Mountains, Birds, and Dinosaurs – A Children’s Concert Program Notes

Concert info:

A Musical Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to the 5th concert in Philharmonia Northwest’s 22/23 season. We’re so glad you’re here. Our program notes usually talk about the history of the music we present, but for this concert we wanted to offer kids and parents a few things to listen for in each piece on today’s program. It’s like a musical scavenger hunt! Be sure to talk about these things together before or after the concert, but not during, of course.

Modest Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain


The music of Night on Bald Mountain has moments that are supposed to sound like witches dancing on top of a mountain. When you hear music that sounds like witches dancing, can you tell which instruments are playing?


The brass instruments including trumpets, trombones, French horns, and tuba, play a significant role in this music. How would you describe the ways these instruments sound?

Church Bells

At a certain moment in the music we hear church bells ringing, which sends the witches running away. Can you tell what time it is when this happens?

Woodwind Solos

2 members of the woodwind family, flute and clarinet, have beautiful solos toward the end of the piece. How do these solos make you feel?

Instrument of Peace

As the witch dance ends and things get more calm, a certain instrument enters that has traditionally been the sound of rest and peace. Can you name this instrument? We’ll give you a hint: a certain giant loved this instrument as well, until it was stolen by a kid named Jack.

Caroline Shaw: The Mountain That Loved a Bird

Repeated Sound

Listen for a repeated sound that occurs throughout this piece. Why do you think the composer, Caroline Shaw, chose to use a repeated sound like this?

The Bird 

Listen for the instrument that represents the bird. Can you tell what instrument it is?

The First Music?

The mountain hears music for the very first time in this story. Can you remember the first music you ever heard? Even if it’s not the first music, what is your earliest musical memory?


Miss Shaw chose a percussion instrument known as a wood block to represent the stones of the mountain cracking. Be sure to listen for this sound. Do you hear the cracking?


In the orchestra, there are 4 different kinds of string instruments. Can you spot them all? Listen to the different sounds they make: sometimes lush and rich, sometimes short and poppy, which is called pizzicato. (This has nothing to do with pizza!)

John Williams: Jurassic Park (highlights)

First Solo Instrument

After the first opening chords, listen for an instrument that plays a solo. Do you know what instrument this is? We’ll give you another hint: it’s one of only 2 instruments whose name has to do with a country.


Like a lot of music for movies, there is a main theme that weaves throughout this piece. After the concert, can you sing the main theme from Jurassic Park?

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments play a significant role in this music. Listen for timpani, snare drum, and cymbals. How does the composer, John Williams, use these instruments, especially at the end?

Other Music by John Williams

Mr. Williams wrote the music for many of the most popular movies of the last 30 years like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Harry Potter series. Do you hear similarities between the music for all of these movies?

We hope you’ve enjoyed the music at today’s concert. Thanks for playing along on our sonic scavenger hunt. Be sure to talk about the questions above, and if you’re stuck, you can find the music on the internet at home and keep listening and learning. Maybe you can even come up with some of your own questions about music you enjoy.

James Falzone

Dean and Professor of Music

Cornish College of the Arts