Classical Kids creates some wonderful stories designed for children to better understand the lives and works of various composers. They come on tape and audio CD. In Beethoven Lives Upstairs, the story told here is very heartwarming a personal favorite. Kids learn about Beethoven through the eyes of a young boy named Christoph, whose journal entries tell the story of how Beethoven has come to live in a room in young Christoph's house. Christoph's story starts off with his rather negative feelings toward Beethoven's intrusion into his life, and his frustration at the fact that he is subject to ridicule as a result of Beethoven's erratic behavior. Slowly, and touchingly, his journal entries grow more compassionate as his own heart softens to Beethoven. The story in this CD-ROM is an abridged version.
The main screen allows children to choose from the following activities:
There are plenty of musical activities to be found in Christoph's Journal:
- The Bell Tower contains 10 preset melodies by Beethoven and others, and allows kids to record their own melodies. When kids exit this activity, the last melody they selected will play on the hour, wherever they are in the program.
- Your Personal Journals contains 5 journals that kids can personalize with their own "paintings" (that they color at various points throughout the game), and personal notes and stories.
- Christoph's Journal contains the most activities of the program: Christoph's journal entries and video sequences from the movie of the same name.
Keep in mind that the journal entries are written in cursive, and are not spoken aloud. As a result, children in the younger range of the suggested age group will need help following the story, although there are video sequences they can enjoy. Kid testers found the activities quite fun, and enjoyed the video clips. Although the personal journals are a nice idea, none of the children paid much attention to them. There is much to be learned from the activities in this title.
- Notes Afloat is an arcade-style game that involves filling musical measures with the correct combinations of notes. Players move a bucket around Christoph's room, catching notes dripping from the ceiling before they turn into water and flood the room. Notes fall from the ceiling as whole notes and when they hit the ground, they split into two half notes, then quarter notes, then eighth notes.
- In Name that Musical Square Game Show, players become contestants, and learn about musical styles (staccato, legato, adagio, etc.).
- In Instrument Fling, Beethoven is in one of his bad moods, and is flinging instruments out of his window. Kids learn about different groups of musical instruments (brass, woodwinds, etc.) as they must group the falling instruments in a game of logic.
- Paint Pictures in the Art Studio is a fun creative activity in which kids mix and blend colors to paint different scenes. Paint can be diluted (by clicking on the glass of water icon), or increased in intensity. Kids get to listen to Beethoven's music as they create their masterpiece!
- Play Beethoven's Piano is wonderful fun! Kids are tutored through learning the notes of some of Beethoven's melodies. They can choose to learn these songs in beginner or advanced mode, and an animated candle helps them to click on the correct piano keys.
- An arcade-style game, The Great Pen Chase, has kids guiding Christoph through the streets of Vienna in search of Beethoven's pens. An interesting twist has kids passing over musical rests that slow down Christoph.
- Beethoven's Rehearsal gets kids involved by allowing them to choose the piece of music and the instruments the musicians will play.
Minimum requirements are quite low: Windows 3.1 or higher, a 486 SX/33, 4 Mb RAM (8 Mb RAM recommended), and a CD ROM drive.
creativity, creating music, musical composition, learning to recognize musical notes and their place on the piano, classifying musical instruments, combining notes to fill musical measures, musical styles (adagio, forte, piano, staccato, legato, allegro), mixing paints, creative writing
Children learn about the life and music of Beethoven and some music basics in addition to music appreciation, all while having fun.
Most children will enjoy the activities, the story line, and the video clips.
Players should have no problem navigating this game. Exiting the program can involve a number of steps, but all in all, the program is well-designed.
There is a fair amount of content to go through, and the arcade-style activities will keep many kids coming back for more.
There are few programs on the market like this one that teach basic music concepts, making this a unique and valuable title.