Guided Listening #2: Calling All Fairy Tales

For this Guided Listening, you will need:

A copy of these teaching steps
Text asset: Oskar Morawetz, Overture to a Fairy Tale
Audio asset: Excerpts I-V of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz
All assets are provided below.

I. Listen and Relate

  • Listen to Excerpt I from Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz without providing any information about the music.
  • Challenge the students: what do you think this music is about? With luck, someone will guess ‘fairy tales'.

II. Adapt

  • Reveal the title, then brainstorm a short list of fairy tales with the class (The Frog Prince, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk etc.).
  • Each small group of students adopts one fairy tale and charts a plotline of the main events in the storyline.

III. Reflect

  • Listen to audio excerpts I-V, first sharing the information in the text asset: Oskar Morawetz, Overture to a Fairy Tale.
  • Listen once to the music, noting what the music does during each minute. Listen again. Each group assigns times in the music to their fairytale plot line already created.
  • Ask each group to figure out: Does the generically generated music fit your story? Where does it work best, and what is it about the music that makes it work so well? Summarize conclusions on the plot chart.
  • Each group presents its findings to the class. Post the charts.

IV. Reflect

  • Ask: This is a very popular and frequently performed piece of orchestral music. Why do you think we like fairy tales so much? Why does this music about fairy tales please so many people?

Oskar Morawetz (1917-2007)
Morawetz (1917-2007) was born in what is now the Czech Republic and came to Canada in 1941. He had a distinguished career as a composer and died in Toronto. This short piece is one of the most popular Canadian orchestral compositions, and was first performed in 1957. The music does not follow the storyline of a particular fairy tale but instead evokes characteristics typical of any fairy tale. Morawetz describes the exposition as containing three types of themes: elfin, mysterious and gay/dance-like. These themes evolve through the use of orchestral colours, different rhythmic combinations, and by being combined with each other. The music becomes menacing, then very quiet and gentle. Finally the coda builds to a joyful ending.

Excerpt I of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz (0:02:01)

Excerpt I of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (2.88Mb)

This popular piece was first performed in 1957. The music invites speculation about a storyline, combining three moods: elfin, mysterious and dance-like. Notice how specific elements of music are combined to simulate the trajectory and character of a typical fairy tale. This opening section projects a light-hearted “once upon a time” mood, and introduces melodic material which will be used throughout the piece.

Excerpt II of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz (0:02:01)

Excerpt II of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (2.88Mb)

This popular piece was first performed in 1957. Notice how specific elements of music are combined to simulate the character of a typical fairy tale. Rising parallel chromatic figures in the strings create a more threatening mood in this section, then leading to a bold and adventurous mood in the subsequent music.

Excerpt III of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz (0:02:01)

Excerpt III of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (2.88Mb)

This popular piece was first performed in 1957. Notice how specific elements of music are combined to simulate the character of a typical fairy tale. The section opens with full orchestra and calls from the brass. A more intimate “dolce” statement of the same theme is heard from the flute and oboe. The music builds again to a climax.

Excerpt IV of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz (0:02:01)

Excerpt IV of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (2.88Mb)

This popular piece was first performed in 1957. Notice how specific elements of music are combined to simulate the character of a typical fairy tale. In this section the music moves from a mysterious and intimate woodwind interlude to a bold and exciting tutti, with strong presence from the timpanis and brass.

Excerpt V of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz (0:00:57)

Excerpt V of Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz - Play now

Warning: Audio file is larger than 6MbDownload (1.36Mb)

This popular piece was first performed in 1957. Notice how specific elements of music are combined to simulate the character of a typical fairy tale. This final section ends in a big heroic style worthy of an epic movie.

Credits and Copyright

  • Audio Asset: Excerpt I from Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz
    1957, Oskar Morawetz
  • Audio Asset: Excerpt II from Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz
    1957, Oskar Morawetz
  • Audio Asset: Excerpt III from Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz
    1957, Oskar Morawetz
  • Audio Asset: Excerpt IV from Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz
    1957, Oskar Morawetz
  • Audio Asset: Excerpt V from Overture to a Fairy Tale by Oskar Morawetz
    1957, Oskar Morawetz
Virtual Museum of Canada

To access the Virtual Museum of Canada's complete digital learning resources and lesson plans, visit the VMC Teachers' Centre.