Jay Laga’aia and the MSO can play anything!

…and they’d have me hooked.

But before I tell you about that, it’s time I made my burning admission: I have a not so little crush on conductor Benjamin Northey. I’ve known this for some years now. When we were leaving the Classic Kids concert the weekend before last, I umm’ed and ahh’ed about getting my photo taken with… not Jay Laga’aia (sorry, Jay!) but with Ben. It’s the passion for the music that made me do it! In my (somewhat sad) defense, at least I know far less about him than Steve does about his crush, Steve Wozniak.

My husband enjoyed watching me grapple with my adolescent-esque “should I, shouldn’t I” moment. He thought I was hilarious. I thought he was a big meanie.

“This is your Woz moment,” he tried to tell me with a straight face.

He doesn’t get it. Or maybe he does.

See, just as computers/technology are his life and passion, music is mine. I’ve made no secret of it. And the more I see this guy in action the more I see, witnessing his passion and talent, he is the Real Deal. Well… if he isn’t, he does a great impression of someone reeeeally enjoying what they do – doin’ it for the kids! – which leads me quite neatly to the inimitable Jay Laga’aia.

Funny and personable, sweet and energetic, Jay gives the vibe that he’s an old hat at this and, better still, that he would rather be nowhere else than entertaining the dozens of little people at his feet. The guy has eight kids, after all. He knows a thing or two about how to captivate. Add to this that he’s a staple of ABC’s Play School and they were eating out of his hand.


We had the pleasure of seeing Jay with the MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) in 2010 and back then, I was blaming my own childhood memories for my happy tears as I witness the LGBB go wide-eyed at her first up-close taste of orchestral sound. But I was hugely impressed this time, once again. What a performer! And the two of them together – Northey and Laga’aia – makes for a really infectious introduction to the orchestra for children.

They can’t help but become caught up in the enthusiasm of the entertainers leading the way, who appear to thoroughly delight in what they are doing, and the children are greatly encouraged to join in. It’s a dynamo pairing, for mine, with plenty of amusing jokes that are tame but pitched over littlies’ heads so the adults have a fun time too.

The presence of that unified sound can fill any cavernous room with a warmth that chases away the blues of a rainy winter’s day.


And relaxing? At one point, I mused that it was like we’d wandered in to a bbq at Jay’s place or something…. er, assuming he’s got a grand ballroom at his house. But the point is, it was that inviting. Seriously, does this look like someone not getting into it?


And did I cry this time? Yes, of course I did. Why are you even asking?! The familiar surge went through me from the first strains of Grieg’s “Morning” from Peer Gynt. The orchestra sadly only played a couple of minutes of the piece, but oh. They pulled my heart out (not too difficult a feat, let’s face it…. but still) and made me cry.

The audience also got to enjoy the waltz from Swan Lake. And then, like last time, the conductor took the children through each section of the orchestra, inviting interaction and guessing of some of the instruments as they took their turn with a short solo.

“That’s the sound of the French horn,” says Benjamin. “It makes you feel like invading a small country.”

“The tuba is the Darth Vader of the orchestra,” says Jay, “….so I wouldn’t giggle if I were you.”

The harp, once again, stole the show. Perhaps the most enchanting instrument of all because of its quiet, peaceful sounds, it commands careful listening attention. It also greatly helped that the harpist was playing the theme to Sesame Street. The children were physically drawn to it and came from all around the room to stand and watch this beautiful instrument being played.

And I cried. Again.


It’s a brilliant day out, one I thoroughly recommend for all preschool/early primary school age kiddies. Although, I think it may sadly be our last Classic Kids – while I can’t be sure it wasn’t more the nasty bug that hit her in full the following day, the LGBB seemed less keen this time to participate and it may be that she has outgrown these sessions. Still, for those of you considering it and/or wondering if it is worth the trip to the city and the (quite reasonable) cost, I say… Go! You will not be disappointed, I promise.

If you don’t want to miss out next time, keep your eye on their website here. You can find more information about all concert series here. Or follow the MSO on Twitter and Facebook.

And did you know, The Wiggles and the MSO are doing three shows in August? More information here.


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