Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Music and Literacy Baden's Blog 2

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music continues at Redlands School in Tower Hamlets.

Redlands blog, Thursday & Friday 9 & 10 July

After a day off spent nursing sore vocal cords and tender eardrums, the team are back to try and tidy up the various pieces that will go into Friday’s performance: songs, rap – oops! make that “riff” - and soundscape/poem, letter readings; some of this unscripted, all of it woefully under-rehearsed (who am I trying to kid? Make that completely unrehearsed. We’re still at the learning stage here, at best)…

Thursday is a battle against time, with Jade class (as ever) proving to be a real handful. They’ve produced some brilliant work for the soundscape, but getting them to settle, concentrate and produce the required musical backing is hard work. By the end of their session everyone’s nerves are frayed. Emerald are a totally different proposition. By the end of the day they’ve got it all down pat…

Friday morning: reinforcements arrive in the form of Karl “S-Kool” Sorenson and Dave “Hosepipe” Powell. A couple of rapid-fire run-throughs later and it’s time for the morning dress rehearsal in front of the whole school, minus Years 5 & 6. The children are shoehorned into the hall and treated to a surprisingly successful and relatively smooth-running presentation. This could work…

Friday afternoon: Year 5, augmented by a healthy turnout of bemused parents, make up an appreciative audience and are treated to an entertaining and varied hour-long programme. The children perform the “Hello,” “Bala-Bala” and “Moving On” songs with enthusiasm; the school riff (NB: it’s definitely NOT a rap) and soundscape actually work; a small number of hand-picked children read extracts from their letters with varying degrees of audibility and fluency (some are excellent); Baden recites his “Que Sera” poem, aided and abetted by Year 6 (who almost know it by heart by now); and the musicians – well, they do what musicians do. The TV Medley draws particularly warm applause.

All too soon, it’s time for the “Goodbye” song, for final presentation of school- leaving certificates and photos, and time to say goodbye. It’s been challenging; it’s been frustrating; it’s been chaotic; but overall, it’s been fun. Time to say goodbye: “Namaste!”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Verdi Requiem with the Highgate Choral Society

In one of our regular concerts with the Highgate Choral Society, this Saturday 11th July we performed Verdi's Requiem at All Hallows Church, to a packed audience. The concert was preceded by a fascinating talk from our own conductor, Ronald Corp, on the history of the piece and how it was created from the final movement backwards (read more about it on Wikipedia here). Those who attended the talk also seemed impressed to hear about the Verdi Drum which is required in the Requiem, of which there are only 4 in the country.

Our soloists were Katherine Broderick, Catherine Hopper, Andrew Staples and Graeme Broadbent. Neither of the female soloists had performed Verdi's Requiem before, and you would never have been able to tell as they were all superb and received a huge round of applause at the end.

On a slightly geeky concert manager's note, we tried out a few of the new music stands the orchestra has bought recently at this concert. They're so much easier than those fiddily fold ups, but we're going to have to start hiring a van to transport them now!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Music & Literacy - Redlands School - Lucy's Blog

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music continues this week at Redlands School in Tower Hamlets. Here's Lucy's blog from the first couple of days:

Day 1 and 2 Redlands School, E1

Mercifully, summer seems to be done with, the rain has set in and we have all cooled down after last week’s meltingly hot temperatures. We are met and shown round the school by Regena, who already has the video camera in her hand ready to film. The desks are cleared back and the fun can begin, but what takes us all by surprise is the reticence of the children to join in. After building a strong rapport with the Stewart Headlam children we expect to carry on from where we left off last week, but of course this is a new class, we are strangers to them, so we must begin again.

The staff are wonderfully supportive, and despite illness and absenses in their ranks all the ideas discussed in the planning meetings have been passed on and acted upon, so we feel we are jumping onto a moving bus.

The afternoon class is different again, lively and full on and this feels like a group that will be throwing bags of ideas at us by tomorrow. Once again, trust and a willingness to work together has to be built before the ideas can really begin to grow.

By day 2 both classes have learnt the ‘Movin On’ song very quickly and are coming up with some beautiful words and images to use for a soundscape with instruments. The short phrases needed for the riff produce some hilarious results, teaching us a lot about school workings. School dinners here don’t seem to provoke the same reaction of horror they did at Stewart Headlam! Are they better or are these children made of sterner stuff?

A day off tomorrow to visit London zoo, and we will all reconvene on Thursday, which seems uncomfortably close to the performance day, Friday.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Music & Literacy - Carolyn's blog 2

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music ended at Stewart Headlam on Thursday 2nd July. Here's Carolyn's account of the last day:

Our numbers increased to 21 by the final day-luckily the last two recovering victims joined in the assembly without fuss. Again the temperature was high, and by the afternoon show everyone was gleaming.

We were joined by our nordic viking (clarinettist) and multi-talented tuba/accordian player- Karl and Dave. In the morning we demostrated our instruments to the assembly of school children who then listened to the songs which Yr 6 had learnt during the week. The afternoon performance included readings and poems from 4 of the children on the weeks theme of "moving on". We musicians also performed a TV medley and a Melinga (tango based) piece both composed by Dave-part of his multi-talent. The teachers present seemed astounded at how well Yr 6 had foccussed and committed themselves to their performance, and how much they had achieved in 3 sessions.Well done all of you!! We hope at your new schools you will have the opportunity to develop your musical abilities.

Music & Literacy - Lucy's Blog 2

Our Music & Literacy project Moving on with Music finished at Stewart Headlam School on Thursday 2nd July. Here's Lucy's blog from the day:

Blog, day 4
The Performance!

The last day today and we were missing Baden, our performance poet, who was replaced masterfully by two musicians, Karl Sorrenson on clarinet and Dave Powell on tuba, accordion and hosepipe! This last instrument is a Heath Robinson contraption of green garden hose, trombone mouthpiece and a Pinocchio faced funnel. The children blow in the mouthpiece end and feel the funnel end either in their ears like an old fashioned telephone, or against their stomachs. Both produce gales of laughter and a long queue to be the next to have a go.

We were in the large school hall today and the children had to add voice projection to their list of talents. We did a morning assembly to the whole school, using it as a dry run for the afternoon and a chance for the musicians to play their instruments to the massed children.

One of the most gratifying things is when the children begin to come up with their own ideas and offerings, and these began to pour forth on this last day. It takes time to build trust and familiarity and this often starts to happen as we come to the end of our time in a school (or is it relief that it’s all nearly over?). We had volunteers to introduce and close the assembly, to read from letters they had written and also extracts from their own poems, all of which were a huge success.

The second assembly in the meltingly hot hall, which seemed to involve the whole school again, and a sadly small number of parents was a romp through all that we had done in the 3 days; 3 songs, 1 wholly and 1 partially written by the children, a school riff, poems, letters and announcements. The audience were kept busy either fanning themselves or clapping loudly.

As always, the only thing you can guarantee about a school’s project is that it will never be as you expect. You can plan all you like but what you need is a quick, creative response to what you are faced with in the room on the day. We had an exceptionally lively and creative group of children in Stewart Headlam School, and despite the extreme heat we all wished we could have had another week with them. The end of year 6 is a great time to catch these kids. They are mature enough to offer many of their own ideas and still young enough to be up for trying most things.

I hope they learnt a little about performance, rhythm, descriptive words and putting these together to create a picture or song. They developed as a team and were able to take responsibility well and quickly. We all hugely enjoyed working with them and would also like to thank their class teachers (the only ones left standing against the flu) Martin and Joe.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Young Performers Concert Series - Laura Lucas

What a busy day it has been today! Not only have we had the Young Performers Concert Series at the Foundling Museum, but we've also been at Blanche Nevile School for the Deaf with a year 6 group, and also performing at the end of our Moving on with Music project at Stewart Headlam School in Tower Hamlets.

Having such a busy day and such a small team, I obviously couldn't attend everything today, but am glad I chose to go to present the Young Performers Concert. Laura Lucas and her accompanist Dominic John were absolutely fantastic, and one of the best in the series, one of our regular audience members assured me. They played a great varied programme, starting with Sonata in F minor for Flute and Piano by Telemann, followed by Sonata for Flute and Piano op.164 by Poulenc and finished with Lowell Liebermann's Sonata for Flute and Piano.

The audience (though hot on this gorgeous summers day) were obviously impressed, and gave the performers warm rounds of applause and cheers of bravo.

Thanks to everyone who came along and thank you as ever to the Foundling Museum who hosted us, and the Musician's Benevolent Fund who support the series. Thanks to Dominic and Laura too, who arrived later than they would have liked to, having mislayed one of the pieces of music they were performing in Dominic's house move! Hope you settle in Dominic!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Music & Literacy - Lucy's blog

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

Day 3 and our noses are raw and our hands are sore... not from the dreaded lurg but from the continuous applications of anti-bacterial gel we are glooping on ourselves, and yes, we received medical advise to put it round our noses!
The temperatures are soaring but despite this we are piecing together several glorious creations to perform at tomorrow's leaver's assembly.

The original plan was to work with the children for five days, but this got reduced to four in both schools due to outside visits. There is always a dilemma when planning a series of workshops, whether to be performance driven or enjoy the journey rather than the arrival. We hoped to keep this as creative and free as possible because the year 6 children are at the end of their curriculum driven timetable, but having a big assembly to prepare for and a reduced time to work with, we have had to be more prescriptive than we had hoped.

We have had a wonderful new song written for us by guitarist/songwriter Pete Walton called "Moving On" which will receive its first ever performance tomorrow at Stewart Headlam, and a second version next Friday at Redlands School. We are putting together a school riff by collecting phrases straight from the classroom floor, throwing them up in the air, and catching them on drum beat. There are some mighty clever rhythm tricks and a "Hello" song neatly turned into a "Goodbye" one to bookend the assembly. And there is so, so much more we could have done if we had had another week.. but that is for another time.

Probably more children will return from their sickbeds tomorrow, and we have two extra musicians joining us, Viking Karl Sorrenson on clarinet and sax, and multi instrumentalist and maverick, Dave Powell on tuba/accordion and...... well, the other instrument is a surprise!!! You'll see the photos tomorrow.

Sadly, due to the day being knocked of the timetable for us, we are losing Baden tomorrow, our word magician. We'll try to persuade him to put one of his favorite poems online, the one the children liked best. After much noisy persuasion he even sang a verse of it!

Music & Literacy - Baden's blog

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

The early hours of Monday 29th June 2009.

A day that started like any other. The sun rose in the sky. Important news from around the world reported "resounding triumph" (Brasil, football); "heroic failure" (England, rugby); "resounding failure " (England, football); "impending disaster" (England, forthcoming cricket series).

Meanwhile, in the far-distant near-reaches of east London, three* intrepid artists huddled together fearfully at the gates of Stewart Headlam school, bracing themselves to face possibly the greatest challenge of their professional careers to date:
decimated school population, laid low by swine flu? Pah!
ditto teaching and support staff? No problemo.
Anywhere to park? Aha...

*Er, slight adjustment needed. Make that TWO intrepid artists. The third had manfully (!) given up the quest and made his lonely sojourn by bus.

Let's move on to the early hours of the afternoon:

The artists are locked in the school and isolated in a classroom, together with the last known survivors of the virus. Fourteen sneezing, coughing, spluttering soon-to-be adolescents; one teacher who looks as if he's about to join the celestial choir. They are armed only with a bottle of antiseptic gel, several phials of vitamin C, and a quiverful of talent.

The pupils are understandably apprehensive at first, but in the end, talent triumphs over fear. An amazing session ensues, one in which the pupils seize on each and every opportunity to express themselves and to engage in a lively, enjoyable and well-planned (!) workshop incorporating music, song, rhythm and rhyme. They take to it like hypnotised chickens sopping up Kentucky corn. They dispense word-gems, vocal and lyrical emerald-song, a never-ending dazzle of that sparkle like rubies and star- diamonds...

We – the artists – catch fleeting glimpses of ourselves, reflected in the sheer gloriousness of the pupils’ creativity. We love what we see.

The artists retire. “Tomorrow, same..?”

No. Tomorrow will not be the same. Tomorrow promises another mirrorful of miracles.

And Hot Chocolate: “I believe in miracles…”