START Project Update: 21 May 2013

Well folks, I think Mr Bailey and his crew of LMP musicians may be on to something here. The children are not only producing and creating some amazing (and very diverse) material, but the songs are turning out to be proper ear worms! ‘Sid the Snake’ and ‘Geoffrey the Looooooong Necked Giraffe’ (see what they did there?) have already infiltrated the LMP office and they are refusing to leave. Seriously, it’s like a menagerie in here! … All joking aside, you can’t help but be impressed by the quality of the work being produced. Apart from having boundless amounts of energy and enthusiasm, the pupils also possess an innate musical instinct and creativity, something which I could go on about for hours (but I won’t). It is then up to the project leader, Anthony and his band of musicians to channel all this into a structured piece. So how does one go about running a song-writing workshop with a full primary school class?

Well generally we start with a couple of warm up games and exercises, to break the ice and get things going. Next the musicians introduce their instruments and how they work. (Interesting fact of the day: Did you know that flutes were originally made out of bone? I didn’t!) Now some song writers have different ways of working, but here at the LMP we like to start with the lyrics (hence the animal poems). The musicians might suggest an accompaniment suitable for the character of the song, and leave it up to the children to say whether they like it or not. Once a musical base has been agreed, the children will then devise a melody for the lyrics, guided by Anthony. There of course have to be actions added in too (to help everyone remember the words). But it’s as simple as that!

Warm up games are a brilliant way to gauge the dynamics and ability of a new group. One activity we found particularly revealing was going around the circle, introducing yourself and saying something untrue. Anthony would start by saying something like, “Hello, my name is Anthony, and this morning I had breakfast with a giant squid.” Well that seems perfectly plausible to me, but whatever you say! What was amusing though, is the amount of children who take the opportunity to say mischievous things like, “I have a pet dinosaur” “I have no hair” (?!) or “my teacher is ugly.” Indeed, maybe the only appropriate time for 10 year olds to say these things without causing outrage, because of course they are not true!

Yesterday, we accompanied Anthony, Robert (flute) and Tim (marimba) to Wolsey Junior School, where it is evident that the teachers and children have been working very hard on their songs in the time between our workshops. We have no doubt in our minds that their performances are going to be a huge success! Wolsey alone is bringing songs about a whale, honeybees, a tortoise, giraffe, kangaroo and a hippo, plus a few more. They’re singing with confidence, and have developed a fondness for the musicians who are working with them, which I believe is a big contributor to the quality of performance and their enthusiasm for the music. I’m looking forward to the dress rehearsal next week, when the classes from each school will get to hear everyone else’s work, and see the production come together before they come here to Fairfield. But before that we have one last visit to a school to run through the Lion and Zebra Bossa Nova (oh yes!) and an Aquarium percussion piece. Roll on Thursday!