Leonard Bernstein: A Musician for all Ages


Summer 2018 marks the centenary of the amazing musician Leonard Bernstein who was born on 25th August 1918.

Bernstein was a composer, conductor, author, educator and pianist, perhaps best known for what some consider the greatest of all American musicals: West Side Story.

Bernstein’s influence on the American music scene cannot be underestimated. His voice can be heard through his compositions, his recordings, the popularity of composers he championed and his influence on great conductors such as Marin Alsop, Paavo Jarvi, Seiji Oazawa and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Time spent at Harvard (he graduated in 1939) was influential to Bernstein’s work. His tutors, Edward Burlingame Hill, Walter Piston and David Prall, the conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos and friends he made during this period including Donald Davidson and Aaron Copland all made an impact. Copland became a major influence for Bernstein who called Copland his “only real composition teacher”. After Harvard, Bernstein attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner who was one of his mentors.

Bernstein continued his education at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer institute, Tanglewood, an association that continued and inspired him throughout his life. As a student at Tanglewood, he studied with Serge Koussevitzky, who became a sort of father figure, influencing the emotional way in which Bernstein interpreted music. Bernstein became Koussevitzky’s assistant and later dedicated his second Symphony to him.

His break as a conductor came in 1943 when, as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he stepped in at just six hours notice when Bruno Walter was taken ill. The New York Times put the story on their front page and so Bernstein’s fame as a conductor spread.

But it was the following year that marked him out as an important composer, with premieres of The ‘Jeremiah’ Symphony (No. 1) (heavily influenced by Copland) the ballet Fancy Free and the musical On The Town.

Bernstein preferred to collaborate with others, rather than working alone. Key collaborators included the choreographer Jerome Robbins, and the lyricists Betty Camden, Adolph Green, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim.

His career included many firsts. He conducted the American premiere of Britten’s Peter Grimes, the world premiere of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony, the world premier of Ives’ Symphony No 2. He was the first American conductor to appear at La Scala Opera House in Milan where he worked with Maria Callas, and the first to complete a cycle of recordings of all nine Mahler Symphonies. He worked with many of the World’s top orchestras including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. He also conducted at La Scala, the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.

One project that raised his profile across America was his television series for CBS, Young People’s Concerts. This was the first series of music appreciation programmes produced on television. The programmes were very influential and highly acclaimed by critics. Some were released on record, leading to a Grammy in 1961.

In 1973, Bernstein was appointed to the Charles Eliot Norton Chair as Professor of Poetry at Harvard University where his televised lectures compared musical construction to language. In 1982, along with Ernest Fleischmann, he founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute as a summer training academy similar to Tanglewood. He later founded a similar project – the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo with Michael Tilson Thomas. In 1990 he received the Praemium Imperiale, an international prize awarded by the Japan Arts Association. Bernstein used the prize to establish The Bernstein Education Through The Arts (BETA) Fund Inc.

Throughout his career Bernstein struggled with balancing the different parts of his work, but he is remembered for his great compositions and conducting work, his championing of other composers, his influence on other conductors and his inspirational education work.

Our picks on where to hear Bernstein’s work this summer:

Chichester Psalms – 2nd August Hereford Cathedral with Carlo Rizzi and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales with the National Youth Choir of Wales

Symphony No 2 The Age of Anxiety – 10th August Usher Hall Edinburgh with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra

West Side Story – 11th August at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and live on BBC Radio 3 with John Wilson and the John Wilson Orchestra

On The Town – 25th August at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and live on BBC Four with John Wilson and the London Symphony Orchestra

Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium”, for solo violin, strings, harp, and percussion, West Side Story: Symphonic Dances, On the Town: Three Dance Episodes – 25th August at Usher Hall, Edinburgh with Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra featuring Nicola Benedetti on Violin

For more info on these events follow this link >>

Music by Bushra El-Turk, Bernstein, Sondheim, Copland and more Proms at … Cadogan Hall 7: Bernstein on Broadway and Beyond – 1pm on 27th August at the Cadogan Hall, London

El-Turk, 35, is London-born, from a Lebanese family. Trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she decided to become a composer aged 17, when “I woke up to a blackbird twittering a rhythm that created an orchestral piece in my head. That moment has dictated the rest of my career.” She is also composer in residenc

Her new work, Crème Brûlée on a Tree, was inspired by Leonard Bernstein’s settings of La Bonne Cuisine, a song based on a recipe for plum pudding. El-Turk’s composition is based on the durian fruit, otherwise known as stink fruit. – ES Magazine


 

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Inclusive Dance Company Changing Lives in Hertforshire

Silverbirch Dance is an inclusive dance company based in Hertfordshire, UK. Founded in 2002 by Suzie Birchwood under the premise that anybody and ‘any body’ can dance, the company aims, through a programme of performances, workshops and projects for schools, colleges, local authorities and community groups, to enable people to explore the creative possibilities in their own bodies and imaginations in a safe and supportive environment.

The Music Workshop Company spoke to David Nurse, Artistic Director of Silverbirch Dance, about the inspiration behind the company, and current projects and opportunities for participants in and around Hertfordshire.

“At Silverbirch we believe that watching performances and taking part in workshops led both by disabled people with and people without disabilities raises expectations of what disabled people can achieve and contribute. By creating safe social spaces where dancers can build their self-confidence and be supported to stay healthy, active and engaged, we aim to show that disability is not a barrier to a fulfilled and happy life, and through this, challenge perceptions of disabled people.

My own motivation for running the company lies firstly in the development of my practice. I have been involved in running companies before, spending 12 years as Youth Group Director for Magpie Dance, and I wanted to take on responsibility for the whole of a company’s work. Because Silverbirch provides such a wide range of offerings in various settings this is a chance for me to build on my previous experience, enhancing the work of the company and the skills of our participants and facilitators.

I am particularly keen to have disabled artists in an authorial and leadership role so that they are doing the work rather than having the work ‘done to them’. The company members at Silverbirch are incredibly dance-literate: Amazing dancers, performers and communicators. I want to continue to develop these skills so that they can be recognised as dance leaders and facilitators by the wider world.

Through inclusive creative dance projects I have seen (and heard) people literally find a voice. One young man who was an elective mute developed his non-verbal communication skills and confidence to such an extent that after an end of term performance he stood up and gave a 5 minute speech about the group and what we had been doing: Something he had never done before. After this it became quite hard to get him NOT to make a speech after each performance!

One member of the company at Silverbirch has developed her self-confidence through our inclusive sessions and mentoring on dealing with situations and our responses to those situations. Six months ago, any new situation, ‘surprise’, or sense of tension would reduce her to tears. Her participation at Silverbirch means she is now able to take a moment, calm herself and continue to contribute to the group.

At a recent performance in a primary school where we performed for the whole school, the pupils were captivated and intrigued by the company. One girl who was wearing hearing aids leapt up at the end to tell one of our dancers, ‘You’re amazing!’ I think the performance and workshop were particularly impactful for a number of students who had impairments. There was one boy who seemed to have difficulty focusing and joining in with his peers. In our workshop he was gradually drawn into the group until he was participating without his support worker, fully engaged, focused and included.

Projects at Silverbirch

Silverbirch Dance currently deliver a number of diverse and dynamic projects and creative opportunities:

Silverbirch Dance

This is our graduate performance company which rehearses once a week and gives performances around Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. Through weekly technique and creative workshops Silverbirch Dance explore the many and various ways that the human body can be used as an expressive instrument.

We aim to develop company members’ skills so that they can take a leadership role in the creative life of their community as performers and facilitators.

The company’s current touring production, ‘HOP!’ is a vibrant and dynamic exploration of a Harlem nightclub, created by Suzie Birchwood and the company and performed to specially commissioned music. The show’s characters reflect the first inclusive club in America where all were welcomed and included regardless of their age, gender, abilities, sexuality, race or creed.

Each performance of ‘HOP!’ is paired with an inclusive creative dance workshop led by company members and based on the characters and themes within the piece.

DanceBase

These are our regular term time creative inclusive dance sessions for young people and adults where all are included and encouraged to explore their creativity in an inclusive, accessible and safe space.

DanceBase sessions are delivered by our amazing team of inclusive dance facilitators, assisted by members of the Silverbirch Dance company.

We currently run an Adult Group (16+) in Ware, Hertfordshire on Tuesday evenings during term time. We also run a Youth Group (under 16) and Adult Group (16+) in Watford, Hertfordshire on Wednesday evenings.

UV

This our regular club night, which is run by a management team of young disabled and non-disabled people and adults for their peers. The team make the creative decisions and carry out marketing for each night. The management team also undertake most of the fundraising for UV events. Recent themes include ‘The Roaring ‘20s’ and ‘Bhangra.’ UV aims to deliver a true clubbing experience with professional DJs and current music in a safe and inclusive environment.

Silverbirch Dance also deliver weekly inclusive dance sessions in local SEN schools and we are always open to new partnership possibilities with other schools and organisations. We have recently worked in collaboration with Hertfordshire Youth Orchestra and Hertfordshire County Youth Dance Company on a performance of excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This was premiered at The Weston Auditorium. We continue to work in collaboration with these and other groups and Hertfordshire Music Service.

Throughout my career, I have always wanted to challenge stereotypes based on a person’s perceived abilities, gender, ethnic origin, age, nationality or sexual orientation.

I also believe that diversity enhances the creative possibilities of any group.

I believe diverse groups come together to create a total greater than the sum of their parts. We all have different abilities and sharing the workload enables us to achieve more than we ever can by working individually.”

For more details on the amazing projects at Silverbirch Dance and to find out what the company could do for you please check out the website: silverbirchdance.com

To book a ‘HOP!’ performance and workshop package for just £75 pounds please call the office on 07902042469 or email Artistic Director David Nurse david@artsbase.org.uk.

You can contact David Nurse by email at david@artsbase.org.uk or telephone the office on 07902042469


If you are interested in contacting the Music Workshop Company about booking a workshop or would like to feature your project on our next guest blog, contact us today.

 

 

 

Music Award for Young People Highlights Mental Health

Applications are open for a music award that supports young musicians from South East London.

Designed for artists between 16 and 25 years old who display musical talent, performance skills, business acumen and are passionate about forging a successful career, the Ed Renshaw Award was set up in 2012 in memory of an accomplished young guitarist who tragically took his own life aged just 30.

Renshaw was a gifted musician. Born in Greenwich in 1981 and a student at Thomas Tallis School, he began learning guitar aged 10. Music broadcaster Sandy Burnett called him: “a supremely talented jazz and classical guitarist.” But Renshaw also suffered with bouts of depression, and in 2011 he lost his struggle.

Judged by representatives from Peter Conway Management, a music management and promotions company which runs the award, and The Albany, a performing arts centre driven by the cultural diversity and creative mix of south east London, the Ed Renshaw Award is open to solo artists and bands. Cash prizes of between £1000 and £3000 help young musicians fund their career plans. Prizes also include mentorship and support from Peter Conway Management and rehearsal and performance space at The Albany. Winners are invited to partake in four live concerts between October 31st and November 3rd 2018, with headline acts to be announced later in the year. Musicians are chosen for their originality, talent and commitment, regardless of genre.

In its third bi-annual outing, Peter Conway Management and The Albany welcome a new partner, the national charity Youth Music. Funded by the National Lottery via Arts Council England, Youth Music exists to support children and young people, to build their confidence, resilience and self-esteem, and to develop the skills they need to succeed.

Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths says:

We’re very pleased to support this award, which will provide vital career progression opportunities and support young musicians who might otherwise miss out.

Renshaw’s life is regularly commemorated by concerts at The Albany. Staged by family and friends in partnership with Peter Conway Management, proceeds from the events combine with donations from members of the public towards the award.

Winners from 2016 were Megan Tuck and Blinkz Virgo, and Jay Johnson and in 2014 prizewinners included Lucy Cait whose song Gabriel’s Wharf has been featured on the BBC’s Steve Lamacq’s Rock College.

The closing date for applications is Thursday June 28th and shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by the awards panel on Saturday 14th July. Application forms can be found at thealbany.org.uk.

If you or a friend or colleague is suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, use the links on this advice page from Help Musicians to find help. 

Those needing help and emotional support can also call Music Support on 0800 030 6789 or call the Help Musicians’ dedicated mental health helpline on 0808 802 8008. It’s free of charge and someone will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.

#everychildamusician

This month, the Music Workshop Company wants to highlight the campaign started by Nicholas Daniel and his fellow winners of the BBC Young Musician of Year.

On 13th May, 20 winners of the competition wrote an open letter to the Guardian stating,

We are all deeply concerned that instrumental music learning is being left to decay in many British schools to the point that it could seriously damage the future of music here and jeopardise British music’s hard won worldwide reputation.

The letter continues:

Today, we are launching a campaign for every primary school child to be taught to play an instrument, at no cost to them or their families. It is crucial to restore music’s rightful place in children’s lives, not only with all the clear social and educational benefits, but showing them the joy of making and sharing music. We are especially concerned that this should be a universal right. This is an opportunity to show the world that we care about music’s future and its beneficial impact on our children.

Dil_Se_Education_-_Smiling_Child_at_School

Their campaign features the #everychildamusician hashtag, based on the London Borough of Newham’s Every Child a Musician scheme which gives all primary school children in the borough a free instrument to keep and free access to weekly lessons both on their instruments and in music reading.

The letter in the Guardian has inspired a number of responses.

Jess Gillam, finalist in the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year tweeted:

Thank you @ndanielmusic – what an amazing campaign #everychildamusician is. Music is such an incredible form of expression and can do so much to improve lives. Every child must have the chance to experience music, something that is integral to the human race.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan wrote in the Times Educational Supplement:

It was heartening to see previous winners of the BBC’s Young Musician prize unite in calling for every primary school child to have the right to learn how to play an instrument at no cost to them or their families. I strongly support this vitally important campaign, because I want the lives of more young Londoners to be touched by the magic of music.

He refers to the work of the London Music Fund (previously known as The Mayor’s Music Fund. You can read about the fund on our blog.

The London Music Fund was set up to support music education in the capital. It works in partnership with every London music hub, offering four-year scholarships to children from low-income families, and supporting wider collaborations which allow young musicians to learn from and perform alongside professionals in iconic venues. We’ve distributed more than £2 million and awarded 450 scholarships. Sixty-five per cent of these children are from BAME backgrounds.

The letter also movitated Rob Rinder at the Evening Standard to share his thoughts:

The fanciest private schools are, of course, aware of the inestimable intellectual and social benefits of arts education, while state schools slip ever further behind… Learning a musical instrument nurtures independence, confidence, staying power, collaboration, even mathematical capability. More importantly, it fosters imagination, passion and a connection with something beyond everyday curricular drudgery. Above all, it debunks the foul mistruth — told to too many children — that some things are ‘just not for them’ .There is no greater barrier to social mobility and personal happiness than being saddled for life with this lie.

580px-Nicky_Benedetti

Previous BBC Young Musician Winner, Nicola Benedetti

The need for intervention is clear across the country, East Sussex County Council has announced that plans are being made to close the music instrumental service by 2019 because of a funding shortfall of £80,000. This will result in loss of valued music provision for thousands of children across the county and job losses for teachers and administrative staff. East Sussex Music Service, celebrating its 84th year, delivers music lessons to around 7000 children in schools. Nearly 1000 children aged between 4 and 18 attend area music centres each week. The loss of this service would be devastating for the children of East Sussex County Council. To sign a petition against East Sussex’s decision click here.

Further Reading:

Read the letter in the Guardian

Read Rob Rinder’s reponse

 


Women Composers – A Reflection on Cultural Expectation

Composer: A person who writes music especially as a professional occupation

The history of music is rich with composers, experimental, creative, daring, dashing, often with fascinating personal lives, and each still receiving regular concert billing. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Ives, Britten – in 2015, music exam board Edexcel featured 63 such composers in its A-Level syllabus.

In 2015, however, it was also pointed out via a change.org petition set up by student Jessy McCabe, that the syllabus was notably missing the inclusion of a single female composer.

This is not an unusual admission. We are used to the same names recurring. Concert societies look for music that will draw audiences, preferring to stick with safe, in-budget programming of Mozart and Beethoven quartets, and composers we’ve all heard of.

Meanwhile double standards and censorship abound. In the wake of the #metoo campaign (which saw Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs removed from display at the Manchester Art Gallery to supposedly prompt conversation about the way images of women’s bodies are displayed), singer R Kelly has been removed from Spotify playlists due to sexual abuse allegations (which the singer has denied). Spotify’s new ‘hate policy’ states that:

When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.

Meanwhile the music of Don Carlo Gesualdo is currently celebrated on the streaming platform. Gesualdo murdered his wife and her lover, and allegedly also the baby, but it was 400 years ago after all, so we can enjoy articles about him that wittily talk about ‘killer harmonies’ and bow to the description ‘irrefutably badass’ given him by the BBC’s Clemency Burton-Hill without so much as a wince in the direction of gender politics, or perhaps taste.

Any gender issue tends to spark heated debate. Claims that resurfaced on social media recently that Bach’s wife may have written some of his work met with anger, particularly from men who are beginning, understandably, to feel a bit browbeaten by current events.

But it’s a genuine question. Where are all the female composers? Why do we not hear their work? Why are they not simply referred to as ‘composers’ in the neutral way that actresses have become ‘actors’ in modern parlance?

Notable women include Lili Boulanger, who was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19, (Debussy won the 1884 prize at the age of 21 or 22) but her output was limited by ill health and early death at the age of 24. Her older sister Nadia is often spoken of more by association with her male pupils. Nadia Boulanger taught composition to some of the 20th Century’s most prominent composers: including Astor Piazzolla, Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Virgil Thomson, David Diamond, İdil Biret, Daniel Barenboim and Philip Glass. She was also the first woman to conduct many of the major orchestras in America and Europe, including the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, Hallé, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras, and conducted several world premieres, including works by Copland and Stravinsky.

Nadia Boulanger, Chanson:

Scottish born Thea Musgrave is one living female composer who is recognised for her incredible output, and actively celebrated. Her work saw significant premieres at the Proms and the Royal Festival Hall in London in the 1960s, since when she has continued to produce work on a large scale, including commissions for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a collaboration with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. She’s written a work called The Seasons that is rarely, if ever, mentioned in conversations comparing composers’ responses to nature that regularly site Vivaldi’s work of the same name.

Thea Musgrave, Winter from The Seasons:

 

It’s rather heartbreaking to read how Clara Schumann (1819-1896), who is generally spoken of in association with her more famous husband (generally just known as Schumann!), felt about the societal pressure placed upon her at a time when creative women were often suspected to be witches, or had to present as angelic to avoid implications of prostitution:

I once thought that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — not one has been able to do it, and why should I expect to?

And Alexandra Coghlan writes in the Spectator,

It’s even more frustrating to learn that, nearly 100 years later, when Elizabeth Maconchy was denied a prestigious Royal College of Music scholarship, the excuse given was, ‘If we’d given it to you, you’d only have got married and never written another note!’

To return to Edexcel, the exam board initially countered complaints about their all-male syllabus saying that female composers were not prominent in the Western Classical Tradition. But as the Independent reported, while this is to some extent true, it should not go unremarked.

Students should be taught about the women whose music we have been denied, because they in their turn were denied the opportunities they needed to succeed….

Students should also be taught about the women who did succeed in reaching prominence in their own time, only to be subsequently forgotten… while there were of course fewer women who managed to beat the odds, the International Encyclopedia of Women Composers nevertheless has more than 6,000 entries.

Despite this surprising number, an attempt to redress the balance by Classic FM can offer a list of only 10 Female Composers You Should Know, and even this list rather gauchely describes Ruth Crawford Seeger as “a woman who could ‘sling dissonances like a man,’” a quote ascribed to critics in the 1920’s but presented out-of-context here as though it were a reasonable comment on Seeger’s work.

In the wake of the Edexcel complaint, publisher, Rhinegold, produced a guide to the new syllabus by David Ashworth, who explains in his introduction:

It’s important that we now build on this initial momentum by showcasing the work of even more women composers. The ones included by Edexcel and the other boards are only the tip of a very large iceberg.

However, in this resource I want to go beyond just raising awareness. I want to help teachers and students get ‘under the bonnet’ by looking at some of the rich and diverse composing approaches and strategies used by some these women composers, not only to understand these ideas but also to guide students into trying some of them out for themselves.

Emily E Hogstad sums it up in her satirical blog, In Which I Learn Why There Are No Great Women Composers:

I’m not saying to chuck out Beethoven and Brahms….But once in a while, the boys could be gentlemanly enough to slide over at the table and let the ladies sit down for a bit.

Programmers are beginning to listen. In a move prompted by another gender row, this time within the music world – acclaimed conductor Mariss Jansons’ ill-timed and ill-judged comment that “seeing a woman on the podium… well, let’s just say it’s not my cup of tea” – the BBC has promised to gender-balance its Proms programming, pledging that half of all new commissions will go to women by 2020.

This plan builds a new balance for the future without trying to reinvent the past. Let’s hope it is viewed in a more positive light than the Tate’s current survey of 20th Century art, All Too Human, which was dismissed in the Financial Times as narrowing to gender politics with the inclusion of certain women artists in preference to male artists the writer considered to be more pivotal to art history.

Meanwhile Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance is promoting the importance of women composers with a new initiative, Venus Blazing. Venus Blazing represents an unprecedented commitment by a music college to the music of women composers. Trinity Laban will ensure that at least half of the music it chooses for the multitude of varied public performances it mounts on its landmark Greenwich campus and in venues across London in 2018/19 will be by women composers.

[Image: Gnissah]

This encompasses over 50 concerts and opera performances given each year by the conservatoire’s large-scale student performing groups, with a particular focus on 20th and 21st century British composers, including Trinity Laban students, alumni and staff.

Performances will include a new production of Thea Musgrave’s opera A Christmas Carol, symphonies by Louise Farrenc and Grace Williams performed by the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra, an exploration of the music of Trinity Laban alumna Avril Coleridge-Taylor, and music by current Trinity Laban composition students and staff, including Errollyn Wallen, Soosan Lolavar, Laura Jurd and Deirdre Gribbin.

The title Venus Blazing is taken from the title of a violin concerto by composition professor Deirdre Gribbin, who also runs the Venus Blazing Charitable Trust.

Trinity’s Chair, Harriet Harman, says:

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance is strongly committed to diversity in all elements and it has a mission to constantly challenge the status quo. Venus Blazing is a great example of just how it can do this.

This celebration will encourage and inspire its students – many of whom will go on to shape the future of the performing arts – to engage with the historic issue of gender imbalance in music by women, and ensure that it does not continue into the next generation.

GDPR For Small Music Organisations

There’s a big change imminent in data law that’s been putting big business in a spin for months. However, many small organisations and individuals may not even be aware of it.

On May 25th, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will replace existing data laws. The GDPR is largely designed to bring data protection up to date with advances in data analysis and storage and the way that technology is used to sell us things. It’s designed to protect the rights and privacy of internet users in a much more relevant way, given advances in the integration of ‘online’ into every day life.

It’s easy to see how this doesn’t apply to your UK based music education organisation. Firstly, it’s an EU regulation, and we’re leaving the EU, right?

Wrong. The UK government has made it clear that the GDPR will be enforced, despite Brexit.

But you have a relatively small mailing list of members and you’re not sending constant sales emails or selling your list of email addresses to other companies. You don’t even keep it online, it’s filed in a cabinet.

It doesn’t matter!

If you hold a mailing list of any kind, the law applies to you.

The GDPR applies to ‘personal data’ meaning any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified in particular by reference to an identifier.

This definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, including name, identification number, location data or online identifier, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people.

The GDPR applies to both automated personal data and to manual filing systems where personal data are accessible according to specific criteria. This could include chronologically ordered sets of manual records containing personal data.

ICO website

Check out this video for a useful outline:

Should I panic?

This is a serious piece of legislation. The consequences for non-compliance are serious, ranging from compensation claims to fines of up to €20million and a ban from storing and processing data.

No. Don’t panic.

What do I need to do?

One of the biggest changes from previous data law is the emphasis on consent. You can now only add someone to your mailing list if you have their direct consent, which means they must opt in to receive your news rather than opting out of not receiving it.

In order to make sure your mailing list is compliant, you should either ensure you have opt-in records for everyone on the list, or ask people to opt in again. You can offer an incentive for them to confirm opt-in, such as entry into a prize draw.

It’s also a good time to reaffirm your privacy policy. Let people know what you use their data for, and that they can remove consent by unsubscribing at any time.

This is a good opportunity to reconnect with your mailing list, and to let them know their data is safe and that you are taking the new laws seriously.

Email privacy

It’s very common to see organisations emailing their members with all of the email addresses visible in the CC bar. It’s a convenient way to make sure members can contact each other. We’re all friends here, after all.

Wrong. Email addresses stored on your system should be held securely and not shared. To send emails which openly share the data of other members is a breach of privacy law. ALWAYS use the BCC line.

What if I work with children?

The law safeguards children’s data too. Here are the guidelines laid out by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) with regards to children:

  • Children need particular protection when you are collecting and processing their personal data because they may be less aware of the risks involved.
  • If you process children’s personal data then you should think about the need to protect them from the outset, and design your systems and processes with this in mind.
  • Compliance with the data protection principles and in particular fairness should be central to all your processing of children’s personal data.
  • You need to have a lawful basis for processing a child’s personal data. Consent is one possible lawful basis for processing, but it is not the only option. Sometimes using an alternative basis is more appropriate and provides better protection for the child.
  • If you are relying on consent as your lawful basis for processing personal data, when offering an online service directly to a child, only children aged 13 or over are able provide their own consent.(This is the age proposed in the Data Protection Bill and is subject to Parliamentary approval).
  • For children under this age you need to get consent from whoever holds parental responsibility for the child – unless the online service you offer is a preventive or counselling service.
  • Children merit specific protection when you use their personal data for marketing purposes or creating personality or user profiles.
  • You should not usually make decisions based solely on automated processing about children if this will have a legal or similarly significant effect on them.
  • You should write clear privacy notices for children so that they are able to understand what will happen to their personal data, and what rights they have.
  • Children have the same rights as adults over their personal data. These include the rights to access their personal data; request rectification; object to processing and have their personal data erased.
  • An individual’s right to erasure is particularly relevant if they gave their consent to processing when they were a child.

The law comes into force in just under a month. Take the time now to re-engage with your mailing list and assess your data and privacy policies to make sure you comply. There is loads of information on the ICO website, and remember, if unsure about any aspect of data law and how it applies to you, always seek legal advice.


How Should we Sing these Songs?

While planning a recent singing workshop, MWC’s Artistic Director, Maria, had cause to reflect on the names and lyrics of songs, how the meaning of some words has changed, becoming sensitive, controversial or unacceptable, and how some aspects of music might impact workshop participants.

Looking into the topic more deeply, Maria discovered examples that have created debate in the past. One such incident happened when Garry Martin, a headteacher in Melbourne, Australia, decided it was necessary to alter a word in the song Kookabura. His concern was around the phrase, “Gay your life must be.”

Mr Martin mentioned his decision to change the word ‘gay’ to ‘fun’ on local radio, and found himself under fire. He had been conscious that the word would potentially lose him control of his class: “I knew if we sing ‘Gay your life must be’ the kids will roll around the floor in fits of laughter … I wasn’t trying to insult gay people.”

Although Mr Martin’s decision was based on behaviour management, it raised concerns from gay and lesbian advocates who said it sent a signal that the word ‘gay’ was unacceptable.

Mr Martin later acknowledged that instead of avoiding the issue, he should have explained the meaning of gay as another word for happy, and taken the opportunity to educate the children that the term should not be used disparagingly.

Songs that use gay to mean happy or joyful are common. Jamaica Farewell, released in 1957, made famous by Harry Belafonte and covered by various artists including Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke and Carly Simon. is another example.

Down the way

Where the nights are gay

And the sun shines daily on the mountaintop

I took a trip on a sailing ship

And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop

 

But I’m sad to say I’m on my way

Won’t be back for many a day

My heart is down

My head is turning around

I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town.

So how should we teach these songs in schools, youth groups, holiday clubs and other community groups?

The setting can be very important, but should not be prescriptive. While homosexuality can be a challenging issue in some religious settings, the original meaning and context of any lyrics still stand. Approach the subject sensitively. Decide whether it is really necessary to change any words, and think carefully about your reasons for doing so.

Other songs that can raise challenges include songs that may cause children to remember abuse or trauma.

What Shall We do with the Drunken Sailor is a sea shanty dating from as early as 1820 which became popular among non-sailors in the 20th century. As a song for musical activities, it has easy words with lots of repetition, makes use of drone and is a good way to introduce the concept of work songs – songs that helped workers carry out tasks.

Children often find the idea of drunkeness funny. However, for participants who have experienced abuse from a drunken relative, this song could trigger feelings of trauma.

Alcohol is a topic that requires care in religious settings. The tale of Sinbad the Sailor, which makes a great basis for a composition workshop, features drunkenness, even though it is set in Muslim countries. Again, sensitivity and awareness are key. Any elements of a story that might cause offence and risk children losing the opportunity to participate can be removed.

Music that links to war can also bring up bad memories or emotions in participants. The Second World War has inspired many composers, with works including Steve Reich’s Different Trains. MWC’s Maria says: “Having studied the Holocaust at school, I cannot listen to Different Trains. I find it chilling, it literally makes me feel cold.”

As a teacher or workshop leader, be aware that music can trigger strong emotions, and this can be a positive or negative experience. When choosing challenging music, try to predict possible issues, and once in the classroom make sure you are hyper-aware of the body language and reactions of your students.

Race is another subject that requires thought. Some pieces of music might be worth listening to for their cultural context or for their compositional value, but be laden with difficulty. For example, consider how you would introduce Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. Is it best avoided, or is it better to teach the history behind the name? While it may be more comfortable to disassociate from this area of music history, this is a valuable opportunity to educate students and deepen their understanding. Instead of ignoring the piece, you can explain what it was about, and what ‘golliwog’ and ‘cakewalk’ meant. This excellent essay explains the racism behind the Golliwog Caricature.

Remember too that it is possible to be oversensitive. Teachers who changed the words to the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep because they felt the word ‘black’ was racist caused a debate about political correctness ‘gone mad’. In the case of this song, the sheep is black simply for the purposes of alliteration. Removing the word could send the message that ‘black’ is a negative term. It also gives an example of trivial political correctness that racists can use to criticise and undermine the very real issue of racism.

With many cultural items, things move in and out of fashion or are interpreted differently over time. Only recently, removal by Manchester Art Gallery of John William Waterhouse’s painting Hylas and the Nymphs, triggered by the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, sparked discussion about political correctness and the danger of censoring or editing art that does not conform to what is currently acceptable.

It’s important to constantly evaluate traditional attitudes and familiar phrases. It is also always possible, if you feel there will be a problem that might preclude some children’s inclusion, to chose an alternative song or piece of music that achieves the same result.

Every piece of art is a result of the society in which it was created. The challenge for music educators is to ensure the survival of great music while placing it in a context that shows sensitivity to the audience/participants and the works themselves.

Creative Subjects Need Your Support

The Music Workshop Company has been following changes to the secondary curriculum in the UK with concern, as the implementation of the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) results in a worrying decline in take-up of arts subjects.

We’ve been supporting Bacc for the Future – the brainchild of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). We spoke to the ISM’s Jessica Salter to find out how the campaign is progressing:

“Bacc for the Future calls for creative subjects to be included in EBacc and ABacc league tables, or for these qualifications to be replaced by a more rounded option. The campaign began in 2011 when the EBacc was first imposed. It’s now supported by more than 30,000 individuals and 200 creative organisations.

[Image: Tiffany Bailey]

The EBacc is a league table measuring schools by pupil performance in five subject areas. The intention is for ‘at least 90% of students’ (nationally) to be entered into the EBacc subjects, with only certain types of schools exempt. This essentially makes it a compulsory qualification for most school-age children in England.

For a pupil’s performance to count towards this new measure, he or she needs to have studied a minimum of seven GCSE subjects which must include English Literature, English Language, Maths, two or three sciences, an ancient or modern language, and history or geography.

If students are encouraged to study triple science and history and geography, this minimum of seven GCSEs becomes a minimum of 9.

It becomes clear looking at this list that the EBacc pushes creative subjects, like music, out of the curriculum and out of school options at Key Stage 4 (GCSE level).

The fact that the EBacc undermines creative subjects in secondary schools is a big problem. Statistics released by the Department of Education (DoE) in January showed an 8% drop in the uptake of creative GCSEs in 2017.

Add that to the 8% drop in 2016, and the figures are significant.

A recent survey from the BBC, which looked at 1,200 schools nationwide, found that 90% of these schools had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.

The ISM continues to meet with parliamentarians to fight the EBacc. We still need your support and encourage musicians and music educators to actively participate to help us. You can do this by writing to your local MP and the Prime Minister about why creative subjects matter in our schools.

To find out more and to support our Bacc for the Future campaign visit baccforthefuture.org and follow us on Twitter @bacc4thefuture.”

Read MWC’s previous blogs about the campaign:

The EBacc and the Importance of the Arts in Schools

The EBacc and the Arts – An Educational Paradox

Government Bulldozes on with EBacc Despite Evidence

The ISM was set up in 1882. Today the organisation supports a growing membership of nearly 8,500 professional musicians from across the music sector. Its members include performers, composers, music teachers, music administrators, music technology professionals and portfolio musicians. The ISM provides a range of services including specialist legal and tax advice, template contracts, comprehensive insurances, professional development materials and select discounts – as well as fearlessly protecting musicians, the music profession as a whole and the wider industry through rigorous campaigning.


If you would like to contact the Music Workshop Company to book one of our bespoke workshops, or if you have an issue, an event or anything music-education related you’d like to see covered in our blog, get in touch today, we’d love to hear from you: info@music-workshop.co.uk


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Debussy: Trailblazing Modernity

Achille Claude Debussy, or Claude Debussy as he’s usually known, was, along with Maurice Ravel, the most prominent French composer of classical music associated with Impressionism. Born in 1862, he died on March 25th, 1918, making this year the centenary of his death. His music is still incredibly popular, and ‘centenary’ recordings are trending in the classical music charts.

Impressionism is a term used to describe both music and art. In music, it indicates works that convey emotion, suggestion and atmosphere, using timbre (texture) harmony (colour) and orchestration (palette) in the same way that impressionist painters such as Monet and Renoir built an overall impression rather than a detailed realistic image.

Children on the Beach at Guernsey, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883

These styles were in keeping with the literary fashion of the time: Symbolism. Symbolism was a reaction against the grittiness of realism. It featured metaphor and suggestion. Individual objects were given symbolic meanings with the intention of representing ‘absolute truths’ that could only be described indirectly.

Debussy rejected the term ‘Impressionism’ when applied to his music. In a letter of 1908 he wrote,

I am trying to do ‘something different’ — in a way realities — what the imbeciles call ‘impressionism’ is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics.

In fact, the composer spent a lot of time, and shared many ideals with symbolist writers, including Mallarmé and Pierre Loüys. Although the label of ‘impressionist’ that was given him in a less than flattering way after he submitted Le Printemps to the Conseil de Art (it was refused by the Académie’s Secretary in a letter warning him about “impressionism, the most dangerous enemy of artistic truth”), he adhered more to symbolism than impressionism, and transcended both.

Debussy at the Piano

Debussy’s musical language marked the era of modernity. His focus was constantly on originality – a genuine trailblazer in the world of music. Experimental from the outset, he was also a brilliant pianist and a fantastic sight-reader. While he applied the techniques of the old masters, he pushed these to their limits. He used whole tone scales, pentatonicism, and unresolved dissonances by removing them from the tonal framework.

Travels to Russia in his youth had interested in non-European music. These trips possibly also prepared him for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, where he discovered the Japanese gamelan and Annamite theatre. By integrating these elements into his language, he created a sound that was previously unknown and was to spark modernism in music.

Russian music itself made a strong impression. Influences from late nineteenth-century Russian music, including that of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Borodin can be heard in Debussy. There was increasing cross-cultural flow during the period of the Franco-Russian alliance in the late nineteenth century, and Russian music was also performed and popularised by musicians including Liszt and Saint-Saëns.

As winner of the 1884 Prix de Rome with his composition L’enfant prodigue, Debussy had received a scholarship to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. This included a four-year residence at the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, to further his studies (1885–1887).

In his letters to Marie-Blanche Vasnier (a singer with whom he went on to have an eigth-year affair) he complained that he found the artistic atmosphere stifling. He didn’t enjoy the culture in Rome either. The operas of Donizetti and Verdi were distinctly not to his taste. He was often depressed and unable to compose. He was, however, inspired by Franz Liszt, whose command of the keyboard he found admirable.

In June 1885, he wrote of his desire to follow his own way, saying,

I am sure the Institute would not approve, for, naturally it regards the path which it ordains as the only right one. But there is no help for it! I am too enamoured of my freedom, too fond of my own ideas.

It was Debussy who can to some extent be attributed with the development of modern music in the United States in the early twentieth century. American music critics showed mixed reactions to the composer’s highly original harmonic language and style, but his modernistic musical language and symbolist ideals soon evoked enthusiasm. In the early decades of the century, Debussy’s orchestral music was championed more than that of any other contemporary composer by the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, and New York. His work is also thought to have influenced American jazz long after his death.

Debussy died of rectal cancer at home in Paris home at the age of just 55. His death occurred in the midst of the aerial and artillery bombardment of Paris during the German Spring Offensive of World War I.

His funeral procession passed through deserted streets to Père Lachaise Cemetery as the German guns bombarded the city. The military situation in France was grave, and the public funeral he would otherwise have received, with its pomp and ceremonious graveside orations, was impossible. The following year, his body was reinterred in the small Passy Cemetery  behind the Trocadéro, fulfilling his wish to rest “among the trees and the birds”.

Further Reading:

Debussy: The first ‘modern’ composer (a New York Times article by Pianist Stephen Hough

Five pop-ish musicians who owe a debt to Debussy 

Debussy’s influence on jazz

And check out our MWC ‘Debussy’ Spotify playlists:

Debussy’s Piano Music

Debussy’s Orchestral Music

Aiming High with the Opera North Orchestra Academy

Acclaimed for the high quality of its operatic performances, Opera North also boasts one of the country’s finest orchestras. The Orchestra of Opera North plays at each of the Company’s operas and regularly performs at concerts in the region. An important, and enjoyable, additional strand of its work however, is ensuring that the next generation of young musicians are given valuable support, guidance and inspiration as they build on their playing expertise.

This month, the team at Opera North share their vision with MWC…

Opera North Orchestra Academy is the latest in a series of Opera North Education initiatives. It is an orchestral training programme for outstanding instrumentalists aged 14-19 years and studying at Grade 7 or above. During a week-long residential course in Leeds, which will take place between Tuesday 28 August and Saturday 1 September 2018, participants will be encouraged to take their playing and performance skills to the next level, whilst also getting the chance to meet like-minded young people and forge some life-long friendships along the way.

Throughout the week, the Academy musicians will rehearse exciting orchestral repertoire alongside the full Orchestra of Opera North and benefit from sectional coaching with the orchestra’s players in a bid to develop excellence in ensemble skills and orchestral performance. Guided by the players from the Orchestra of Opera North, the Academy musicians will also be given the opportunity to rehearse and perform chamber music, enhancing their overall music-making experience.

This video gives some idea of the community-centric focus held by Opera North. Here, the musicians of the orchestra create a surprise performance for shoppers in Leeds…

The Academy residential will culminate in a public concert under the baton of an internationally-renowned conductor, giving the Academy players a glimpse into what it takes to stage a professional orchestral performance and the excitement of the event itself. Subsequently, the participants will be invited to take part in ‘keeping in touch’ weekends during the October and February half terms and to join collaborative projects as part of the Opera North Youth Company.

Opera North’s Education Director, Jacqui Cameron, explains the idea behind the project:

The Orchestra Academy Summer Residency week aims to give everyone who takes part a valuable insight into working and rehearsing with a professional orchestra in an exciting and supportive environment. We decided to make entry by audition only to ensure that all participants are at the best stage in their playing to take advantage of this opportunity and for us to tailor the learning precisely to their needs.

It’s perfect for those who are already members of their local youth orchestra, as well as for students looking for an immersive musical experience during the summer. We hope that, having been given this glimpse of what it could be like, it will encourage many talented young players to consider pursuing a career in music with all the rewards that can bring.

The Company is well aware that some young people can be deterred by the idea of an audition so the process will be made as fun and friendly as possible to try and keep nerves to a minimum. The audition day will be split into two parts with an informal workshop in the morning where the young musicians will play some orchestral excerpts and learn about ensemble playing, followed by an opportunity to impress in the afternoon. The latter will be with the same players from the Orchestra of Opera North who have worked with the young people in the morning, so the auditionees will be playing their prepared solos in front of a friendly face. Whether successful or not, everyone will benefit from feedback on their playing and will hopefully leave the audition day having found it a positive learning experience.

The Orchestra Academy joins Opera North’s acclaimed portfolio of youth ensembles for both young instrumentalists and singers of all ages and abilities, including Opera North Junior Strings, Opera North Children’s Chorus, Opera North Young Voices and Opera North Youth Chorus. The Company also runs an open-access Orchestra Camp in the summer for which there is no need to audition.

More information and applications (by Monday 9 April) for the Opera North Orchestra Academy can be made at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/opera-north-orchestra-academy. Auditions will be held in Leeds on Saturday 21 April.”

 

 

 


If you would like to speak to the Music Workshop Company about booking a tailor-made workshop, or would like to contribute your project to our guest blog, contact us to find out more:

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