Music, Drama, and Children by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Remember the 1968 movie musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? The story is set in Vulgaria where children have been outlawed by order of Baroness Bombhurst. Any child found wandering the streets is likely to be detected by the kid’s-blood-sniffing ‘Childcatcher’ and taken to the ‘Castle.’ To prevent this, the kind toymaker hides all the children in the cellar under his shop. A town without children.
Really! What could that be about?”

A blogger recently wrote that she visited a town in Vermont, which she called, ‘A Town Without Children.” She claims that she and her three children never saw another child in the town. They did see plenty of signs on establishments everywhere saying, “ No Children. Dogs Welcome.” The convenience store had “no baby items… yet it had an entire aisle of dog food.

Is that really happening? Are people preferring beagles to babies?

One guy responded to the Town Without Children blog like this:

“I am fascinated by a place without children….A place without children is a place where respectful adults can live out their lives without having to worry about other people’s bad parenting, having to be concerned for their safety when they go to a convenience store after 9pm and it is littered with teenagers and young adults (<21) who are looking to get into trouble. I think there should be more places like this around the country. Keep the kids in suburban hell with their over-achieving "keeping-up-with-the-Joneses" parents where they belong. Seems like it is happening. What could that be about? Really! In 1957, Van Johnson starred in a TV musical that was released to theatres and is still around.  The Pied Piper of Hamelin is filled with songs based on adaptations of Edvarg Grieg. The story, as everyone knows, was transmitted by the Brothers Grimm and concerns a rat infested town that hired a piper to ‘pipe’ the rats into the river but then refused to pay him, so he ‘piped’ their children away. The Grimm story reaches back to a tradition that connects these events to the year 1284 in a town (without children) in Bavaria. The novelist Richard Powers writes the following note into the Hamelin Town Records:” On June 26, 1284, through stupidity and a mass tin ear, we killed our children.”


On May 5, 2009, The Honourable Adrienne Clarkson hosted an evening introducing a unique new opera by R. Murray Schafer—The Children’s Crusade. Imagine this: history records that in the year 1212, 30,000 children under the age of 12 left their homes, to gather around a boy named Stephen who led them on foot 660 kilometers from Paris to Marseilles, where they expected the sea to part and show them a path to Jerusalem, where they expected the Saracens would give them the keys to the kingdom just for the asking. Instead, the ones who survived the walk were lured onto ships and sold into slavery in Africa. That same year, 20,000 children in Germany gathered around a boy named Nicholas who led them to the seaports of Genoa and Pisa, and to Rome where they were received by the Pope who told them to go home. Very few made it. You can get all the details of this story by googling ‘Children’s Crusade’.

The Opera that R. Murray Schafer based on this story, is co-commissioned by Soundstreams Canada and Luminato will open the Luminato Festival in Toronto on Friday, June 5, 2009, starring Jacob Abrahamse pictured above. Details at

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