After the success of our recent blog ‘A day in the life of an education trainee’ we thought we’d continue the tradition! During our recent Meet the Music Tower Hamlets Key Stage 1 project, we asked our trainee animateur Jon Farey, a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music, to outline exactly what the concert entails. With fully-grown professional musicians dressed as horses and children commissioning the music, it would seem that all roles are reversed in these workshops. One thing for sure though is that it looks like a lot of fun! Jon tells all….
The aim of this project was to gear up primary school children (years 1-2) for one of their first concert experiences. This one was all about animals, and we used this theme throughout the concert and in the preparatory sessions with the different schools involved. Loosely based on Noah’s Ark, we made a story for the concert about animals getting on a boat, it starting to rain so that the boat would float and finally it moving from gusts of wind.
Animals went in 2 by 2…
In order for the animals to get on the boat, the children had to ‘find’ the animals in the orchestra. This was a great way to introduce the schools to the instruments in the orchestra and the music in the concert. Each piece in the concert highlighted a certain instrument and had a certain animal – the musicians in City of London Sinfonia all had props symbolising the animals they represented (favourites with the children were the trumpet and horn as horses and the oboe and clarinet as chickens!). We used Rossini’s William Tell Overture to showcase the horses and Mussorgky’s Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells from Pictures at an Exhibition to showcase the musical chickens.
<< “It was amazing to hear the poetic and thoughtful sentences that the children managed to think up in such a short space of time” >>
And they all went in the ark, for to get out of the (wind and) rain
Once the animals were ‘found’ and aboard the boat, we made it rain using a rain song that was created and performed by the children. In one of the first sessions before the concert, all of the children created sentences asking the sky to rain; it was amazing to hear the poetic and thoughtful sentences that the children managed to think up in such a short space of time. Claire Bloor, the workshop leader, then noted these sentences down and created a song using some of them. Initially a word sheet was given to each school along with a recording of myself and Claire playing/singing the music. By the time the concert came around each school had learnt the song they had helped to create and, with the City of London Sinfonia accompanying, performed it in turn to the other schools involved.
The final part of the concert was making the sail on the boat move using wind. To ‘make wind’, the children mimicked the woodwind and brass players in the orchestra holding/blowing a long note!
<< “I was always surprised by the children’s responsiveness and attentiveness” >>
It was fantastic to be given the opportunity to work with Claire and to have the chance to lead parts of the preparatory sessions. It was really fun leading some of the warm ups with the kids and I was always surprised by their responsiveness and attentiveness. In these sessions, Claire also introduced some of the concepts that were to be used in the concert – for example, the children had to create raindrops with their hands or had to search for the animal they were looking for. One of my favourite parts of the project though was Claire’s method of gaining the children’s attention – at the start of each session she made all the children start as ‘Number 1’ (people who hadn’t got any sleep, hadn’t had breakfast, were slouching etc) then made them turn into ‘Number 5’s (people who’d had some sleep, a bit of breakfast, slightly slouching) through to ‘Number 10’s (straight back, lots of sleep and a good breakfast).
Overall, it was brilliant to see how the project developed – it gave me some really valuable experience and I have come away full of new ideas and enthusiasm for inspiring new generations of musicians. A big thank you to the City of London Sinfonia team for such a fun workshop series!
For more information on our education projects, visit our website at cityoflondonsinfonia.co.uk/community or contact our education team firstname.lastname@example.org.