Something Old: The Magical Music Box

When I look back on my younger days there are certain things that I can point to and say, yes that changed me. One of those things came in the form of a magazine and cassette (yes a cassette!) which my parents used to buy me in the local Sainsburys to keep me quiet and happy. The magazine was The Magical Music Box. It was published by Marshall Cavendish between 1993-1997 to introduce and instill a love of classical music in the children of 90′s pop, grunge, dance and R&B.

Part 1 Journey to the Stars

Part 1 Journey to the Stars

The formula for the magazine was simple. It followed the adventures of Jamie and Sarah, siblings who seemed to be magnets for danger. The stories had no sense of realism and were pure, escapist fun. My trusty companion once noted that they seemed to be running around having adventures with no money, food or supervision. When I pointed out that they had also judged a music competition on the moon and escaped from a troll king he conceded the point. It is pure fantasy which was fuel for my youthful, excitable imagination.

But what made these stories really special was that they were inspired by the music. The music was used to construct the narrative and to drive it on through the adventure and to its conclusion. That is why the magazine came with a tape or CD so you could listen to the story and the music. I loved it as a child as it seemed to add an extra element to the atmosphere and it really made the story come alive. Even though the point of the story was to introduce you to the music, the publishers did not neglect the magazine. They were beautifully illustrated in many different, colourful art styles, which created a diverse experience for any reader/listener.

Part 27 The Imperial Robes

Part 27 The Imperial Robes

The series also had a strong educational element. After each story, the narrator introduced the listener to each part of the music that had been played and explained which instruments were used. The B side of the tape was used for “free” mode, where the music played without interruption and I could let my imagination run wild or be lulled to sleep. In the magazine the series explained the history behind the music, the composer and the instruments so Mum and Dad could be happy that I was learning something as well as being entertained!

This series of magazines undoubtedly instilled in me a love of classical music – so much so that I joined the school choir, studied music in school until I left for university, and went to singing and flute lessons.

Part 48 On the Battlefield

Part 48 On the Battlefield

All this time I wished I had kept my copies of The Magical Music Box. I had to leave most of them behind when my family emigrated and sadly the publishers have stopped selling back issues. However this is the age of the internet and it has indeed come through for me this time! There is a tumblr account which you can visit and check out the original stories. I cannot describe to you how happy I was to find this. I have now can access all 52 stories and am listening to one a night before bed. Yes they are as wonderful as I remember and I would highly recommend them to any teacher, parent or music enthusiast! If you also loved this series or are discovering it now please feel free to add your thoughts below.

Big thanks to MMB on the Magical Music Box Tumblr for use of the pictures and for gathering all the information together!


22 thoughts on “Something Old: The Magical Music Box

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  3. Cordelia on

    I just spent half an hour on google trying to remember what these magazines were called! I adored them when I was younger, but they all got lost/thrown away in house moves etc. What a shame they aren’t available to purchase anymore. It’s the kind of thing I’d love to get hold of for my children, I just know they’d love it.

  4. Yvonne on

    Hi,

    I’ve found you while searching for information on my collection. Specifically, a valuation. I was so pleased to read your story though.

    I have the entire collection of CDs and the magazines with the 2 collector’s binders in mint condition. Beautiful collection that has been cherished for 16 years (I can’t actually believe it’s been that long).

    Marshall Cavendish let us down slightly though. I remember my Mum trying to order replacement CD collector’s boxes (the cases to hold 26 of the CDs which sported the same beautiful artwork) after the ones she ordered arrived damaged. They said they had none left, which annoyed my Mum and me something rotten after committing to the series for so long and we hadn’t even had the final magazines yet. I think the collection cost almost £300, so to pay this towards a collection and not be able to get the last special part to finish it all off was upsetting. I loved The Magical Music Box so much, I have some lovely memories of my Mum and me listening to the stories, music and looking at the magazines and the artwork. My Mum died young, and I guess I will always link the collection to her. The series was a fantastic idea. Good to find someone online who loved them too.

  5. Alana Farrell

    Glad to hear that you both enjoyed the series as much as I did. Maybe someday we will get a reboot but until then the Tumblr is a great substitute. Also Yvonne I am am very envious of your collection, it is definitely something to be treasured.

  6. Jessica Seymour on

    Hi I love this collection when I was small I collected all of them!! They were a great way of getting children interested in classical music!! I used to listen to them before bed as they helped get me off to sleep!!

    I actually have the collection CDs from 1 -32 if anyone is interested in buying them I have put an ad on gumtree.co.uk

    • India on

      Hi Rachel

      I’ve only just noticed your post, do you still have these for sale and what price if so, only I can’t see your ad on Gumtree.

      Thanks

  7. I absolutely love love love these stories! I grew up listening to them and they definitely instilled a love of classical music in me. And so often I’ve had the urge to randomly say ‘Well done my boy!’ and ‘Whoever said two heads were better than one was nuts!’ but no one would know what I was talking about! I’m so glad this series has a bit of a cult following, and it’s not just me and my siblings that loved it so much :) Thanks for writing this – it’s made me all nostalgic! I’ll have to listen to them all again now…

  8. Great write up Alana, loved this series the first time around when it was released in ’94. Do you or your readers think there would be much interest in buying this collection these days if the series was re-released in the near future?

    • Alana Farrell

      Hi Philip

      Glad you liked it! I would say so, many of us are starting to have families/nieces and nephews and I know that I would love to give it as a gift to that generation. Would also be great for music education in schools etc. I would probably buy it myself.

      They have a lot of scope to do things with it now that we have technology like tablets about. Might be a great interactive story experience is done well!

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  10. Darryl on

    I have all 52 of the cd’s in excellent condition. My Nan collected them for her (many!) great grandchildren who never took to them. I’ve thought of selling them recently any ideas on how much I should ask in UK £?

    • Alana Farrell

      Hi Darryl,

      You are very lucky to have all 52! I am not a book/dealer or an expert so I can’t give you an exact figure. While shopping around online I have seen full sets being sold for between £60 – £365 pounds. I have seen single copies sold for £6 and groups of four copies sold for £12. So it depends on how you want to sell them, and if you get the right buyers. There are specialists who you can visit and they should be able to give you a definite figure and put you in touch with collectors.

  11. Darryl on

    Thankyou Alana, I guess there are still so many good memories tied up in them I may not ever sell, now I think about it. My Granny grew up in Beirut and her Dad and Brother taught music to the Presidents family at the time. She wanted us all to grow up knowing about the roots of music and it really stuck with me, not so much the others. I am now a, albeit very young, Grandad myself, at 44. maybe I’ll give my 4 year old No1 Grandson a bash at them. Thanks for the tip tho!

  12. Lune on

    Hello :) Does anyone know where I can download these since magicalmusicbox.tumblr was deleted :(

    Thanks!

    • Alana Farrell

      Unfortunately I don’t. It was a great resource. Hopefully if the company are chasing it up they are planning on publishing it again.

  13. I’m pretty sure I still have the CDs from this somewhere. Well, Journey to the Stars and The Wizard’s Spell anyway. Wish I still had them all. I developed a love of classical music because of these and still love it now. I love my rock and metal and soul but chuck some Mozart at me and I’m a very happy girl.

    Wish I could get all of these again.

  14. I have all of the books and tapes (not CDs) for this collection. I am now pregnant and would love to use these with my future children. Does anybody know where I can get the audio from as the tapes are now outdated? Thank you :)

    • Cherith on

      Hi there, I am trying desperately to get hold of the audio for these! I listened to the planets one as a child and it captivated my imagination even to this day. I am a teacher now and would love to share this with the little ones in my class. Please if anyone has any info on where I can get these from (money not an issue) I would really appreciate it.
      Thanks
      Cherith

  15. michator on

    It is very difficult to get hold of these. I came across a site where you can download the audio and PDF files of the booklets (every page of the booklet) accompanying them.

    I know that is isn’t the hard copies but its better than nothing. I plan to make CDs and print the booklets myself for my children to learn from in the future.

    Here is the link : http://magicalmusicbox.tumblr.com

    Simply scroll to the bottom of the page then select the ‘Audio’ or ‘Visual’
    You do have to individually download each episode but it is well worth the time and effort.

  16. Darryl Leavy on

    Hi All,
    As above I have all 52 CD’s and am now selling them for £150. They are all in great condition. Face to face is best, I dont use paypal and live in York (UK) any interested should mail me on daz101 at hush.com. I’m sure these will make some of you very happy!

  17. Maria Birch on

    The Magical Music Box inspired my son Simon from an early age. He went on to study music and is now earning his living as composer, sound editor and orchestrator. A wonderful series. Our grandson is showing early signs of a serious interest in music, does anyone know if there MP3 files? I’ve kept the magazines and cassette tapes.

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