Time Travelling with Music

by Sophie Simpson

Hello! I’m Sophie, a violin and piano teacher for the Becky Dell Music Academy in the new Manchester branch.

I’m sure many of you are aware of how versatile stringed instruments are; as a violinist there are opportunities to play in a pop band, folk music, in an orchestra, a quartet, as a soloist, at a wedding…etc.

However, I’d like to talk specifically about a particular niche I have found myself being involved in within the performance world: historically informed performance or HIP for short.

The music world is a competitive one and it can be useful to find something different to help you to stand out. I fell into the HIP world sort of by accident, but quickly became hooked, though I continue to perform on the ‘modern’ violin too. It might sound dull at first but I promise it’s not! It’s great when you’re performing to know that you’re creating something that sounds the way audiences would have heard it hundreds of years ago – if you close your eyes you could almost travel back in time…

What is historically informed performance?

The idea with HIP is that the performance reflects academic and practical research into how the music might have been performed at the time it was written. This research can take many forms including analysing surviving letters, treaties or publications from the time, the music on the page, or the instruments themselves can give us clues.

There are even some instruments that are no longer in general use, such as the viola da spalla, which looks a bit like a small cello (or big violin!), but was played with a strap around the neck and in more of a guitar hold and has five strings.

Here is a link to a video of Sergey Malov playing some music by Bach on the viola da spalla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-H6XAIwZKA

So what counts as historically informed performance?

Taken literally, this could encompass anything that happened in the past, even yesterday!

However, when musicians talk about HIP they tend to think of the Renaissance (c.1300-1600), Baroque (c.1600-1750), Classical (c.1750-1820) and Romantic (c.1820-1850), or even early 20th Century time periods. Early recordings from the 20th Century can be classed as a useful resource for research, though obviously there are no recordings from the Baroque or Classical eras!

As a violinist one of my specialisms within HIP is the Baroque era. How are Baroque instruments different to their modern counterparts?

Instruments have been constantly developing along with technical advances and to adapt to changing styles of composition; there was never one point in history when people woke up and said ‘we are no longer in the Baroque era, today marks the start of the Classical era and we must adapt our instruments accordingly’!

The Baroque and modern violins look relatively similar upon first glance. The shape and dimensions of the body are much the same as they have always been. You may have heard of violin maker or luthier Antonio Stradivari and even today many luthiers try to make copies of his violins.

However, there are some differences: the Baroque violin does not have a chinrest as this was not invented until around 1820 by Louis Spohr; neither did they have shoulder rests, but they may have used a piece of soft leather to make it more comfortable to hold; the strings were made of gut instead of metal as they are today; the angle of the neck was shallower on a baroque violin than a modern violin as the gut strings could not take the tension that comes from a steeper angle.

The bow was also different: the baroque bow is shorter and convex (frowning) in shape whereas the modern bow is concave (smiling) and longer, which makes it more powerful. I play on a replica baroque violin for my historically informed performances of music from the Baroque era. The baroque cello does not have a spike, but instead the cellist balances the cello between their legs.

Wind and brass instruments also differed as they were not able to make metal keys for them in the baroque era, so brass players had to tune notes with their lips only, and wind players had basic holes for their fingers cut into the wood. These instruments feel and sound quite different to their modern counterparts.

In the Baroque era, the piano hadn’t been invented, but they did have other keyboard instruments including the organ and harpsichord. The harpsicord is similar to the piano, except that the strings inside are plucked instead of hit, and there is no pedal so it sounds quite different.

One of the other main differences is pitch.

Today we usually label an ‘A’ (the note an orchestra will tune to) as 440 Hertz, but in the baroque era, their ‘A’ may have been higher or lower than how we hear it today. It varied according to where you lived in Europe and how the church organ was tuned. Because people were not able to travel as far and as frequently as we do today, there was no standardisation of pitch until much later on. Based on research, historically informed performances of works by Monteverdi are often at a higher pitch of A=465Hz and Bach is often played at a lower pitch of A=415Hz.  

This picture is one of the earliest known depictions of a violin.

It is artist Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Madonna of the Orange Tree, painted 1530. A cherub is seen playing a bowed instruments which clearly has the hallmarks of a violin.

I hope this has been an interesting introduction to the world of historically informed performance, and an eye opener to just one of many musical opportunities out there waiting for you!

Over the last few decades, there has been a boom in interest in HIP and there are now many groups and orchestras who perform in a historically informed manner, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music. There are also several vocal groups who sing with a historically informed approach, including I fagiolini and Ex Cathedra.

Do look them up if you’re interested in finding out more!

Healthy Musicians

Healthy Musicians

by Jess

As a professional musician, I feel that I was told far too late about the importance of injury prevention and good posture. I was only made aware of it once I’d started my Bachelor degree and, as I went for a sports massage this afternoon to help the tension I’d acquired over years of playing, it occurred to me that we really should make our students and their parents aware of the importance of taking care of your body when you play.

When children start learning an instrument they are still growing. We want to make sure that playing an instrument has no effect on the development of the child but also that the child feels no pain as a result of playing.

If everything is at ease, the music will flow much more naturally!

So with this in mind, I want to share some tips for looking after your child’s posture and physical wellbeing whilst playing an instrument, but hopefully some of these ideas can be used throughout all areas of their life. The tips for sitting at the piano can be transferred to the computer and the heavy cases can also apply to heavy school bags!

Sitting at the piano

Sitting comfortably at the piano is so important, especially as the piano is so huge compared to the size of children. Your child should be sitting at a distance from the piano where their hands can reach comfortably. The chair or stool they sit on needs to be at a height where, similarly, the hands don’t stretch to reach the piano (if it’s too high there will be tension in the arms and if it’s too low the shoulders will start to droop.)

What you can do:

  • Make sure that you have a stool that is the correct height for your child. If you have multiple children learning piano then adjustable stools are fantastic. Otherwise think about improvising with cushions or books to get the right height. This also applies to drum kit players!
  • Every now and then check how they are sitting. Especially after school, tiredness can mean that shoulders will droop and necks will tense up – we want to avoid this! If you are aware of these things then you can just remind your child to sit up. Tell them they will be more comfortable!
  • Make sure your wrists don’t drop onto the piano, there should always be space for a mousie/tennis ball (delete as appropriate) to be underneath the hand.
  • Make sure there is a straight line from wrist to elbow and at a 90 degree angle. The elbow should never be higher or lower than the wrist ad there should not be any “chicken wings” – elbows moving up and down like doing a chicken impression!

Holding instruments

With instruments that we hold up, such as violins, woodwind and brass instruments, the main rule is BRING THE INSTRUMENT TO YOU. This means we don’t want to contort our body to fit the instrument but we want to stand in a comfortable position and the instrument fits into this posture.

What you can do:

  • If your child looks uncomfortable during practice, tell them to put the instrument down and “shake away” all the tension (a bit of silliness helps break up practice time too!) Then get them to stand in a comfortable posture and hand them back the instrument, making sure they don’t droop their shoulders or tilt their neck during this process.
  • Standing with both feet flat on the floor about a shoulder width apart will also really help (it’s impressive some of the one legged gymnastic stances I’ve seen!) This applies for singers as well; a good posture means breathing is a lot easier too.

Instrument sizes

I think we forget that some of the instruments are children our playing, are played by fully grown adults, and they often find them heavy! Some instruments have variable sizes which will help make playing easier and the instruments that are standard sizes often have straps that help smaller people to play them.

What you can do:

  • If your child plays a string instrument (violin, cello, guitar etc.) then you are lucky that the instruments come in smaller sizes. It is so important to ask the tutor for advice on what size your child should be playing on. Too big and fingers and arms will stretch unnaturally and too small we will start to get hunched shoulders.
  • Woodwind instruments are normally all standard sizes, so we have to find other alternatives. For flute players, there are flutes that have a bent round head joint to make the flute short and easier to reach the notes. For clarinets, saxes, oboes and bassoons it is important to get a really supportive neck strap. These are often ones that also go round the waist and shoulders so the weight of the instrument gets distributed evenly.
  • For brass players, there is a series of trombones called P-Bones that are made of plastic (and are brightly coloured!) meaning they are lighter for children to hold. These are also available in trumpets and horns. These are only suitable for young beginners, but there are a good starting point for slighter players, where weight of instrument is a problem.

Heavy cases

Lugging around heavy instrument cases is sometimes more detrimental to a working musician than a playing related injury. We fill our cases with mountains of sheet music, balancing the case on an already weak shoulder with a handbag resting on the other arm.

No wonder we get injured!

What you can do:

  • Make sure the case only contains the music needed for that lesson, don’t keep every piece they’ve ever played buried in the case. The grams gradually add up! So try to keep tabs on what books they are working on, check the notebook the tutor keeps for this information.
  • Try to buy a case with two straps if it needs to be carried on their back and that the straps aren’t too low on the child’s back. Low straps might look cool but they put so much unnecessary strain on the back!
  • If they take instruments to school, see if there is a storeroom they can keep their instruments in during the day. Especially for secondary school pupils, there is rarely much space to store things, so if the music teacher is aware they have an instrument to bring in, normally they will find a space to store it.

Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your child’s practice routine. As ever, if you want to understand more about the instrument your child is learning then our tutors are always happy to answer your questions. We want a community of healthy and happy musicians so please come to us with any concerns or further questions.

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New Year, New MUSIC

by Jess

It’s the third week of January and we’ve all probably heard the phrase “New Year New Me” a fair few times by now. But at the Becky Dell Academy we’ve been thinking, what’s so good about making everything new? Why don’t we just revisit something, a hobby perhaps, that we have lost along the way?

Life becomes very focused on our daily activities. How many times have you heard the phrase:

“I used to <insert hobby here> but I just don’t have time anymore”?!

Well in 2017, we want to MAKE TIME!

What a crazy new year’s resolution that is.

But what we mean is, let’s take a small portion of our day and go back to a hobby that we sadly lost when life just got too hectic.

 

 

Obviously, our suggestion is MUSIC!

 

 

Whilst scrolling through twitter the other day, I came across an article from the BBC about adults picking up a musical instrument that they used to play when they were younger. And that was the inspiration for this blog:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140709-never-too-late-to-learn?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

It may seem a ridiculously scary and daunting prospect sitting down at the piano or picking up your instrument after 20 years of dust has settled. But it’s ok! That’s exactly what the writer of this article talks us through.

I won’t lie and say the technical difficulties have gone when you start learning again as an adult, but a deeper appreciation for the instrument and heightened determination to achieve something means that, actually, adult players learn surprisingly well.  Because you’re starting again out of your own choice, you motivate yourself to practice and push yourself to get to the next piece.

But in 2017, let’s bring back the music you left as a child purely for the JOY it brings! Music is such an emotive language, even if you find 10mins of your week to play, it can express the emotions you have been bottling up. A de-stress if you like!

And we all know that a de-stress once in a while is exactly what we need.

In the BBC article, British actor Samuel  West says,

“As an adult you’re much more knowledgeable about your own moods, so it becomes much more possible to use music as a way to express yourself….If I have a little piece I can play, I can listen to myself better, I can express myself better. That’s entirely a function of being older, and that’s a joy.”

So, the New Year challenge from the Becky Dell Music Academy is to dust down the trumpet, open up the piano lid, and find the sheet music in the bookshelf and PLAY! We are always happy to teach adult students so if you fancy learning as well as your child, or you know a friend who would like to start up playing again, then please contact us.

Happy playing!

Cable and Amps and Mics – oh my!

Amplification of your instrument and/or voice (By Ronald)

Some instruments can’t be heard without an amplifier. An electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, a digital piano or a keyboard: you can’t hear them (very well) unless you plug them in. Acoustic instruments can be played without amplification. Of course they can, that’s why they are called acoustic.Sometimes, however, it won’t be loud enough for the occasion…

Luckily they can be amplified in a few different ways. The easiest and best known solution is a microphone, but in case of an acoustic guitar or other string instrument a pickup can be easier/better. If you are interested in how pickups work and which varieties there are, see here. If you have specific questions about how to amplify your instrument with a pick up, ask your (guitar, cello, violin, double bass) tutor or email me.

In this blog I’ll focus on microphones (mics). Mics come in many shapes and sizes and have differences in sound and compatability. One uses different mics for a drum kit than for a flute or a voice. I don’t expect many of you to want to amplify your drum kit yet, so once you’ve booked your first stadium gig, you can ask Harry (or me on same email as above) about what to use.

Like an electrical guitarist owns an amplifier to make him/herself heard, it is sometimes useful to be able to amplify your voice while singing. At home your voice is easily loud enough. At a venue like the Mycenae House your vocal won’t be strong enough to match up with the grand piano (unless you’re a trained opera singer). Those of you who have sung through a mic there may have found out that it sounds quite different and that singing through a mic comes with a certain technique. Therefore it is very useful to be taught how to hold it and use it. It’s not a bad idea to own your own mic to practice and get used to how it sounds. If you ever get a gig other than the BDMA concerts, it might come in handy that you can bring your own gear. The most used vocal mics for live situations are the Shure SM58 and the Sennheiser e835. There are definitely more options, but with one of these you can be sure of a good sound.

A mic is made to pick up sound, but doesn’t make your voice any louder yet. You’ll need a speaker to let the sound come out. Unfortunately you can’t plug your mic straight into the speaker, because the signal is way too weak (in fact it’s even weaker than a guitar signal, that’s why plugging it into a guitar amp can’t make it really loud either). That is where the amplifier comes in. You can find the amp and speaker nicely built into one box, called a “combo”,  “powered speaker” or “active speaker”. What we call a “vocal amp” is in fact such a combo. You can find a suitable solution for any budget between £100 and £1000. Top notch of portable combos is AER. The sound is great, the box is small and light. They cost around a grand, that is. Luckily there is a range of more affordable combos. The SubZero and the Behringer B205D are good and not too expensive options. If you’ve got the time, I advise you to go to a shop like Eric Lindsey in Catford or one of the many shops in Denmark Street. Here you can hear and compare a few different models. Alternatively you can find many good second hand vocal amps on sites like Ebay and Gumtree.

The important thing is that the input is a mic input. XLR inputs are always meant (or at least compatible) for mics. Jack inputs can be compatible for mics, but you need to check that. If it’s not, you’ll still hear something, but the amplification will be limited. Feel free to email me to ask if a certain amp is suitable for you. Once you’ve chosen and purchased a mic and a vocal amp, you’ll need a lead to connect them.  The output of a mic is always XLR (except for mics from before 1960). If the mic input on your amp is XLR too, you’ll need a standard mic lead. If your amp has a jack mic input, you need a XLR to Jack lead.

mic-amp-speaker

Simple as that!

Disclaimer: I used links from different music shops. You can find all products on many more websites and you can (probably) buy everything together on each of them. Beware of the complete vocal performance packs though, ’cause sometimes they come with quite a mediocre mic. I don’t intend to direct people to a certain shop, so feel free to have a browse. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact me or your tutor.

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Metronomes – Why and Which One?!

By Meg Ella

I’m sure at some point or another we have all been told by our music teachers to practice with a metronome. It may seem tedious at first but there are actually multiple benefits to doing regular practice with our little clicking friends, and here are a few : –

Keeping a Steady Beat

All of us are guilty of straying from the pulse. We slow down in the tricky sections, or when it’s quiet and speed up in those lovely easy passages and when it gets loud and exciting! Practicing with a metronome can help catch us out on those moments when we cheat the beat.

Accuracy

A metronome can be our best friend when figuring out and practicing those tricky rhythmic passages. If you set the metronome to a subdividing click (in quavers for example) you can get your head around more difficult rhythms like triplets, semiquavers or syncopated rhythms in no time. You can even get talking metronomes that say the beats – perfect for checking you are in the right place in the bar!

Efficient Practice

Metronomes can be a great way to focus on those tricky passages that we just don’t want to practice. Setting the tempo at a low bpm and turning it up one notch at a time can be a great way to get hard sections under our fingers – how fast can YOU take it??

Musical Awareness

In the simplest terms, when we practice with a metronome we are forced to focus on something external, not just listen to ourselves and focus on what we are playing. This is the ultimate skill when we get together to play in groups and ensembles, and those musicians who listen the most are often the best – start practicing now!

metronome

Which One??

There are lots of choices for metronomes out there, from classic mechanical ones to phone apps – here are a few of our favourites!

Classic Old Fashioned (look great with acoustic pianos and grands and don’t sound digital!) –

.http://www.musicroom.com/se/id_no/021179/details.html

Contemporary Classic (still no need for batteries!)

http://www.musicroom.com/se/id_no/076357/details.html

Portable and Cheap as Chips (even has a clip to keep it steady on your music stand or piano!)

http://www.musicroom.com/se/id_no/0441628/details.html

Metronome and Tuner Combined (great for guitarists but handy for anyone!)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Korg-TM-50BK-Tuner-Metronome-Detection/dp/B00923H7MA

It’s also always a good idea to download a metronome app on our phones – then we have one wherever we go! Hear is a good one I used all through music college –

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/pro-metronome-tempo-keeping/id477960671?mt=8

Good luck – we hope you find the metronome you are looking for and happy practicing!

Glastonbury 2016 Round Up

So I managed to wangle myself a ticket to Glastonbury this year and as ever it didn’t disappoint. As ever we were also three feet under in mud, but hey, it’s Glastonbury, what did we expect…

I saw some great bands, both old and new and wanted to share them with you.

Thursday

I’m awarding myself a gold star as I stayed in London to vote, not that it did much good, le sigh, let’s not go there… It took 7 hours to get in, so we didn’t arrive till evening, but still, we used the time waiting in the queue to do out hair and make up so at least we looked FABULOUS for an hour at Glastonbury….

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Friday started with a heavy heart at the referendum result. I decided there was nothing for it but to cover myself in glitter and go and do Power Ballad Yoga in the Greenpeace Fields. Yes, that’s a thing. It was part comedy, party yoga and very funny. There were maybe 150 people all doing it and feeling the love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3lI3foiGtU

Next we went and checked out The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians with Damon Albarn on the Pyramid Stage. At that point it felt more important than ever to go and show our support for the refugees and remember we are all connected as human beings and remember that we have more in common than that which divides us. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit emotional.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p03y0j0m/glastonbury-2016-the-orchestra-of-syrian-musicians-with-damon-albarn-guests

Then we drank some cider (standard) and watched Hobo Jones And The Junkyard Dogs who have become a firm festival favourite band over the years. A tongue in cheek skiffle band, these three chaps know how to rock a tent! https://youtu.be/1as_4YGLmlQ?t=1m25s

Next up we saw our friends She Drew The Gun (SDTG) performing in the backstage bar at Theatre & Circus. SDTG won the Glastonbury emerging talent competition and played 5, yes 5 (!) times this festival, finishing off by headlining the John Peel Stage on Sunday morning, which I just missed, (arriving as they finished) because I’d been too busy dancing disco with drag queens in a backstage bar. For real. Anyway, you should definitely check out SDTG, they are destined for big things and Louisa is a top gal with a clear conscience. http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/she-drew-the-gun-win-2016-emerging-talent-competition/

Then I headed off to Bastille with my friend’s kid, Rory. Rory is 12 years old and has been to Glastonbury 10 times already. In theory I was looking after him but the reality is that I think he was looking after me. Top tips like shortcuts and “lift with your heel!” when you get stuck in the Glastonbury mud. Man! It’s so frickin sticky!!!!! Rory persuaded me to go to the front of Bastille and we got right to the front! Big thanks to the lovely Bastille fans who let us go right to the front. You made a 12 year old kid (and a 36 year old adult) very very happy. Bastille were absolutely brilliant live, with the lead singer performing superbly. It was a sunset session, so utterly gorgeous to look at. Check it out here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p03y0jf0/glastonbury-2016-bastille

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After that we made a quick tour to Stormzy and Muse before heading back to sensation Seekers Stage to watch a bit of cabaret. Yes, that was all one day. No wonder I’m still tired! Over the four days I did 100,000 steps, which is equivalent to about 1,000,000 normal steps due to the sticky Glastonbury mud…. We went to the after hours area “SE Corner” which was pretty banging and danced to some breaks and I randomly bumped into a friend. Love it when that happens!

Saturday bought a backstage meeting with the lovely Jess AKA Tourettes Hero, she is a bloody legend and an inspirational and funny person through and through. Also know as ‘Biscuit Lady’, she uses her tourettes to put on a hilarious show.  http://www.touretteshero.com/
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Then I swung by West Holts stage, also known as the world music stage. I saw two acts I hadn’t seen before. First up was Mbongwana Star, who are a 7 piece Congalese band, very up tempo and fun. Perfect for a Saturday afternoonhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p03yggrf/glastonbury-2016-mbongwana-star

They were followed by a Japanese performance art group, which are everything you might expect a Japanese performance art group to be. Flipping mental! Didn’t know where to look!! Orchestral musicians, dancers, naked dancers, people doing art. They are called Shibusashirazu Orchestra http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/ewcj5v/acts/ab6p8g#p03yggnv

Saturday evening was always going to be Adele. I was lucky enough to get a last minute ticket to see her at the 02 recently and she was jaw droppingly amazing. The thing that most people don’t realise if they haven’t seen her live is just how funny she is. I love her refreshing honesty and genuine approach to life. As well as being a world class singer she can also tell a cracking joke and you just want to go down the pub with her. If watching Adele on the Pyramid Stage was amazing, spare a thought for our very own trombone tutor Emma Basset who was PLAYING FOR HER! ON THE PYRAMID STAGE! What a star Emma is and we’re very very proud of her. She was playing on Skyfall, see if you can see her here…. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p03ybdky/glastonbury-2016-adele

Just as Adele was finishing we decided to hot foot it to another section of the Festival and popped up to The Park for the David Bowie tribute. It was the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing a live orchestral piece by the American composer Philip Glass. His “Heroes Symphony”, written in 1996 in homage to David’s 1977 album Heroes was the first classical headliner to appear at Glastonbury and was accompanied by an outstanding laser show.

We then watched a bit of cabaret, went to Block 9 for a proper Glastonbury rave up, complete with subway crashed into the building (it’s a theatre set, not real but still completely impressive). Then I got distracted by dancing drag queens.

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Sunday bought some much needed sleep and a quick gig watching Mahalia, a very talented young lady (possibly only 18 years old?!) from London. Her dad played guitar with her which was so sweet. With her unique look, gorgeous voice and cracking songs, I’m sure this girl is destined for big things.
https://www.facebook.com/mahaliamusic/info/?entry_point=about_section_header&tab=overview
We decided to skip Coldplay and headed for an early exit and managed to avoid getting stuck in the mud in my low slung car, phew! Despite the mud (oh god the mud) it was probably my best Glastonbury yet. Fab times with fab people and a whole bunch of music and art to check out.  This is how I choose to live my life. Thanks to all the wonderful people that choose the same and make it what it is.
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Walk Off The Earth

by Jess and Becky

We are really lucky that over the past 50 years we have had decade after decade of great music. People that are born twenty years after the release date still sing along to Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, and we are still getting great songs released on a weekly basis. No wonder then, that so many people want to do covers of these classics. Now, you get some covers that literally just copy the song completely, but what we are interested in are groups that put a new slant on the songs we know so well.

“Walk Off The Earth” are a group that do exactly that, covering songs in new and innovative ways. Their first major hit was when all five members performed “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, with all of them playing the one guitar.

Each arrangement brings a new surprise. Their cover of Adele’s “Hello” uses boomwhackers, a beat boxer, a bell and three of them singing. Then Justin Bieber’s “What Do you Mean?” has them using a clock as a rhythmic pulse on a loop pedal, a mouth organ for melodic figures and an accordion to pad out the harmony. There’s even a picture of them playing drums covered in paint! Sounds like a fun group to be in!

Photo

Check out the videos below and the website here.

 

 

 

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Children’s Opera

by Jess 

A lot of people shy away from opera. It has connotations of being really long and inaccessible. It is certainly not the first thing you think of when planning a family friendly activity. But did you know some composers have actually written operas especially for children?

Benjamin Britten, for example, wrote a children’s opera. One of England’s most famous composers, living 1913-1976, he helped shape the music of the 20th century. You might know him for composing “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” (that in itself being an educational, family friendly piece.) But he also composed a children’s opera called “Noye’s Fludde” (or Noah’s Flood). As can be presumed, the opera tells the story of Noah and the ark from the Old Testament, a story that many children will already know. Having a plot that children know from the start really helps to get them to understand the story they are telling. When they really know the story they are setting out to tell, they become more involved and excited about telling it. There are about half a dozen adult roles with the children filling the parts of the animals and offspring of Noah. Naturally, dressing up as different animals has an appeal to a cast of children!

1bf012bb-b1a6-4448-b3f6-cbb64a8e3400The music was composed specifically so that children could be the central figure, making up the bulk of the cast. The melodies are simpler than that of a complicated Wagner opera and the children have to make sound affects as well as singing. Not only are the children in the cast but they make up the orchestra too. Britten composed the music so there were parts for all standards, going so far as adding violin 3 (to the standard orchestral set-up of 2 violin parts) so that as many children as possible can get involved.

The charm of this opera is that children can be excited about performing something that was written specifically with them in mind, rather than adapting a play or musical written for adults. They can also work alongside adults that are specialised in their field, whether it be the adult leads in the opera or the leaders of the orchestra, and can be inspired and driven by these professionals.

The opera is being performed at Blackheath Halls on Thursday 7th April and Friday 7th April so go and watch it if you can. This is truly an opera for all ages!