Kids' Commute: The Carnival of the Animals

Jun 4, 2015

Hear "The Carnival of the Animals" this week on Kids' Commute!
Credit David Monniaux

It’s the final week of the school year! It’s become a tradition here on the Kids’ Commute to celebrate the last week of school with The Carnival of the Animals, by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. We’ll hear Leonard Bernstein conduct, and also describe every movement of the musical suite for us. Let’s jump right in!

The Carnival of the Animals was written in 1886. The piece is a sort of zoo, where Camille Saint-Saëns describes all sorts of different animals musically! Saint-Saëns wrote the music for his friends to enjoy, but also to give young musicians something fun to play. 

So, throughout the zoological romp this week, we’ll hear 7 young people performing alongside the string section of the New York Philharmonic.


Today, Leonard Bernstein takes us to the aviary or birdhouse, visits the pianist, and then introduces us to some very old fossils.

The “bird” movement is an acrobatic act for the young flute soloist, Paula Robison. Notice how the flute sounds like birds flitting about their cage.

Now, you might be wondering why a pianist is included in the carnival of the animals...but remember, Saint-Saëns wanted people to get a chuckle from this music. If you’ve ever taken piano lessons, you can probably sympathize with these “animals” having to practice their scales.

Fossils, are the bones and remains of dinosaurs and other very old animals. I guess it goes to show that in The Carnival of Animals, not all the animals have to be alive! Saint-Saëns takes a bunch of “old,” well known tunes, and mixes them together. The result, a “fossilized” movement!

Can you recognize any of the “old fossils?”

Music piece for today:
Various movements from The Carnival of the Animals performed by the New York Philharmonic and conducted by Leonard Bernstein

Listen to the Kids’ Commute live on Classical IPR every weekday morning at 7:40am or listen to the archived episode at the top of the post.