Review: OAE TOTS classical music concert for kids at the Southbank

Our Little One loves music. He loves watching people play any sort of instrument and I’ve been on the look out for gigs and concerts for children for ages. There are surprisingly few around that are suitable for toddlers, even in London, and while I found a few classical music concerts I have yet to find a regular live music gig with rock or jazz music.

The OAE TOTS (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) concerts at the Southbank only happen about every 6 months in London so I’ve been waiting since before Christmas to visit this one. And that’s probably no bad thing, as the Little One is only just about able to concentrate for long enough. As my parents were staying with us for the weekend, I dragged everyone out of the house at 8.30am on a Sunday morning (the boyfriend was not impressed!) to get to the London Southbank Centre in time for the 10am concert (they also do a second sitting at 11.30am). Luckily, Waterloo tube station handily has a lift which makes it easy for the buggy. The whole thing was really well organised with a colouring in table and stickers to keep kids amused before the concert started. And there was a large buggy park area for all the pushchairs. The Purcell Rooms where the concert is held is quite small which meant that it felt exciting to be part of an audience without being overwhelming for the kids. I’d booked some of the last few tickets which meant we had tickets right at the back but there was still a very good view of the stage.

boy watching OAE TOTS concert at Purcell Rooms London

One of the OAE musicians was effectively the MC; introducing the music and getting the children involved – shouting hello, getting them to sing along and encouraging them to learn about the instruments. She was brilliant at getting everyone involved and made it fun for both the children and adults. There was a water theme and she helped to explain sounds that appeared in the music and linked certain sections to animals which all the kids enjoyed. As well as some classical pieces there was some family favourites too for the kids to join in with such as Row Row Row the Boat. All the music was kept short and just the right length to engage the children.

Boy watching OAE TOTS concert

Our son LOVED the whole thing; he was the first one to shout ‘hooray’ after every piece of music ended and was enthusiastically clapping along. I was worried about him being able to sit still for the duration – it lasts about an hour – but as we were at the back he enjoyed dancing on the back steps as well as climbing up and down a few. The great thing is all the other parents there are in the same boat; some have babies, others have toddlers and older kids but people really don’t mind if your child makes a noise, or wanders around and I found the whole thing really enjoyable rather than having to worry about his behaviour or how other people would react.

The other lovely thing was that after the concert all the musicians left the stage to set up in the foyer and played as we all filed out of the Purcell Rooms. It was great for the kids to see the musical instruments being played up close and they all seemed to really enjoy this aspect of it. It was just a great example of the small touches the OAE have provided to  ensure the concert is genuinely child-friendly.

OAE musicians in foyer at Southbank Centre

Even the boyfriend, who went under duress, loved seeing our son so excited and couldn’t believe we’d have to wait until October until the next one. We’re definitely going to go again and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

OAE TOTS concerts are advertised as suitable for children aged 2 – 5 years old and our son is 22 months and there were people there with babies and younger children.

The next concert at the London Southbank Centre is in October but the date is still TBC – I’ve signed up to the Southbank and OAE family mailing lists so that they’ll let me know.

Meanwhile, the OAE do other children’s music concerts around the UK and you can find out more information on the OAE website.

If you’ve been to the OAE TOTS concerts or discovered any other good live music events for children please let me know in the comments section or tweet me @WestEssexMums on Twitter.


Bubbablue and me music linky

6 thoughts on “Review: OAE TOTS classical music concert for kids at the Southbank

  1. Suzanne says:

    I have been thinking of going to one of these concerts, so it’s good to read your review. We went to one of the Crash, bang, wallop concerts at the Cadogan Hall, it was very good. There are activities beforehand in the foyer and other areas and I will definitely go back when my little girl is a bit older. They suggest it for age 3 upwards and we we went when she was about 27 months old. They are themed, the one we went to was called ‘wacky weather’ and introduced the four seasons. I think they are every 3 months.


    • West Essex Mums says:

      Thanks Suzanne, that sounds great I’ll look it up. Always good to hear from other mums how they found these events as it is so hard to judge from the limited info on the website. Let me know if you try the OAE one and what you think.


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