Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

BBC Proms Inspire Day August 4, 2010

Filed under: 1B: volunteering/training/shadowing — concerttuning @ 11:01 am
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I volunteered at BBC Proms Inspire day on 2 August. The participants were teenagers who had entered the BBC Proms Young Composer Competition who travel from as far as Scotland to come to the young composers’ day.

I helped on the day by directing and instructing the participants at the BBC studio, participating during the workshop and helping the stage moves during the concert at the Royal College of Music.

The day was led by composer, Stephen and four musicians. When entering the Hall the young composers were thrown amidst an improvised composition where they participated by ringing their mobile phones when they saw a sign with the month of their birthday. This was then followed by an exercise where they sang happy birthday as slow as possible out of sync. This produced some beautiful harmonies.

Then followed a number of composition workshops, introducing them to the workshop musicians as well as composition techniques. They evaluated their work as they went along and all got a chance to participate. The day culminated in an experimental composition called ‘Poldergeese’ with the 100+ young musicians. This was made up of various pieces of material which were then combined and ordered by the conductor. I got to play the tam tam!



BBC Proms Family orchestra

I went to observe and help at the BBC Proms family orchestra workshop on Saturday 31 July. The workshop was themed on Sonheim to link in with the evening’s Prom in celebration of Sondheim’s 80th Birthday. The idea was to bring people of all ages and abilities to play together.

I helped by signing the families in when they arrived, handing out the BBC Proms 2010 badges as well as distributing and collecting the evaluation forms. I also joined in with the percussion session during the workshop.

Sat in their instrumental families, each section was lead by a BBC musician and assisted by a music student while Lincoln, the workshop leader conducted. We were taught a number of well know tunes from works that influenced Sondheim as well as creating different sound effects. We slowly built up over the course of 2hrs the sections for our final performance without the aid of any notated music. However, it was easily memorable due to the verbal instructions from the conductor as well as the pictorial or programmatic nature of the music.

I was impressed at how attentive the families were and that they didn’t play their instruments when the musicians were talking.


Shadowing a music-making day on a Outreach project July 22, 2010

On Monday 19 July, I shadowed an animateur and two musicians during an orchestral outreach project in a Primary school in Oxford. It was day four of the project and they were using the theme of the solar system to inspire their work.

I came in when they were working on creating compositions using graphic scores. They were using percussion instruments as well as a number of miniature violins to create compositions about black holes, red planets and asteroids. They later performed their works to the rest of the school in key stage 2 as well as performing 3 songs: 2 taught and 1 that they composed themselves.

Some interesting things that I observed:

  • I liked the way as a method of crowd control, the animatuer would sometimes call out a word and the children would automatically respond. For example, code words used included quail and shark!
  • I was impressed how keen all the students were to try the violins. Playing a so-called ‘proper’ instrument was deemed cool.
  • Each of the groups had very different method of approaching the graphic scores. I particularly liked one score in the way that it was circular.
  • It was problematic keeping the graphic scores simple as they were given so much freedom at the beginning.
  • While playing with the musicians may appear to be the highlight for the students, when watching another group’s work they were occupied by watching the professional instrumentalists.