Suitable for Family Concerts, or Children's Concerts.  Can also be used in young music education classes as a teaching aid.  Duration is 14 1/2 minutes.  See Orchestration.  See Printable Documents.  See Performances.  See Reviews.

About Waltz of the Animals

The "Waltz of the Animals" is a children's piece that was written to educate and entertain.  The work explores the concept of music as a language introducing the listener to the basic elements of music: Melody, counterpoint, and harmony.  The components of the orchestra, i.e. strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, are also demonstrated.  The composition presents these concepts to the audience in a fantasy about a little girl and her animal friends in the forest who decide to write a song for their good friend, Frederick J. Frog, on his birthday.  The work captivates the young listener while it exposes the audience to a basic musical theme performed in many different styles including Classical, Impressionistic, Contemporary, Avant Garde, and Jazz.

The work was written with a woman narrator in mind, although it can be performed with a male narrator.  There are many different characters in the script, and it would be advantageous to have the narrator be someone who is good at speaking different accents.  Wolfgang Amadeus Owl should be in the voice of a very astute and intelligent male.  Maurice Z. Monarch should speak with a French accent, and Ludwig von Blackbird should have a squawkiness portrayed in the reading of this character.  Aaron the Antelope should be macho, and Miles D. Muskrat should speak in a hippy style.  The references to these great composers in the narration is intentional and are stylistically reflected in the piece.

"Waltz of the Animals" is constructed in such a way that the narrator does not have to follow a score.  All readings are obvious from the script with the help of cues from the conductor.  Strategic vamps have been included in the work to allow extra freedom in the reading of the script, and all narrator cues are clearly marked in the score.  I personally feel the narrator should be placed close to the conductor for ease in cueing the reader.  The use of stand lights or some type of lighting effects could be used to highlight the various sections of the orchestra as they play. This, of course, is optional.

This piece is not just for children.  There are many subtle musical references that will delight the astute adult listener.



1 Flute

1 Piccolo

2 Oboes

2 Bb Clarinets

2 Bassoons

2 Trumpets in C

3 Trombones

4 Horns in F

2 Percussion

1 Harp

String Section

The above is minimum orchestration.  There are additional parts for full orchestra. 


About the Work




Baltimore Chamber Orchestra

Buffalo Philharmonic

Cedar Rapids

Evansville Philharmonic

Ft. Wayne Symphony

Illinois Symphony
Indianapolis Philharmonic
Indianapolis Symphony

Lafayette Symphony Orchestra

Loudoun Symphony
Oklahoma City Philharmonic
Palm Beach Atlantic University
NOVA Manassas Symphony
St. Joseph Symphony
Wichita Symphony

Zion Chamber Orchestra


Evansville, IN Courier,  March 11, 1996
by Sherry Crawford

. . "Next came James Beckel's "Waltz of the Animals", a narrated story about a young girl who learns the components of orchestral music from animals in the forest.

An animated storyteller, Cary Gray, voiced the charming tale of how one youngster comes to know about melody, counterpoint, harmony, and the use of various instruments as explained by an owl named Ludwig and other contributors such as frogs and butterflies.

One of the final lines of the piece fell on responsive ears:  "Music is a language that can say things words cannot."  Many young animal lovers discovered new vistas in music as a result of the alluring selection."

Indianapolis, IN Star
by Jay Harvey

"The program opened with first trombonist James Beckel's Waltz of the Animals, a resourceful, brightly ingratiating piece using a young girl's encounter with woodland animals to explain what music's all about. . . "