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Listening Guide



The OVERTURE is sometimes the first piece of music that you will hear. In this case the Overture is actually two songs put together as one. The two songs that make up this Overture are the Little Drummer Boy’s song and the March from the Nutcracker. If you listen carefully, you can hear little fluttering sounds which are snow flurries beginning to fall. More and more fall and soon we see a beautiful snow scene as we wait for Drosselmeyer, the man who will introduce us to the rest of the characters in our story.

The LITTLE DRUMMER BOY is on his way home. He finds a sturdy twig and happily begins to strike cans, bottles, fence posts and other objects in time to the music as he dances along. When he gets close to home he remembers that his father wanted him to come straight home for there is much work to be done. The Drummer Boy’s parents work hard but they are still very poor. Angry that the Drummer Boy did not obey, his father breaks his son’s worn and battered drum. Sad and silent, the Drummer Boy picks up the pieces of his drum and holds them in his arms until he falls asleep.

The Drummer Boy begins to dream, and in that dream his adventures begin. Three dark figures come toward him but birds overhead chirp loudly warning the Drummer Boy, who now sees that the TRIO are musicians and only wish to teach him how to play their instruments. First he tries a guitar, then a horn and a flute, playing sour notes on all three. One of the musicians finally hands him a tambourine and that he can play!

Joining together with the musicians, The Drummer Boy travels to a holiday fair where people DECK THE HALLS and celebrate JOY TO THE WORLD. Candy, toys and gifts are everywhere as Drosselmeyer, disguised as a magician, brings to life a group of toy robots, dancing about and delighting the crowd.

In his dream the Drummer Boy recognizes his friend, Clara. With her are her mother, father and her bratty brother, Fritz. This time Drosselmeyer is presenting a tiny ASIAN ANGEL dancer that he is holding in the palm of his hand.

At the end of her dance the angel changes into the Eastern Star that will guide the Drummer Boy to the Manger. But for now, the musicians have other plans as they take the Drummer Boy deeper into his dream, winding up on a sandy beach where he meets up with a funny parrot UP ON A  ROOFTOP.

The musicians and the Drummer Boy return to the festival and find that the people there are shoving and pushing one another, fighting over gifts and presents. They have made a mess, leaving wrapping paper, ribbons, boxes and bows scattered next to a sad, make-believe Santa Claus and have taken the joy out of JOLLY  OLD ST. NICHOLAS.

Looking through the mess that the people had made, the Drummer Boy finds a broken Christmas ornament and notices a star begin to shine in the night sky. Its light grows brighter, glowing down on a tiny manger in the distance. The Drummer Boy puts the ornament in his pocket and walks toward the star – on this, one very HOLY NIGHT.

Still dreaming on his WAY TO THE MANGER, The Drummer Boy imagines Clara at his side. Like a friendly ghost she appears then fades away, sometimes holding a gift and other times without one.

On the way, the Drummer Boy finds a group of children even poorer than he. They search for items left behind by those who are richer than they, hoping to find a crust of bread or some small piece of candy. Finding nothing for the children to eat and no gift to bring to the manger, the Drummer Boy is very sad indeed. Just then, all hear the sound of a creaky old wagon. It is Drosselmeyer dressed as the kindhearted shopkeeper named WENCESLAS.

The Drummer Boy is happy to see that Wenceslas is giving the hungry children bread and cookies from his sack, but he stays just a little away from them. Wenceslas waves to the Drummer Boy to come closer then digs deep into his sack and pulls out a beautiful new drum. He hands the drum to the Drummer Boy as the children cheer. Wenceslas reaches in again and quickly pulls out two sticks and a sash. The Drummer Boy smiles as he begins to play his ‘dream drum’, knowing he will not be empty-handed as he marches toward the Manger.

The DRUMMER BOY is at the Manger. As he comes closer and closer he is very proud as his talents are rewarded by the Baby Jesus who smiles at him. His long journey is over. the Drummer Boy lowers his eyes and with respect, slowly backs away from the Manger. With arms open, the Drummer Boy begins to spin around and around, faster and faster until he sits straight up in bed. His dream has ended.

The Drummer Boy’s bedroom door begins to open slowly. It is the Drummer Boy’s father. In his hands he carries a drum just like the ‘dream drum’ in the Drummer Boy’s dream. His father lays the drum down on the bed then gently kisses his son on the forehead. Soon, the Drummer Boy’s mother enters carrying two drumsticks. She hands the sticks to her husband, she nods and watches as the father passes the sticks to his son. The Drummer Boy’s mother gives him a warm hug and takes her husband by the hand and leads him out the door. Gazing into his ‘dream drum’, the Drummer Boy sees the face of Clara slowly coming into view. Music used for this last scene is called THE HOLLY & THE IVY.



In the OVERTURE, Clara is getting ready for her family’s Christmas party. Clara is young and very pretty. Looking at herself in the mirror, she hears a loud pounding on her bedroom door. It is her bratty brother Fritz. He shakes a toy rat in her face and she runs down the hall after him.

Clara and Fritz run in and out of rooms while the household help try to prepare for the big party. Some guests already have arrived and soon everyone is having a wonderful time, eating, drinking and dancing in MARCH step.

Clara’s head is spinning from all the excitement! She finds a quiet place to rest and soon she is asleep and dreaming. She hears bells and wonders if they are coming from the grandfather’s clock in the hallway or if they are part of her dream. With every strike of the clock, Clara falls deeper into her DREAM  until it is midnight and the clock has struck twelve times and Drosselmeyer arrives. He is dressed like a character from the story, Oliver Twist, and knocks his heavy cane upon the front door. In her dream, Clara watches as DROSSELMEYER ENTERS. He walks past the many guests and straight to her, holding a large box wrapped with Christmas paper. He gives the box to Clara and she opens it. Inside is the most handsome Nutcracker Clara has ever seen. Clara turns to thank Drosselmeyer but he quickly begins to pull out tiny gifts from under his coat.

Drosselmeyer tosses gifts to the young girls as they giggle and dance a GIRLS DANCE around him. When Fritz sees this he calls the boys at the party. They use canes for pretend swords to fight a make believe battle over the girls and their gifts. Fritz takes charge over all the other boys during the BOYS DANCE.

Fritz suddenly makes a dash for Clara’s Nutcracker, but Clara is too quick and he does not get it. Fritz chases her again and grabs hold of the Nutcracker but quickly loses his grip on it. He tries one more time finally gets hold of it. Clara and Fritz struggle, pulling the Nutcracker back and forth, until the head of the Nutcracker pulls off in Fritz’s hand.

Clara looks down at her headless Nutcracker, and when she looks back up she is frightened to see that her brother’s face looks just like the face of a rat! Other boys join in FRITZ’S TRANSFORMATION as they also begin to turn into rats! Fritz teases Clara, laughing meanly, as he shakes the head of the Nutcracker. The boys under his command lift him up, saying that he is the Rat King, then they all run away into the night. Clara’s dream is now a nightmare, her beautiful house falling to pieces all around her. Everyone has disappeared from her dream except Drosselmeyer. Holding Clara’s hand, he leads her out of the darkness and into a land of white light, a land where SNOWFLAKES DANCE.

Tiny ballerinas begin to fall from the sky like snowflakes. When they hit the ground they magically turn into full-grown dancers who beautifully dance around Clara as Drosselmeyer watches. The snowflake dance ends and Clara is taken away by the Three Musicians in the Drummer Boy’s dream. They are dressed like matadors for the SPANISH DANCE they now perform. Each musician plays a part of the melody on guitar, flute and trumpet.

Fritz, the Rat King, stops everything! He starts waving the Nutcracker head at Clara again, daring her to follow him. Clara runs toward Fritz, but he quickly dashes down a hole too small for Clara to enter. Poor Clara is half in and half out, her head stuck as music to the ARABIAN DANCE begins. Male dancers bring in a large basket. Hidden inside is a Snake Woman. When they let her out, she strikes at the men in time to the music.

Clara hears the sound of gongs as she watches the men quickly put the Snake Woman back in the basket and leave. Her eyes open wide when a Dragon enters, looking for anyone who has wandered into its cave. Clara is frightened at first but begins to enjoy the acrobatics of the Dragon as it prances about in the CHINESE DANCE.

Clara finally manages to pull her head out of the hole and finds herself on a snowy mountain top. Dancers called Cossacks do the RUSSIAN DANCE. These dancers, as Clara finds out, are 12 feet tall! The dance is very fast, and with nowhere to hide, Clara has to be very careful that the giant dancers do not stomp on her. She weaves in and out of their feet until the dance ends as quickly as it began.

Clara spies Fritz far in the distance. She runs after him only to find she has entered the land of the Gingerbread People. The Gingerbreads give Clara a sweet and friendly welcome when the music to MERLITONS is heard. Clara and the Gingerbread People make friends, but Fritz and his rat army are close and they are ready to do battle.

Clara and the Gingerbreads are enjoying themselves when, suddenly the RATS & GINGERBREAD BATTLE begins. The gingerbread people fight bravely but they are not strong enough to defeat the hungry rats and soon they are being devoured. Trying to help, Clara takes off her shoe and throws it at Fritz, hitting him in the head. Fritz is unconscious and slowly turns back to his human boy state then dissolves along with the other boys from Clara’s party. All that remains of them is the Nutcracker head.

The poor bodies of the Gingerbread people are lying about as thunder rumbles in the background. The Sugarplum Fairy enters and the music to SUGARPLUM begins. Clara is so happy to see that the Sugarplum Fairy dances from Gingerbread to Gingerbread, bringing them all back to life. The Sugarplum Fairy picks up the Nutcracker head, helping Clara to place it on the Nutcracker’s body. It begins to snow ‘pink sugar’. The Sugarplum Fairy tells Clara to feed the magic sugar to the Nutcracker and soon it is life size. Everyone cheers as the Sugarplum Fairy does one final dance. Spinning and twirling quickly, she disappears, leaving Drosselmeyer in her place.

A WALTZ begins to play as Drosselmeyer leads Clara and the life-size Nutcracker to a beautiful land where the sun always shines the flowers dance. Clara and the Nutcracker run here and there through the swaying flowers and start to dance with each other. They stop and look into each other’s eyes. Gently, Clara takes off the Nutcracker’s helmet, and sees that it is the Drummer Boy. She kisses her new-found Prince on the cheek and they begin to dance again.

We hear the music as Clara wakes up to see all the party guests dancing to the same Waltz in her dream. Everyone is there: Fritz and his friends, still playing pranks, the Three Musicians hired to play holiday music, a slender woman in snakeskin pants, and Uncle Drosselmeyer, forever performing his silly old magic tricks.

The Drummer Boy is at Clara’s front door and the music to THE HOLLY & THE IVY begins. He is carrying a cardboard box with great care as he rings the bell. Clara answers the door and watches as he Drummer Boy reaches into the box then proudly shows her his ‘Dream Drum’. Excited, Clara rushes off and soon returns to show the Drummer Boy her prized Nutcracker. They look at each other then with nothing to say. they slowly separate.

The Drummer Boy turns back to Clara, remembering his dream. Clara also turns. She watches the Drummer Boy reach into his box and take out his ‘Dream Drum’. He looks at it for a moment then hands his most precious possession to her. Moved by his gift, Clara picks up her prized Nutcracker and gives it to the Drummer Boy. Both children glow, knowing that, sometimes, dreams actually do come true.

Clara’s family gathers at the doorway. They notice the Drummer Boy’s mother and father are looking for their son and invite them in. The rich and the poor (the holly and the ivy) coming together for the true meaning of Christmas. All enter as Drosselmeyer hangs a wreath on the door that reads “CHRISTMAS DREAMS”. He winks, then closes the door behind him. as the song CHRISTMAS IS FOR KIDS ends our story.