Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Music & Literacy - Carolyn's blog

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music started this week at Stewart Headlam Primary School in Tower Hamlets. Here's what our musician Carolyn had to say about the first day:

When plannng a music/literacy workshop somehow the possibility of a pandemic never arose. Imagine our confusion when the day before we were told that only 4 out of a class of 31 were in school.
Monday morning started with a flurry of calls-to the school, co-workers, management and GP's. Eventually the consensus seemed to be that we would go to the school with a core of 13 pupils and hope that more would appear during the week.

Oh yes-the temperature! Victorian primary schools are not the best ventilated buildings and we had the challenge to try and motivate very hot and listless Yr 6 pupils. We had a variety of activities incorperating the theme of "moving on" to secondary school. To do this we had planned songs, school riffs, written letters, soundscapes and poetry. The children learnt 2 songs and did a exercise of positive and negative emotions which all linked in with their own feelings of "moving on".

Second day and the numbers increased to 18-newcomers integrated well and picked up very quickly on the previous days activities. The school riff was made up of 6 groups all adding their own phrase accompanied by a steady beat. The new song now had instruments added-all these things growing daily and improving their abilities.

The musicians also played and one of the most gratifying parts of any workshop is watching rapt expressions as they hear (possibly for the first time) musical instruments up close and personal. The word magician has the same effect as he weaves his ideas and uses the pupils own words to add texture and new ideas to ongoing themes.

Thats it for now....sleep well and see you tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Big Opportunity at Sadler's Wells

Yesterday the New London Orchestra was invited to participate in The Big Opportunity's conference - a forum for representatives of the Third Sectory (voluntary organisations, and charities such as us), to get together and discuss the legacy to come out of the 2012 Olympics.

As well as sitting in on discussions with a panel of experts from across different fields including Muhammad Bari MBE from LOCOG and Caroline Diehl from the Media Trust, and a talk from the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell (see the picture!), we were also asked to provide a musical interlude. We wanted to show the sorts of community work we do in Newham, and decided to invite the Luton Road teams that had participated in our In Training concert to come and sing. They did an absolutely fantastic job, singing loudly and confidently and I just about got away with playing the piano to accompany them! Feizal Rajabally, one of the Senior Contract Manager's for Look Ahead came to speak to Julian and I before the performance to thank us for the opportunity. He said the group had grown in confidence and their self-esteem had been boosted by being asked to take part in New London Orchestra events, and their family and friends had been really impressed with the transformation in the individuals over the last year, thanks to their involvement in music making with us. We're really glad bringing music to the Look Ahead communities is making an impact, and we'll be discussing with their Arts Manager, Louise O'Reilly, ways we can develop this relationship in the future.

Thanks to Paul and Chloe for all their hard work organising the event, we had a great time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We're part of Shine!

Our Music & Literacy project has been incorporated into the Tower Hamlets Arts & Music Education Service (THAMES) Shine Week. Shine is a national festival celebrating talents in all young people and is taking place between 6th and 10th July 2009. Embracing the energy and enthusiasm of young people, teachers and youth workers, Shine Week creates a real buzz across the country and in the media and is a really exciting way to celebrate the talent that every young person has.
You can find out more about it by going to www.shineweek.co.uk

Monday, June 22, 2009

Music & Maths at the Royal Institution

This weekend two of the New London Orchestra's musicians headed to the Royal Institution to present a Music & Maths masterclass to 30 year 5 pupils from across London.

The session was the culmination of an introductory series of masterclasses hosted by the Royal Institution for primary school children, based on the success of their secondary masterclass series.

The workshop began with introductions from Karl and David who played their instruments - tuba and clarinet, to the class, in a rendition of the Dr Who theme tune! They explained how their instruments worked by demonstrating the vibrations made in their lips and with the reed in the clarinet. The length of tubing in both instruments was also explained to the class as the way musicians can change the pitch of the notes and volunteers got the chance to play on Dave's specially created instrument - made from a trombone mouthpiece, a funnel and a piece of hosepipe!

The session then moved to a working room where the children were encouraged to try out a set of 'Boomwackers' between their group, listening to the notes the created and putting them into a scale. Then came the clever stuff from Amy Hooker from the Ri, who talked to the class about how the notes in the scale could be represented as fractions, and handed out different lengths of paper to represent this. Who knew that a 5th is 3:2 and a 4th is 4:3?! All this went towards explaining what David had introduced at the beginning of the session when demonstration the harmonic series which he could produce without changing the length of the pipe, but by simply changing the speed of the vibration in his lips.

The children all seemed to enjoy the session, and we finished off by giving a small demonstration of the things we had covered in the masterclass to parents and friends. We're looking forward to hearing the results of the evaluation forms the children completed and hope to continue working with the Royal Institution on more of these primary workshops in the future. Thanks to Amy for putting the session together and David and Karl for presenting the masterclass.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vanessa leaves us!

Dear fans,

Today is a very sad day in the NLO office as our wonderful intern Vanessa left NLO Towers yesterday as she is off to Madrid for a month to learn Spanish. She will then be spending the summer working on youth projects for Islington Council, and we all wish her lots of luck with both these ventures. Vanessa has worked as an intern for the Orchestra since November 2008 and has put in a huge amount of work to our website, as well as contributing to all other areas of our work, including coming up with the Mix It! competition we ran as part of In Training, and manning the phones, stationery cupboard and photocopier with true dedication. We will all miss her a lot, and hope very much that Rob (our Fundraiser) finds us some money so she can come back and work for us again!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Music & Literacy - Stewart Headlam second visit

Lucy and I were back at Stewart Headlam School today in Tower Hamlets to discuss the final details for our Music & Literacy project which will be running in July. I can't believe how quick it's come round already!

We met with Martin McCarthy (pictured) again and talked over how the project would look - Lucy, Carolyn and Baden who will be working on the project have done an excellent job putting together a plan. Whilst we always like to be as creative as possible and led by the children's ideas, we are also conscious with this project that we only have 4 days from meeting the classes, to creating a performance. In that time we hope to teach them a song and have them write the verses, deliver a message to their school and create and read poems and pieces all relating to their time at school. Martin told us the children had been working on memory books which seemed a perfect starting point for musical pieces.

Whilst we're on the subject, have a look at this Music & Literacy project referred to in the Guardian's Creative Summer feature by clicking
here. We're going to be sending them videos, pictures and diary entries from the children and musicians working on the project, and we will of course post them on our blog too, so be sure to check back in July!


So. We are being told about LAMPs (Local Authority Music Plans).

This all seems very nice.

Unfortunately that's about all I'm in a position to say at the moment.

On an initial glance there are lovely buzzwords and numbers everywhere;
- £10m per year for Sing Up
- 3 year plans from local authorities that plan for vocal and instrumental ensembles; instruments; rehearsal and performance spaces, staffing; community music; training needs; Quality Assurance; progression and sustainability;
- ALL children have a free first year of instrumental tuition
- continuing tuition will be affordable for all

To be honest though, the question that everyone is really thinking is 'great, so how can we extend what we're doing in borough x as part of their LAMP?' [read 'where is the money and how do we get it?!']

And I have absolutely no idea.

There are so many different parties, it's pretty tricky to work out what it's really about. It's part of the Music Manifesto, it forms part of the strategy including the England's 8 programme, it incorporates Sing Up, LAs will take it into account when loking at Building Schools for the Future, it covers programmes in Youth Music Action Zones, there are Music Service Evaluation Partners (working in collaboration with the Federation of Music Services), the National Association of Music Educators, it's for Arts Council RFOs, MusicLeader programmes .....

If I were a betting woman I would guess that for an organisation such as ours, there won't be much space in a LAMP.

Maybe I'm bitter. I hope I am. I'll write more when I've waded my way through it.

The key sentence that looks positive, from Sound Connection's write up (written incidentally by members of a Music Manifesto subdivision, the 'Stronger Frameworks' working group) is 'If you’re an active musician or organisation delivering good quality teaching, training, guiding, mentoring for young people then you could and should be a part of your LAMP'. Cool. We'll get onto it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Training 2009!

Last night's "In Training" concert proved to be an exciting night of music, sports, dancing, sing-alongs and cheering. What an exhiliarating experience!

When we first arrived at the Stratford Rex to set up the concert, the venue was an empty, quiet space. Little by little, our lights (what a hassle!), our awesome display boards (orange splendor!), chairs etc. began to make the nightclub look more and more like a proper concert hall. Dress rehearsals went along smoothly, and the place finally had a new buzzing energy. With hardly any time between rehearsals and the start of the concert, we rushed to eat dinner and get all of the final tweaks done here and there.

At last, the seats were filled and Ron and the Orchestra started the whole thing off with Overture for the Games. To close out the first half of the concert, the Ascension Eagles did a great job dancing and throwing stunts to Excalibah's fusion remix of Washington Post called Two Step New Step. Thanks to Shara and Angela for helping us organize the performance, and thanks to all the cheerleaders for pulling out all the stops for our concert.

After the interval, Excalibah announced that Aaron Sugumar won the MixIt! competition and the audience had the chance to listen to his fusion piece booming through the stacks of speakers. Congratulations to Aaron and a big thanks to all of the contest applicants.

After a bit of restless chatter, tenor Mark Wilde took the stage to sing Nessun Dorma and Feniculi, Fenicula. The audience went absolutely crazy for Mark's performances, cheering wildly at the end of Nessun Dorma in particular. Mark did a fantastic job of hitting those high notes. No one in the audience had to be an opera expert to appreciate his talent. Thanks, Mark!

In between the Orchestra's pieces, five local schools' sports teams performed their anthems, which they created with NLO musicians. St Angela's Cricket Team went first, using their bats as percussion and chanting. The team members ended their anthem with "Beat that!" Next, the Cumberland Basketball Team dribbled their basketballs to the beat of its anthem Don't Be Shy on the Court. The audience really enjoyed the b-ballers tricks, spinning the ball and doing figure eights around their legs. The Cumberland Dance Group did a great job as well Raising the Temperature higher higher!

The last two groups, the Look Ahead Luton Road LD Eagles and LD Lionesses, sang both Proud to be a Lioness and Fly Like an Eagle together while doing interpretive dance-type movements. Their performances really gave the audience a case of the warm fuzzies. Ron even lead the whole concert hall in another round of Fly Like an Eagle.

We send thanks out to Jo Doyle with Cumberland, Alidah Beasley with Look Ahead Luton Road and Yvette Jarvis with St Angela's Ursuline School for helping organize the teams. We truly appreciate all of the hard work the groups put in practicing. Another big thanks to all the musicians for their endless enthusiasm and brilliant ideas.

To wrap up the concert, the Orchestra played the well known piece A Football Fan-Tasia. When the audience didn't sing along, Ron got them all on their feet and singing at the top of their lungs, "Here we go! Here we go! Here we goooo!"

We think the audience-orchestra interaction brought an intense sense of community and support for the performers. We could tell the audience loved it, and it opened a lot of minds to the versatility of classical music.

Finally, we hope everyone enjoyed the concert, and we can't wait to read your surveys! Feel free to post comments on our blog or send emails to vicky@nlo.co.uk. We look forward to seeing you all again. In the meantime, visit our website http://www.nlo.co.uk/. If you liked the pieces in the concert, our website has links and downloads of more music and more info about future events and our community projects.


In Training - the day arrives!

Monday, June 8, 2009

In Training

In Training has come round so quickly! It's tomorrow and we're busily putting together all the finishing touches.

Personally I'm very excited about our new display board - tomorrow night it will be showing the same display that has been up in Stratford Library for the last couple of weeks with lots of interesting information about Newham Welcomes the World and the East London Concert Series, programmes, quotes, songbooks, you name it! Do come and have a look (and say hello to us) if you are coming to the concert.

Vicky and Ron have been talking on NuSound radio this morning about tomorrow's concert and our work in East London generally - we were all listening in the office and thought they were both excellent and, as well as being informative, really conveyed the personality of the NLO and what we're about.

One of the other things we are doing is tidying up our audience survey for In Training - is there anything you think we should be asking? What do you want us to know about you? Is there any subject on which you'd be really interested to hear the opinions of other audience members? If so, do let us know and we'll do our best to include it!

And then there's the shopping (making sure there's enough tea and coffee for the musicians!) packing up all the music, printing off signs for dressing room doors, getting lists of guests...I'd better get back to work then!

Looking forward to seeing you there and, as ever, do come and say hi if you see us - we'll be wearing our badges!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Training - Cumberland Sessions

This morning I was back at Cumberland School for the second session with the dance group. It was a hot day and everyone was finding it difficult to concentrate but we eventually got a routine together, combining the verse and chorus the group had come up with before half term and a brilliant dance routine created by the group in their own time. This was all set to a rhythm played by NLO muso Genevieve - check out the video to see what you make of their final rehearsal!

What really helped was having the basketball team there at the end who performed their own anthem. The groups were really watching and supporting each other and giving constructive feedback on the performances. The basketball team managed in just 3hrs to come up with a brilliant anthem of their own to rival the dance group's, using basketball bounces to enhance the rhythm. Come along to the final concert on 9th June and see the groups and more, live! Go to www.nlo.co.uk for more details.

Pianos Pianos everywhere

So, Boris is planning to put 31 pianos around London; part of the Sing London and City of London Festival, is Luke Jerram's 'Play Me I'm Yours' project. A quick glance over the various reports in the media shows a pretty mixed reaction, but I have to say I love this idea!

I read about in the paper on the train home last night and it really brought a smile to my face. It's the sort of thing that, as a nation, we don't always manage to do very well (or at least very often); there's something celebratory and spontaneous that we just can't seem to get the hang of, least not for music and other things considered by so many to be 'trivial', 'luxury' or 'unimportant'. It's been tried in a number of other countries and, unsurprisingly, worked really well there. As far as I'm concerned, music is like sunshine, it just makes everything better. When the sun is out (as it is right now, lovely) everyone is happier. Same with music. What could be nicer than hearing music in public spaces everywhere you go? Than watching children messing around on a piano and playing together? Than watching someone totally unassuming creep up to a piano and astounding everyone?

It will only work if people get on board though.

I've copies just a few of the comments on the Times article below:

'30 seconds before someone takes a baseball bat to them. Such is the cultural instinct of the baseline of youth today, alas.'

'How about placing 31 'Soup kitchens' about the capital. That's more in keeping with todays social climate.... "The organisers believe the scheme will encourage trust" .........more likely to encourage theft ( of the pianos, that is! )'

'What a Joke, how long will they last ? a week or a few days.'

How sad.

If we are so set in this opinion of 'the youth of today' we might as well all pack up and go home. I have every confidence that the pianos will remain intact and even well cared for and often used! I can't wait to be wandering round some of those places and see people enjoying them and have a little joy and fun injected into my day.

One of the first things I did on googling was check where our nearest one will be in East London (I had hopes of trying to organise a big singalong, purely be means of this blog, our website and facebook) but the nearest are Liverpool St or Southwark. Anyway, if you are reading and fancy checking it out do let let us know as I for one would love to go! (Alternatively, let's petition to get one in Newham!)