Category Archives: Education and Outreach

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


A day in the life of an Education Trainee…

Ever wondered what life is like on our Education team? During our December Key Stage 1 project, our education trainee, Hannah Rankin (a postgrad student at the Royal Academy of Music), kept a log of all the things she was getting up to. From Freddie the Frog to Michael Jackson (who apparently composed Greensleaves, according to one of our participants!), here’s an insight into the exciting activities that Hannah got up to while working on the Key Stage 1 project, and what she thought about them!

 Key Stage 1 concert outline:

This concert is about a Christmas tree that wants to get out of the pot and dance. The children need to help her by singing songs with suggestions of how she can get out and tapping various secret rhythms on her pot. In between attempts to free her, CLS players play various pieces of music to make up a concert for the children to listen to, with the aim of allowing the children to experience orchestral music. To conclude, the tree does get free of the pot and meets a ballerina who teaches her to dance.

During my time working on this project, I have learnt quite a few things:

1. It is possible for a group of 6 year old children to sit through an hour long concert of music and singing.

2. Never underestimate the imagination of a child, or where their answers are going to take you.

3. Children have very good memories, for people and especially in relation to music.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project was the different responses to music in all of the schools. The last school that we worked with have done projects with CLS before and we were working with the same classes as last time. The children remembered Claire as soon as she came in and when we started working on the differences between major and minor through two different songs, I was amazed to see the children had remembered those phrases and knew the words and actions that they had learned in reception. They also remembered all the words to a song about Freddie frog which I thought was amazing!

The second school had never taken part in any musical projects before and so everything was new to them. However, they were quick to pick up ideas and were really engaged.

By the end of the Key Stage 1 project, the children in all the schools had learnt about orchestral instruments, the difference between major and minor, composed a song, learnt how to find the pulse and how to clap rhythms. It would be interesting to return to the schools in a couple of months to see how much the children remember. If it was a different person leading the workshop, would they remember it as easily?

Working with Claire Bloor was brilliant! She is very enthusiastic and manages to keep the children’s attention and teach them in a fun and interesting way. I’ve learnt that it is possible to teach important information like major and minor keys just by adding a rhyme or an action. Learning is much more fun if you use a character such as Freddie our friendly wooden frog whom the children loved!

Another skill I learnt from Claire was to be quick thinking when it came to suggestions or answers from the children. The children had great imaginations! When we were learning about who composed Greensleeves, the best suggestions we had were Michael Jackson and God, which were very funny but also quite relevant suggestions. Some of the actions for the songs the children created were great as well – Gangnam style, mum and dad actions and ‘tying balloons to the tree to get the tree out’ were my particular favourites.

The whole project was a great success in my eyes as the children remembered all of their songs and actions but were also engaged during the musical interludes. Personally as a bassoonist it was very nice to hear lots of children at the end tell me ‘I liked the violin, Miss, but the bassoon is still my favourite!’

As long as the children were interested in the instruments of the orchestra, the project will be a success as orchestral concerts will no longer seem like an unknown. Who knows, maybe this project will inspire children to take up a musical instrument or attend a concert in the future…

And here are some responses from our wonderful workshop participants…

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Find out more about our Meet the Music education programme by visiting our webpage!

The Lullaby Tour October 2013

We are incredibly proud of our Meet the Music outreach initiatives, one of which is our Lullaby Concerts tour which occurs twice a year.  Lullaby concerts bring classical music to children in areas where live orchestral music is a rarity. This series is run in partnership with Orchestras Live, and provides an interactive way of introducing young children (typically under 6) to classical music.

I’m sat in a town hall in Suffolk jam-packed with preschool children and their parents, when a labcoat-clad Claire Bloor appears astride an orange spacehopper, wearing a single yellow glove and brandishing a long green balloon. Moments like this are wonderful reminders that working in the arts is exciting, surreal and, crucially, fun.IMG_0855

The theme of October’s tour was “The Mad Professor” and featured Claire, our wonderful Animateur in Residence, playing the part of an eccentric scientist who tries to build instruments for the Orchestra members. However, this was not just a children’s show with an orchestra in the background. The Orchestra themselves are always complicit in the fun; they have costumes of their own and spend the concert teasing Claire and larking around for the children’s amusement. Claire, seemingly, has boundless energy, making the children (and adults) laugh with delight as she took them through the musical programme. The fact that she is nothing more than a labcoat-wearing blur in eighty percent of the photos I took of her is a further testament to her dynamism (rather than to my poor photography skills).

IMG_0839I caught up with Claire, Gillian (our Education Manager) and our musicians in between concerts, to ask them about what Lullaby means to them and find out about their own childhood experiences of classical music.

AJ: Why is it important to introduce very young children to classical music?
Gillian Hunter: Kids this age don’t have any preconceptions about genres of music, nor are they old enough to worry about what is ‘cool’ – all they hear is music. This is an opportunity for them to be exposed to high quality playing of real repertoire in an environment they wouldn’t normally expect to find it!

AJ: What’s the best thing about Lullaby?
Mark Paine: It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and they get to see exactly how these instruments are actually played – it teaches them about the mechanics of it.

AJ: Is the transition from formal concert playing to these more informal children’s concerts difficult?
Susan Dorey: Not at all! We are, after all, entertainers, and this is just another element of working in the entertainment business!IMG_0857

AJ: What were your first experiences of classical music?
MP: Hearing the pipe organ in church, and being told my legs were too short to play!

CB: When I was five, a girl in my school assembly played the flute and I thought it was the most beautiful thing (probably because it was shiny). I pestered my parents for one and they gave me a recorder instead, which I promptly turned on its side. Eventually they bought me a real flute!

MP: Initially my school in Australia didn’t have a music programme until a new music teacher arrived and wanted to start an orchestra. He gave me a horn to take home over the weekend to try out. By Monday I had figured out how to play a scale and the rest, as they say, is history.

GH: My first experience was a bit mad – my parents signed me up for the Suzuki violin program before I was born! It was so oversubscribed that you had to get in there early to get a place.075_Thurrock, Lullaby Concert_high-res (Paul Coghlin)

AJ: What’s been your favourite Lullaby moment to date?
MP: Talking to the fish during the April 2013 tour.

CB: This tour, it’s when the new instruments come on and I get really excited. Last time, it was wearing flippers and kicking my legs in the air!

But don’t just take our word for it! Have a look at our video from one of last week’s concerts to get a sense of the fun for yourself.

More information about our Lullaby tours, upcoming events, our Community and Education work and our Community Partners can be found on our website.

Education Preview: What’s coming up in 2013/14?

With the start of our 2013/14 season fast approaching, Steph caught up with our Education Manager, Gillian, to talk about all the exciting projects we have coming up. If you would like to know more about any of the projects discussed in this video, please keep an eye on our Education webpage for regular updates…

We hope you enjoyed the preview and do keep your eyes peeled for our next live broadcast!

You can donate to this life enhancing programme of events online via our JustGiving page. Every donation of any amount helps towards delivering Make the Music so please follow the link below and find out more:

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Wellbeing Through Music at St Joseph’s Hospice

Last Friday, our string quartet were at St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney to perform in a concert that was the culmination of a musical project with John K Miles and the patients, volunteers and staff at the hospice. This project formed part of Dying Matters week, which aims to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards dying, death and bereavement. Over the past few weeks, John has been working with City of London Sinfonia and the participants to compose new music that is inspired by their experiences, thoughts and feelings.

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We caught up with John briefly, ahead of the concert in which the group came together to perform their work in front of an audience of friends, family and hospice patients and staff…

Could you tell us a bit about the project and who you are working with?

It’s a project in St Joseph’s Hospice and I’ve worked with a mixture of volunteers who have some connection to the hospice (one of our volunteers is a man named Paul who’s lost his wife and she was a patient here about two or three years ago), people who are outpatients at the hospice and also some of the hospice staff. Every week (including the concert day!) there’s been a new person join in so I feel that the project has really gathered momentum. I know CLS have worked with St Joseph’s Hospice before, having come in to perform concerts, and the idea was to put together a creative project, which we’ve done, and we’ve got some lovely stuff to perform.

The group will be performing poetry with music, we’ve got some songs that we’ve written together and we’re performing a couple of songs, workshop standards, that we’ll all be singing. Most of the material has been written by the group with the City of London Sinfonia quartet interjecting a couple of classics.

That sounds fantastic. How did you approach composing as a group? Could you tell us a little bit about the compositional process?

We more or less wrote songs on the fly – we didn’t have a formal songwriting process. Sometimes we did some brainstorming for words and sometimes the participants came to me with ideas. The group was very responsive, as soon as we had some words and suggestions for melodies we pretty much, straight away, had a basis for our first song  – it’s about the hospice. One of the volunteers is a poet  and he brought in a poem that he’d written, which we set to music and one of the other participants brought in the beginning of a song that she’d written and I added to it. I have added a couple of things to the songs here and there, sometimes harmonies, but the group’s been very responsive and it’s been very much a joint effort.

You have varying levels of abilities within the group. How do you approach working with non-musicians?

Well I find that the participants, non musicians or musicians, often have as good if not better ideas than me! Everybody puts in what they are able to reference and sometimes they are very unexpected things. I think that goes for anybody that I work with. For example, we’ve got a 91 year old participating in today’s concert – he brought in a great song from the 30s or 40s and we’ve made a funky arrangement of it for him to perform with the group. You could say we’ve brought it into… well… maybe to the 70s!

And what are the main things that you’ve enjoyed about this project and working with this group of people?

It’s been a privilege working with these people because they’ve very quickly built up a really good, cohesive feeling in the group and people have shared very personal things. It’s been really fantastic to work with them.

We took the camera along and managed to get some great shots of the group in action (see above). The concert was fantastic success with lots of opportunity for the audience to get involved!

Congratulations to all the patients, volunteers and staff at St Joseph’s Hospice for a fantastic concert.