1 9 8 9 (UK)
13 x 25 minute episodes
Produced by the Jim Henson Company at Tyne Tees Television’s Newcastle studios, this interesting, educational show encouraged children to appreciate different musical styles, using as its theme the appearance of a money-grabbing philistine at Faffner Hall, which had been home to musicians of all types for centuries.
The series showed the attempts of the philistine – a slimy rat-like villain named Farkas Faffner (voiced by Mak Wilson) – to ban music from the gothic-style mansion he had inherited and – worst of all – to auction off all the musical instruments for a quick profit.
Fortunately, the hall was protected by kindly ghost Fughetta Faffner (voiced by Louise Gold), who adored music, and her living associates Mimi (Karen Prell), Riff (Mike Quinn), and the Wild Impresario (Richard Hunt) did all they could to uphold the Faffner tradition and foil Fughetta’s nefarious great-great-grandnephew Farkas.
Episodes enlisted the appearance each week of real-life musicians, including Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits, Thomas Dolby, Beatles producer George Martin, Ry Cooder, jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, Los Lobos, Youssou N’Dour, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, reggae band Aswad, violinist Nigel Kennedy, Julia Fordham and Bobby (“my body is my instrument”) McFerrin.
Based on a musical curriculum designed by Professor John Paynter, head of the Department of Music at the University of York, and his colleague and composer, Professor R. Murray Schafer, each of the 13 episodes had a different theme. The point – which even the youngest viewer could understand – was that music was fun, and greed was not.
The Henson puppets were as charismatic as ever, especially a tuba-playing tiger and talking busts of Beethoven, Bach etc.
Your Body Is an Instrument | Delighting in Sounds | Sounds Become Music | Music Is More Than Technique | The Voice Is an Instrument | Reacting to Sounds | If You Can Play, It’s an Instrument | Improvised Music | Notation: The Sign That Gets the Sound | Discovering New Sounds | Music Brings Us Together | The Power of Music | Anyone Can Make Music