‘Babar’ beguiles young audience

Two-year-old Cary Pratt discovers the wonder of music as Eliot Bailen, founder of the Sherman Chamber Ensemble, plays “Ferdinand the Bull” during Music in the Nave at St. Andrew’s Church in Kent.

Kathryn Boughton

‘Babar’ beguiles young audience

KENT — St. Andrew’s Church was filled Sunday, Feb. 11, with children and their families eager for the first children’s concert offered by the Music in the Nave series.

The program featured a reading by Emmy Award-winning actress Margot Martindale of “The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant.”

Pianist Margarita Nuller accompanied the reading on the Steinway grand piano the church was able to purchase in 2011. The piece was composed in 1940 by French composer Francis Jean Poulenc (1899-1963) for the amusement of his young nieces and nephews.

“Babar” was the third act in the program, which began with a performance of “Ferdinand the Bull,” composed and played by cellist Eliot Bailen, founder of the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. Bailen was introduced whimsically as “the only composer on today’s program who is not French and not dead.” His daughter, Julia Bailen, was narrator.

“Ferdinand” was followed by a lilting rendition by Nuller and Bailen of Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals.”

It was not long into the program before the children’s natural curiosity broke through parental restraints. A few of the youngest attendees migrated up the aisle at the side of the church, peeking with interest around the front pews to watch Bailen at his craft. Two-year-old Cary Pratt advanced toward the cellist, eagerly pointing him out to his mother.

In the aisle, a young girl dipped and twirled to the melody of “The Swan” while Jessica Oncel, sitting on the floor, shared a contemplative moment with her young son, Leonardo, who was on her lap.

According to Matthew Harris, head of the Music Commission for the church, the Music in the Nave series is being expanded to include different genres of music, ranging from the annual Christmas “Messiah” Sing-in to chamber music, “old, classic rockers” and folk music.

This last genre will be the focus of the next performance Saturday, April 6, when Kent’s own, George Potts, who has made music throughout Northwestern Connecticut for many years, will be the guest artist. In 2022, Potts released his first solo CD, “Ends and Odds,” which got as high as No. 17 on the FAI Folk Music charts. His instrumentals have twice won the Best Instrumental Award at the New England Songwriting Competition.

The final concert of the series will revisit the concept of “Mozart in May” and will feature the Manhattan String Quartet.

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