An evening at the orchestra used to be the bastion of the solemn, the formal, and perhaps the highbrow. Long dresses, hushed voices, and the soaring sounds of talented musicians filled the night. Well, one of those things is still true, anyway. But the last time I was at the symphony, people were wearing jeans, kids were running around, a baby started fussing in the middle, and there was a preschooler dancing in the aisle.

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra has worked hard in past years to make classical music approachable and to offer a symphonic concert that is relevant and accessible to everyone. And everyone includes kids, to the delight of families looking for something beyond the playground or petting zoo. Symphony Sundays is a made-for-families orchestra series, where kids are the guests of honour and the atmosphere is relaxed, but the music is still of the highest calibre. The musical repertoire is carefully chosen to appeal to a younger audience (while still being enjoyable for parents) and often includes readings or stories. When we saw Gershwin’s Magic Key, actors told a story with the music, and it was accented with pictures on the screen. Sometimes, special guests do the readings or are featured with the orchestra.

Symphony Sundays (Family Fun Calgary)

Special guest, Fred Penner: yes, I was, admittedly, the most excited.

One of the highlights for kids at Symphony Sundays is the instrumental “petting zoo.” Musicians are stationed throughout the foyer and mezzanine at the Jack Singer Concert Hall with instruments that kids can look at, touch, and even try for themselves. After our first visit, we spent weeks listening to my youngest tell us how the violinist at the symphony told her she was a natural on the violin. It was fun to be hands-on with the same types of instruments that we saw and heard being played during the performance.

Symphony Sundays (Family Fun Calgary)

Symphony Sundays occur four times a season and encompass a range of musical styles. You could encounter everything from mambo music to a concert inspired by a kid’s hockey book. We’ve enjoyed the music of fairy tales, the classic Peter and the Wolf, and we even saw Fred Penner in concert with the CPO. Gershwin’s Magic Key in 2019 was one of our favourites! Stories in music, introductions to instruments, and a variety of musical styles from around the world make Symphony Sundays a treat to be discovered. Open a whole new world to your family with an afternoon at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra! Fancy dress is optional.

Symphony Sundays (Family Fun Calgary)

Waiting to hear Peter and the Wolf

Symphony Sundays with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra:

When: Four Sundays throughout the CPO Season
: 3 pm (Instrument Petting Zoo starts at 2 pm)
Where: Jack Singer Concert Hall
Address: 205 8th Avenue SE, Calgary, AB