CBeebies and BBC Education have jointly commissioned “Musical Storyland,” a significant ten-part series featuring the BBC Philharmonic, which brings renowned stories from various corners of the world to life through the enchanting medium of music.
Building on the triumph of the BBC Philharmonic’s film, “The Musical Story of the Gingerbread Man,” this marks the inaugural occasion where an orchestra has been entrusted to produce a series of films for network television.
The tales are narrated by a constellation of celebrated personalities, and the series showcases a roster of globally acclaimed guest musicians. Additionally, brand new educational materials are accessible on the BBC Teach website for schools to incorporate into their curriculum.
By seamlessly blending live action and animation with original musical compositions, the series encompasses stories such as “The Baobab Tree,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Ananse and the Monkeys,” and “The Hare and the Tortoise.”
The line-up of hosts features the well-loved BBC 5 Live presenter, Nihal Arthanayake, who also lent his voice to the highly successful “The Musical Story of the Gingerbread Man.” Joining him are the international storyteller Jan Blake, whose narratives are featured in three of the Musical Storyland episodes; CBBC, Eastenders actor, and Strictly Come Dancing finalist, Molly Rainford; and Sean Chandler, a talented trumpeter who is Deaf, presenting one episode and performing in another.
In addition to the BBC Philharmonic, Musical Storyland also showcases an array of accomplished guest musicians:
Kuljit Bhamra MBE, a tabla player, composer, record producer, and trailblazer of the British Bhangra sound, with a filmography including “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Sidiki Dembélé, a West African multi-instrumentalist based in Manchester, renowned for his collaborations with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and sought-after soloist and collaborator at festivals and venues worldwide.
Zi Lan Liao, a guzheng player based in Liverpool, known for her appearances with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and contributions to the soundtrack of “The Last Emperor.” Zi Lan Liao also serves as the artistic director of Pagoda Arts, Europe’s largest and oldest Chinese Youth Orchestra.
Sean Chandler, a Deaf trumpeter, featured in one of the episodes. Sean is a member of the teaching staff at the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain, a Teacher of the Deaf, and a workshop leader. He is also the lead trumpet player in various Big Bands.
The filming of Musical Storyland takes place entirely in the North West, with the crew and production team drawn from the abundant talent pool in the region.
Musical Storyland is set to premiere on CBeebies and BBC Teach on 27 November, with episodes airing on CBeebies every day that week at 4.45pm. The first five episodes will also be available on iPlayer from 27 November.
The remaining episodes will be reserved for release in Easter 2024.
Kate Morton, Senior Head of Children’s Commissioning 0-6 BBC, says: “Musical Storyland is set to be an inspirational series and an amazing resource for young people and families. This is the first time an orchestra has been commissioned to make content for network television and it is full of incredible musicians. The talented team behind the scenes have brought these stories to life in a unique way and we are sure children and adults alike will enjoy this truly magical series of programmes”
Helen Foulkes, Head of Education and Newsround, says: “This collaboration provides schools with classroom resources fully integrated with what is beautiful CBeebies programming. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn through storytelling and to bring world class musicians – and their instruments – into the classroom.”
Simon Webb, Head of Orchestras and Choirs, says: “The BBC Philharmonic is one of the most adventurous and versatile orchestras in the UK. Perhaps best known for performances at home in Salford and across the north of England, the orchestra also delights in being involved in new projects. We are thrilled to have created Musical Storyland with the BBC Philharmonic, a series of programmes for TV that will entertain and teach our youngest audiences about storytelling through music.”