the Center’s “Program 3to5.”
“David will be performing works for them, for our very young ones, as part of his stay with us,” she says.
Christilles says the performance is perfect for children, or anyone who is excited about classical music performances.
“It is absolutely perfect for all ages,” she says. “The entire family can come and enjoy. Certainly adults love to be told stories, and this music is in the canon of the great literature, so it will be an enjoyable time for an adult, but is particularly geared toward family.”