Arts & Culture

Critters meet classical at "You to Zoo"

The San Luis Obispo Symphony’s Apex for Kids Family Concert on Sunday is not “a stuffy old symphony concert,” says Michael Nowak, musical director for the symphony. “There’s film and dancing and narration.”

Called You to Zoo: A Magical, Moose-ical Tour, this Apex for Kids show features a performance of French composer Camille Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals,” with two piano soloists, Barbara Hoff and Susan Davies. The music will be accompanied by video and dancers in animal costume from the Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet.

The 14-movement musical suite “(puts) into music the visual of how animals sound. … how their persona rings out,” Nowak said. “Tortoise, for example, is a slowed down can-can.”

Even to those unversed in classical music, the finale of the suite may sound familiar — it was featured in “Fantasia 2000” as the score to an animated sequence about a flock of flamingos.

“All the pieces on the program will have something to do with animals, birds, fish, man’s best friend,” Nowak said. “There’ll be a lovely cat duet,” he added, performed by Cuesta College student Megan Greenaway and San Luis Obispo High School student Jessica Dalley.

Narration is provided by Kevin Harris, managing artistic director of the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.

“It happened because he’s a nice guy and has two small kids,” Nowak said. “Of course, he’s an actor, so of course he’ll be able to perform effortlessly … with charm and panache, and with humor.”

The doors to the Cohan Center lobby will open an hour before the show for family-friendly activities, including a performance by the Bucket Busters and animal presentations by Zoo to You and Pacific Wildlife Care.

“There’ll be a video we’ve made of things that fly, about insects and birds and bees and anything that gets off the ground with wings,” Nowak said, which will be accompanied by a Beethoven piece. “We try to really make this a special event for kids, for their senses.”

There will also be a musical petting zoo, where children can try out a variety of instruments. “It’s another way to get them stimulated,” Nowak said.

Nowak appreciates the chance to introduce a young audience to the symphony.

“We always like the first moments when they come into the hall to be something that lasts for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“It should just be a real delight for the ears and eyes, and certainly something you’d want to take your family to see.”


Apex for Kids Family Concert — You to Zoo: A Magical, Moose-ical Tour

3 p.m. Sunday, doors open at 2 p.m.

Cohan Center, Cal Poly

$15 for adults, $5 for children 4 to 14

756-4849, or