'Classics and quality - that is our motto," says Gil Shohat, the artistic director of the annual Tzliley Yaldut (Sounds of Childhood) Festival, which will take place at the Holon Theater October 4 to 7. "All shows, be they festival or guest productions, are world premiers, and for every concert that was selected for the festival there were thirty that didn't met our standards."
Shohat, a prolific Israeli composer of the relatively young generation, adamantly believes that "children deserve top level culture entertainment; they deserve Mozart, Brahms and Vivaldi, and not only such television shows as "Nolad Lirkod" or "Kohav Nolad."
"I direct eight festivals in Israel and abroad, but I see this one - small-scale as it is - as the most important," he continues, recollecting how at the age of six his own life was transformed when the founder of the Israeli National Opera Edis de Philippe came to his Ramat Gan primary school to talk about their production of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel.
"I asked my parents to take me to the opera and eventually I became a musician," he said. "Granted, the kids probably won't all turn into opera composers, but the festival will bring them closer to complicated culture, and will make their future lives much richer for it. Taking the kids to this festival is the best cultural investment a parent can make."
Shohat, who admits to simply adoring small children despite not yet having entered parenthood, explains that for him it's important to share with kids the things he loves and knows best. "Still," he confides, "bringing classical music to the little ones is a very complicated task. From my previous experience I know that holding on to kids' attention is far from easy, and the line dividing a captivated child from a bored one... is extremely thin."
THE DAUNTING task of keeping all those young ears interested has brought Shohat to the conclusion that the festival's program should nevertheless borrow from the tube, with "TV stars such as Michal Yannai, Tal and Ido Mosseri" presenting to the young audience tried and true classical pieces by Beethoven, Saint Saens, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. This, Shohat says, "builds confidence between us and the children, and if a show or a concert reaches the kid's heart, the results will go far beyond one particular performance; the impression will stay with him or her forever."
Speaking about the concept behind the festival, Shohat explains that this year "music and stage are in the center. We are trying to answer the question of how the show and the music are created. For example, while conducting Vivaldi's The Four Seasons I expose the kids the very structure of the orchestra and demonstrate how it creates a harmonious sound. Another program gives the audience the opportunity to peek at the world behind the scenes and realize how a theater show works and what are the functions of all its participants."
Even a brief glance at the festival flier proves that there is a strong backing to Shohat's words: the Ra'anana Symphoy Orchestra with Yannai as storyteller and Shohat on the podium; the Israel Opera with its special production of Cinderella, staged by Niv Hoffman and conducted by David Sebba; Rami Kleinstein with an exclusive program - and that's just the beginning of the list.
Indeed, the country's best artistic forces are converging on Holon for a few days to bring the kids some true culture.
For more details visit www.hth.co.il. For reservations call: (03) 03-502-3001/2/3