Category Archives: Education and Outreach

Retrospect: First Time Live in Harlow

Organised in partnership with our long-term partner Orchestras Live, First Time Live – Youth is an innovative orchestral touring initiative set up in 2013. It brings orchestral music into the lives of young people aged 10 to 14 across England, many of whom have little or no engagement with the arts.

As part of this project, more than 100 pupils from five secondary schools in Harlow, Essex took part in a series of workshops led by City of London Sinfonia musicians and music leader John K Miles this February. They worked together to create a collaborative piece for performance: Transition, which focused on the different transitions one might make in life, in particular the journey from primary to secondary school. Together with the young musicians, the orchestra performed in two orchestral concerts – one for an audience of primary school groups and the other for parents, carers and the general public.

Continue reading Retrospect: First Time Live in Harlow


Highlights from being a Trainee Animateur

Over the last few months we’ve been working with our newest trainee, Emma Halnan, a flautist from the Royal Academy of Music, who joined our animateur-in-residence Claire Henry for our latest Key Stage 1 project based around the theme of ‘Wacky Weather’! 

We sat down with Emma to ask a few questions about her time as a trainee, including her funniest moments, biggest challenges and favourite memories. 


Tell us a little bit about what you did during your time as an animateur.

Whilst working on this project, I had the opportunity to work alongside Claire Henry, a very experienced animateur. We spent three days delivering workshops in schools, preparing the children to watch and participate in the final concert: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. In the first session I mainly observed Claire, but as the project went on, I took on a bigger role. I introduced my flute and performed for the children, taught them about Vivaldi and the Four Seasons, and accompanied their singing and the raps they had put together, all about the weather!

What would you say was your funniest memory?

Often the children’s extreme reactions to new things – “It’s going to be AMAZING!” – although I’m not sure I’d entirely class this as funny, just really great! Claire’s outfit was also rather brilliant in the final concert.

Claire Henry’s character was taken from a certain, very famous weather forecaster, Michael Fish.

What did you find most challenging?

In general, the children we worked with were really responsive and well-behaved. We visited one school on the last afternoon before their half term break, which affected the children’s concentration somewhat, and brought its own challenges. It is always a challenge to keep all children equally engaged throughout an entire session, but I do think this actually was a very successful project.

What was your favourite part?

Many parts! I always particularly enjoy the initial session, as so much is new for the children and they get so excited! It was also very satisfying to see everything come together so well.

Was the life of an animateur what you expected it to be?

I have worked in this field before, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect; however, every animateur deals with things very differently – they all have their own unique ideas, strategies, games etc. It is therefore always fascinating to work with somebody new, and to draw upon their knowledge and experience.


You can find out more about our education projects on our website or on our blog

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – A Kids Guide

In advance of our upcoming Crash Bang Wallop! family concert all about the weather and featuring Vivaldi’s glorious Four Seasons, we created a quick go-to guide to use to introduce your little ones to the music aside our Spotify playlist.

A kids guide to vivaldi's four seasons


Spring (‘La Primavera’): Tracks 1 – 3
Summer (‘L’Estate’): Tracks 4-6
Autumn (‘L’Autumno’): Tracks 7-9
Winter (L’Inverno): Tracks 10-12


We perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in our next Crash Bang Wallop family concert, Wacky Weather on Saturday 14 March 2015, 12 noon at Cadogan Hall, London.

Crash Bang Wallop! Wacky Weather
Saturday 14 March 2015, 12 noon with pre-concert activities from 11am
Cadogan Hall, London
Tickets £10 (adults), £8 (children) or £30 (family of 4) available from Cadogan Hall Box Office or via phone on 020 7730 4500.

CLS Patron, Dame Felicity Lott on BBC Radio 3 In Tune

We were delighted that our Patron, Dame Felicity Lott appeared on BBC Radio 3 In Tune this week to talk about her new ambassadorial role with the Orchestra, particularly in relation to our education and wellbeing programme Meet the Music. Performing Schumann and Frank Bridge live in the studio, she talked about the joys she has had with us so far working with young people in our Key Stage 1 education projects as well as her plans for 2015.

You can hear the whole programme on catch up on BBC IPlayer or download the podcast.

Our Principal Conductor and acclaimed clarinettist, Michael Collins was also on In Tune last week (ahead of a concert with the Philharmonia at the RFH). He speaks about his performances, recordings and also his work with us and the direction of CLS. You can listen to this programme here.

Spotlight on our recent education projects with Dame Felicity Lott

Last week our new Patron, Dame Felicity Lott sang in several of our recent Meet the Music projects with young kids, including two concerts for Key Stage 1 children in Tower Hamlets and Harrow. Preceded by a number of workshops with our animateur-in-residence, Claire Henry, the projects were curated as an interactive introduction to the idea of the orchestra, with special activities to demonstrate different instruments and sounds.

Photographs of the culminatory concert in Tower Hamlets, December 2014 taken by Philip Maglieri

Centred on the theme of the ‘Winter Star’, Claire presented the concert as an Arctic explorer who had to navigate her way through the cold blizzards to try and find the star to put on top of the tree! Wowing over 240 children aged 4 – 7 with a heart-pulling performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Felicity Lott acted as the ‘guiding light’ to help find the final piece of star Claire needed! Known to the kids as ‘the woman with the most beautiful voice in the world’, the anticipation and excitement for them to meet the famous soprano was absolutely amazing!

Feedback and drawings from project participants, December 2014

In discussion with Classic FM last week as part of a live web chat, Felicity commented on her involvement with CLS education projects:

‘Last year I went to see CLS do a programme for children in a church in Shadwell. It was terrific and the orchestra looked to be having a great time playing for the children, who were wide-eyed and enthusiastic. I’ve always wanted to …do something useful, maybe, but wouldn’t know how to go into a classroom and sing for the children- they’d laugh me out of the room! This seems like a good way-in, and the orchestra is really committed to this educational work, which is vital both for building up audiences and more importantly, because music is such a civilising, beneficial art form. Singing together, playing together, without competing, can be so useful and fulfilling, and everyone should know it’s there and can be for them if they like it.’

Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Star: Pre-concert Listening!

In preparation for our family concert this Saturday, Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Star we’ve prepared a fun festive playlist to give you a taste of the kinds of things we’ll be playing. Starring special guest Dame Felicity Lott (who, by the way, is appearing on Classic FM’s live webchat at 11am today!), there is plenty of fun festive tunes as well as carols to sing a long to!


Lullaby Tour Suffolk 2014

During the last week of October, our education team went on a week-long tour of Suffolk and Essex for this year’s Lullaby Concert tour organised in collaboration with Orchestras Live. Beginning in Clacton-on-Sea and ending in Stowmarket, Suffolk, the concerts—presented by Claire Henry, animateur—aimed to bring first time live orchestral music experiences to some of the most under-served areas across England. According to recent figures, we are delighted to say that we reached over 1200 young people in 12 concerts!

Centred on the theme of ‘The Enchanted Forest’, Claire and City of London Sinfonia musicians took the young audience on a musical journey using a combination of music-making and engaging story-telling (which included instruments being stuck on the musicians’ heads, magical jars full of music and a beautiful dancing ballerina!). Performing a range of classical pieces including Debussy’s Prélude à l’aprèsmidi d’un faune and Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the concert was presented in a way that encouraged lots of audience participation and interaction, after a series of workshops in the area.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can see, some of the kids were very cute, particularly when, at the end of each concert, there was also an opportunity for them to have a go on some orchestral instruments!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A huge thanks to everyone involved and for Paul Coghlin for taking these amazing pictures! To see all of the photos, please visit the Orchestras Live website. To read more about our Meet the Music programme please visit our website.

Like the look of this? Why not try our regular Crash Bang Wallop! family concerts? 

Crash Bang Wallop! Christmas Star 
Saturday 13 December 2014, 12 noon
Cadogan Hall, London
Tickets: £10 Adult, £8 Child, £30 Family of 4

Using Food to Teach Music

Following on from our previous education blog A Little Taste of Chef Claire’s Musical Soup, our trainee animateur Hannah Bishop wrote about her experience during our food-themed education projects, including some of the techniques the education team came up with to help children learn about music. From musical recipes to tasty-triads, I’m sure you’ll agree that some of the methods used were absolutely ingenious. Read on to find out more!


I was lucky enough to spend four successive Fridays with Claire Bloor, observing and supporting her work with Year One and Reception children in both Lansbury Lawrence Primary School and John Scurr Primary School. The project, entitled ‘The Fantastic Feast’, was designed around the theme of ‘food’, culminating in a concert with the City of London Sinfonia Brass Quintet.IMG_0596

During the workshops, each class designed a recipe to present to the chefs (musicians!) at the concert. Claire encouraged the children to be adventurous with their choices resulting in recipes such as ‘snake and crocodile soup’ and ‘insects and mashed potato’! Each class learned the chorus to The Chef Song, which Claire wrote, plus a verse incorporating their recipe ideas.

The concert involved the CLS brass quintet, dressed as chefs, playing different examples of music from all over the world. Claire was able to use this to link different food-types to different countries. These pieces were interspersed with each class making their musical recipe (with a lot of help from some amazing props!), singing their verse to the chefs and all the children singing the chorus. Multiple performances of the chorus, plus breaking up the music from the quintet, was a great way to ensure that the children were completely engaged throughout the hour-long concert.

“A major triad from one of the chefs meant that the food the children had cooked was good, and a minor triad meant that it was disgusting.”

IMG_0624Throughout the project, Claire had been using major and minor triads to teach the children to recognise the difference between the two. A major triad from one of the chefs meant that the food the children had cooked was good, and a minor triad meant that it was disgusting. In the workshops, Claire and I took turns to play a broken triad and the children sung it back, to either ‘yum, yum, yum!’ (major) or ‘bleugh, bleugh, bleugh!’ (minor). This was used in the concerts and each time the children were correct. It was great to see how simple and fun it can be to teach something like this to young children, without having to explain it using words.

“It was great to see how simple and fun it can be to teach something like this to young children, without having to explain it using words.”

IMG_0618I learned a huge amount working with Claire and she was very encouraging for me to lead
warm-ups and song singing in the sessions, allowing me to experience leading younger children with her support and guidance throughout. She had some great games and short-activities up her sleeve and it was invaluable to observe how she kept a group of thirty 4-6 year old children engaged for an hour each week. Many thanks to everyone at City of London Sinfonia for this brilliant opportunity.


If you would like to find out more about our education projects, please visit our website.



A Little Taste of Chef Claire’s Musical Soup

May has been a busy month for the education team here at the City of London Sinfonia with our ever-popular Crash Bang Wallop! family concert at Cadogan Hall on 17 May and various KS1 outreach projects in Tower Hamlets and Harrow. In this blog post, we’ll be giving you a taste of what these projects have been about, with everything from insect sandwiches to musical instrument soup. 

Led by the CLS education team and animateur-in-residence Claire Bloor, our family concerts and education projects are designed to provide an easy and accessible introduction for 3-7 year olds to classical music and instruments of the orchestra. In this series which was all about food, Claire plays a chef whose task it was to cook up the most extravagant musical concoction. A combination of musical flavours (attained from the musicians playing into the pot!), different cuisines (represented by repertoire from around the world) and the audience’s own culinary contributions (in the form of ‘recipe songs’ and ‘dishes of the day’), Chef Claire’s musical soups by the end of the concerts were certainly…..  eclectic! Sharing is caring so in this post, we’ve included some pictures, some (hilarious) lyrics to some of the recipe songs the kids composed as well as some exemplary “Dishes of the Day” from our Crash Bang Wallop! family concert. Enjoy!

N.B. We do not recommend trying any of the recipes included in this post at home. 


Recipe Songs

♪ This is the special of the day, but it takes like the floor!
A mixture of slugs and smelly pants and arm pits – yuck yuck! ♪

♫ Something is wrenching on my tongue and it feels an ant.
I fit in some bread and it’s very cold, it’s an ant sandwich! ♫

♪ Slimy, disgusting, super gross. Revolting as well.
Slug-tastic dinner for you to try, it’s gooey and cold. ♪

♫ Pea jelly makes you very ill, it is lumpy and raw.
Water and spice add character but it’s not very nice. ♫

♪ Kiara has made you a nice surprise, taste it – bleurgh bleurgh!
It’s sticky and jagged, it’s horrible and it smells like poo! ♪

♫ I can feel an ant on my tongue, there’s some custard as well.
Everything is mouldy – I feel sick. Pass the bucket right now! ♫

♪ Spiders and webs will make you squirm, so will wiggly worms.
Add in some really smelly pants, it’s an insect sandwich. ♪

♫ Snails and slugs with rotten eggs, they smell stinky and gross.
Ants and potatoes and mash it up. Wait there’s one on my teeth. ♫

Dishes of the Day!

Keep your eyes out for more details for our next Crash Bang Wallop! family concert, ‘Magic and Mischief’ on Saturday 1 November. Booking opens beginning of July! 

From start to finish: a day in the life of… a trainee animateur

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…

kid serachingIn 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


chickenOnce 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” >>


claireIt 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!


Jon Farey

For more information on our education projects, visit our website at or contact our education team