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A Short History of the Piano

The first piano was made some time during the late 1600s or early 1700s by the Italian musical instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori. These early instruments were called clavicembalo col piano e forte, which translates as harpsichord with soft and loud. This description is how the piano got its full name; the pianoforte.

History

Descriptions of Cristofori’s pianos were printed in scientific journals in 1711 in Venice and later in 1725 in Germany. This led to Gottfrield Silbermann, an organ-builder and harpsichord maker, creating his own pianos. Silbermann introduced the instrument to the musician and composer Johann Sebastian Bach in 1730. One of Silbermann’s apprentices was Andreas Stein whose instruments convinced composers Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to move to the piano from the harpsichord. Experts believe that the pianos which survive from the 1740s were modelled on an instrument that had been imported into Germany rather than from the technical descriptions.

The strings of a harpsichord

Another of Silbermann’s apprentices was Johannes Zumpe. Zumpe developed the square piano (which was actually rectangular) in England. Square pianos were smaller and therefore more accessible than the early grand pianos, and examples can still be seen in stately homes such as National Trust properties in the UK. One of the most prominent collections of historic keyboard instruments can be seen at Hatchlands Park in Surrey. The piano was further developed in England by John Broadwood who invented the right pedal which sustains the notes. Broadwood made pianos for both Beethoven and Chopin. John Broadwood and Sons Ltd. still make pianos today.

A Steinway square piano

During the 1700s , the English Zumpe and Broadwood pianos were popular in France, but a French harpsichord maker called Sébastien Érard began making pianos. He also pioneered further improvements to the instrument. Érard’s company later made pianos for Franz Liszt.

In 1848, Heinrich Steinweg, a German piano maker emigrated to New York to avoid war in Europe, changing his name to Henry Steinway. Steinway’s sons studied science, engineering, music and acoustics. In 1854, the Steinway piano won prizes at the Washington and New York Trade Fairs. Steinway created notes on his research and developed the piano even further. Steinway is perhaps the most famous piano maker in the world and Steinway and Sons pianos are still considered amongst the best.

The mechanism of an upright piano

The Instrument

The sound of a piano is made by hammers hitting strings. This is the same mechanism as a dulcimer, and can be traced back to early stringed instruments. In modern pianos bass notes have one string, middle notes have two finer strings and high notes have three even finer strings.

Once the hammer has made contact with the strings, it bounces back to allow the strings to continue vibrating. A mechanism called an ‘escapement’ stops the hammer returning to the string. In early pianos, this meant it was difficult to play a repeated note. However, Érard invented a double escapement to make repeated notes possible. The piano’s strings are stretched tight by a frame. Under the strings is a wooden soundboard to amplify the sound.

A quick tour of the Bösendorfer factory:

Famous pianists and composers for piano

The first public piano concert took place in 1768 in London, performed on a Zumpe piano. The pianist was Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of J. S. Bach.

Mozart wrote 23 concerti for piano and orchestra during his short life. Beethoven produced five. All of these are still key works of the concerto repertoire. Like Mozart, Beethoven was a virtuosic pianist before deafness put paid to his performing career. He taught Carl Czerny, who is perhaps most famous for his piano studies, which many piano students still use today. Passing on the baton, Czerny’s most famous student was Franz Liszt, a composer who included the piano in every single one of his compositions.

Muzio Clementi is another key figure in the history of the piano, he was born in Rome, but spent much of his life in England as a pianist, teacher, composer, publisher of piano music and piano maker.

Types of piano

From the early days of the instrument, there have been different types of piano.

The two perhaps most well known pianos today are the grand piano and the upright piano.

Grand pianos have frames and strings laid horizontally, with the strings extending away from the keyboard. The grand piano comes in several sizes:

  • Baby grand (around 1.5 meters)
  • Parlour grand, or boudoir grand (1.7 to 2.2 meters)
  • Concert grand (between 2.2 and 3 meters)

The upright piano was invented in London in 1826 by Robert Wornum, who developed the specific action structure. Upright pianos became the more commonly owned version of the instrument as they were less expensive and took up less space. They were therefore more suitable for the home. However grand pianos remain the most popular for performances. They have better projection over the sound of an orchestra, and their shape is more conducive to recital playing and positioning on stage than an upright.

Grand vs Upright pianos: Why grand pianos are generally better:

Other variants of the piano exist. For example the player piano or piano roll was developed in 1863 by Henri Fourneaux. For a player piano to work, a pianist must first perform a piece of music on the instrument. A machine then translates this into perforations on a roll of paper. The player piano then plays the “piano roll” using pneumatic devices. Modern versions of this using MIDI and similar technologies are available today.

In the 20th and 21st Century, some composers began to call for a prepared piano. This is where a traditional piano is ‘prepared’ with objects. The objects, which include paper, metal screws and washers, are placed inside the mechanism and between the strings to change the sound. John Cage is perhaps the most famous composer for prepared piano. His goal was, “to place in the hands of a single pianist the equivalent of an entire percussion orchestra”.

As technology progressed, electronic and digital pianos were developed and remain popular today. These instruments have keyboards the same as a traditional piano, but the sound is made by synthesisers or digital sampling. The keys do not have the same weight and it is not possible to produce such a depth of sound and tonal variation.

The popularity of the piano

Pianos were a central part of many homes for over a hundred years. Before the development of the radio, record players, television and the internet, if you wanted to hear live music, you had to attend a public concert, pay someone else to play music, or to play it yourself. Examples of the importance of the piano, particularly as a mark of accomplishment and social status for young ladies, can be seen in Jane Austen’s writing, but people of all backgrounds and classes would enjoy social gatherings round the piano, whether for a singalong or a display of skill.

The piano proved to be particularly adaptable in the 20th Century as musical styles changed. The instrument remains at the heart of new genres such as jazz and rock and roll. Even the famous John Lewis Christmas advert focused on the instrument in 2018, telling the story of a little boy receiving the gift of a piano: That little boy was Elton John.

If you want to get started on the piano, check out our videos from MWC’s Matthew Forbes:

And how to read piano music:

Images thanks to Shayan Bemanian, Jason Zhang and ZU photography

Finding the magic in classical music through storytelling

The Music Workshop chats to Matt Parry, creator of The Opus Pocus on how to get kids to discover the magic of classical music…

“What is out there to help kids discover classical music? Especially at the moment with dedicated performances, workshops and group lessons so frustratingly put on hold?  

Of course you can just play this music to children, but getting them to listen to an entire symphony, for example, can be a bit tricky given its length and complexity.  This was actually the driving motivation behind creating The Opus Pocus.

We have had Disney’s Fantasia (1940), Peter and the Wolf (1936), Carnival of the Animals (1886!), Fantasia 2000 (2000…obviously, but yes 20 years old now!) and not forgetting Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1945) but to my mind there isn’t a modern, fun series dedicated to helping children discover the magic of classical music: a bit like how Horrible Histories has so brilliantly – and hilariously – introduced a generation of children to history.  (I should also mention BBC Ten Pieces – which is great – but I think falls more into the ‘education resource’ bracket rather than ‘fun series with a sneaky educational aim’ like Horrible Histories does.)

So that was why I created The Opus Pocus.  However there is one question we need to also address: do kids actually like classical music?  

We know that some kids do, having been introduced to this music through learning an instrument, going to concerts, listening at home and so on.  But all of them..?  Well here’s a bold claim: ALL KIDS DEFINITELY LOVE CLASSICAL MUSIC!  It’s even printed in bold so it must be true…

How do we know this?  Well it’s easy to demonstrate: just play them the main theme from Star Wars or Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and you always get an excited and delighted response.  I’ve done this hundreds of times in primary schools and it never fails.  In fact I’ve never seen a child dislike these epic orchestral scores and brilliant tunes!

Okay but is this definitely classical music or just some poor imitation?  I’m sure there are some classical snobs out there who would argue that these film scores don’t qualify as real classical music for some reason, but I honestly can’t see why this is the case. The music of John Williams, Bernard Hermann, Ennio Morricone is as beautiful, powerful and deeply moving as a classic opera or ballet score (which is probably their nearest equivalent of the traditional classical music genres) and indeed unquestionably established classical composers such as Shostakovitch, Prokofiev and Korngold themselves wrote film scores (for The GadflyAlexander Nevsky and Robin Hood being my favourite respectively!).

So I think that’s settled!  Great film scores qualify as real classical music, and kids love them… so yes kids love classical music – phew!     

Next question: why do kids love the classical music they hear as part of film scores like Star Wars and Harry Potter etc?  Sure, the music is great in itself but I would suggest the key thing here is how it is presented: as part of a story.  Humans LOVE stories, whether it’s a bit of local gossip or the multi-billion dollar film industry, we humans can’t get enough of them: I would suggest because they are key to our evolution as a social animal, providing so much ‘useful information’ about how to survive and thrive, or indeed warnings of how to avoid the opposite of this!

So the connection this music has to a story that the child is captivated by – and the associated emotions they experience – I would suggest is why children are so captivated by the classical music score too.  It certainly helps too that the story is presented as images alongside the audio. 

And I think that’s an important thing to remember too when trying to introduce a child to classical music.  It’s not always easy to retain their attention with an entirely audio experience but something with images can really help, which I think is the genius of Disney’s Fantasia: there were only images with the classical music, no voices (pretty much), but it was a brilliant piece of storytelling and very successful in introducing a generation to classical music, as many adults will testify now.  So it’s worth exploring both audio and audiovisual stories to help children discover this music – don’t just give up if they’re not in the right mood for just listening to something!

But of course, depending on a child’s mood, just listening might be perfect: bedtime, long journeys or just some screen downtime spring to mind.  We all need a bit of eye-resting audio time: think podcasts with a nice cup of tea… Not that I’m advocating giving children tea, but yes I am definitely advocating helping them discover the magic of classical music!”

Matt Parry, Creator of The Opus Pocus  


The first release from The Opus Pocus is out now: 1001 Arabian Nights starring Brian Blessed & Rory Bremner:  www.TheOpusPocus.com



Additional images,

Jonas mohamadi and Mpumelelo Macu

The Power of Music in an Isolated World

In this unusual time, during which every one of us is facing a new set of personal challenges, people are finding many ways to cope and to thrive. This week, the Arts in the UK received an unprecedented package of Government support, underlining the importance of music in our lives. As if we didn’t already know it, scientists say that music is helping carry us through the crisis.

In a blog for the University of Oxford, Professor Eric Clarke, an expert in the psychology of music, discussed how music has been a big support for communities. Clarke explained: “It’s very striking that, from early on in this serious phase, people have felt moved or motivated make music. Music is a collective experience which can overcome physical distance, since one of the advantages of the auditory domain is that physical distance doesn’t necessarily impede social togetherness.”

A 2011 Harvard Medical School article explored the various benefits of music including how “a 2006 study of 60 adults with chronic pain found that music was able to reduce pain, depression, and disability. And a 2009 meta-analysis found that music-assisted relaxation can improve the quality of sleep in patients with sleep disorders.”

In 2017 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, issued the Inquiry Report “Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing”. Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, said:

There is growing evidence that engagement in activities like dance, music, drama, painting and reading help ease our minds and heal our bodies. This timely report sets out a clear policy framework for the cultural sector to continue its impressive work in improving people’s health and wellbeing

The 2017 report highlights work across Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, led by Breathe Arts Health Research which brings music, dance and poetry into clinical spaces. This work has been found to reduce anxiety. The report also highlights that, “Children with additional needs are able to express themselves through music. The connection between music therapy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been explored since the 1970s.”

Music, Children and Young People

Back in February 2017, our guest blogger, Dawn Rose discussed the various benefits of music participation for children.

But even just listening to music can help with anxiety or depression as well as helping you to study, as discussed here.

Music is an integral part of life for many young people. It can help them express themselves and helps develop bonds between friends. As this article from the TES states, “There is nothing like music and art for sparking creativity, tapping into emotions and helping young people understand and develop their own life while navigating that of others.”

Music Departments in Schools can also be a key safe space for pupils to meet – summed up in this video 

So what?

Understanding the value of music can get us through challenging times. Here are some ways you can engage with your family or pupils using music.

  • Share your favourite music. Discuss why you like the piece of music, perhaps share why it is special. When did you first hear it? Did you listen to it at particular point in your life? How does the music make you feel?
  • Create playlists of your favourite music to go along with other activities eg hand washing in school, long journeys, chores at home.
  • Listen out for music on tv, in films or in computer games – how does that music make you feel? How does the music reflect what is happening on screen?
  • Pick a song and write some new verses

Images:Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash, Lorenzo Spoleti on Unsplash Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

A Vision for Digital Learning

The ongoing lockdown has pushed many music teachers to move their teaching online. But for one pioneering violin teaching business, online teaching is nothing new.

Simon Hewitt Jones, Director at ViolinSchool, which launched as an online violin teaching school in 2012, says:

As we move forward into September 2020 and beyond, ViolinSchool will be leveraging the power of digital technology more than ever before.

I believe that the pandemic has stripped away much of the mystique that perhaps surrounds instrumental tuition. The practical requirements of continuing to operate during such an extreme situation have forced everyone to question how they are delivering education, and why.

In a world where digital resources are so readily accessible, physical experiences such as concerts and printed books are more important than ever. Digital formats don’t replace physical formats, but each plays its role in enhancing learning, music-making, performing and listening experiences. Digital shouldn’t detract from what’s precious and unique about shared in-person events. If anything, the opposite is true.

ViolinSchool offers a mix of public violin-learning resources such as the Glossary and scales and arpeggio notation, fingering charts and audio, and materials that are exclusively available via subscription.

The two guiding forces behind the school are creativity and community. The method is designed with a holistic and social approach. ViolinSchool is research-focused and results-orientated. 

The vast majority of the school’s learning programs are anchored around three key ‘pillars’: music, violin technique and performance skills. These are underpinned by a meaningful knowledge of how to practice, and an understanding that performance psychology is an integral part of violin learning. Each ViolinSchool student has a clear understanding of practice skills, so that they can take responsibility for their own learning.

Simon’s vision for the future is optimistic: 

I think that it’s going to be a lot more creative, and a lot more focused on empowering learners. It will be less about following rules… and more about gaining a deep understanding of the fundamentals of music in a creative way and learning how to apply that on a musical instrument.

Ultimately, what we do always comes back to our raw materials – rhythm, pitch, sound, expression, and so on, and that’s not going to change whether we’re teaching in person in a room or digitally over Zoom. 

I think the key is to be flexible about how we approach new technologies, and always be ready to innovate and try new things. That way, we can constantly encourage creativity and curiosity in our learners, whilst opening their eyes to the fundamental principles of our art. 

That’s how we set free the imagination of the next generation of musicians. And that’s the future for which I’ll keep advocating!

Find out more

Interested in exploring ViolinSchool’s digital resources? Check out String Music or Tick Tock, Tock Tick.

Or you can sign up for ViolinSchool’s FREE Getting Started course (registration required).

Image courtesy of ViolinSchool.com

Jazz: the “Standard Repertoire”

Jazz standards are musical compositions that form a fundamental part of the repertoire and language of jazz. They are often performed and recorded, and are therefore widely known to listeners. They are also used within education to introduce key musical concepts such as certain chord progressions and modes. 

Most of the compositions that become standards have their roots in popular culture.  The 1959 song My Favourite Things first appeared in The Sound of Music, but it wasn’t long before jazz musicians began producing their own stylistically diverse versions of the melody. John Coltrane’s approach (1960) was to play extended modal sections around the tune with such high intensity that it turned into an almost hypnotic dance: 

Whilst Sarah Vaughn’s version (1961) was slow, mournful, and forced a new emotional twist onto the unaltered lyrics:

The original:

The majority of jazz standards originate in the first half of the 20th century. Each decade brought its own set of standards, and this can provide a useful snapshot of the changing musical style of the period. Here’s a whistle-stop tour through some of the standards that defined the first part of the last century…

The 1920s saw the beginnings of the Jazz age in America and the first songs that would become standards. These songs often contained simple harmonies:

Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin

Some interesting facts about Fats:

Fats Waller was kidnapped while leaving a performance in Chicago in 1926. He was bundled into a car and taken to the Hawthorne Inn, which was owned by the notorious gangster Al Capone. Waller was ordered inside the building where a party was in full swing. With a gun to his back he was pushed towards a piano and ordered to play. Terrified, he realised that he was the ‘surprise guest’ at Capone’s birthday party. Capone released him after three days.

Waller died on December 15, 1943, while traveling aboard a Los Angeles to Chicago train near Kansas City, Missouri. He was just 39 years old.

The 1930s is considered to be the start of the “Great American Songbook” era. Many of the standards from this decade came from Broadway, such as George Gershwin’s hit, Summertime:

1940s

The 1940s was the era when improvising musicians began writing their own songs. Theloneous Monk’s Round Midnight shows off the developing complexity of the jazz repertoire during this period:

Learning to play jazz standards

Learning a standard will help develop any student’s understanding of the language of jazz. The process goes far beyond scales, modes and chord progressions. Too much time spent on technical exercises without improvising on tunes can quickly become boring. Conversely, simply playing tunes without infusing the new vocabulary that accrues from practicing exercises can hold the student back. It’s a question of balance, curiosity and immersion.

When learning jazz standards, it is always helpful to memorise the melodies and chords. The act of note reading can interfere with listening and the intuitive improvisation process. The jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz suggested playing the melody over and over, embellishing it slightly each time. Eventually it will no longer sound like the melody but an improvisation. This method also gives the student the opportunity to experiment with notes that maybe outside the expected scales or chord, enabling them to begin to develop a unique style of their own. 

This blog is published with thanks to Ed Alton who furnished us with his extensive knowledge of jazz. Ed is part of the MWC workshop team.

Feature image with thanks to Mick Haupt at UnSplash


Black Lives Matter

Current events in America have shocked and angered the world. The distressing murder of George Floyd and the subsequent riots have dragged us from the torpor of lockdown and made us think about what we can do on a wider scale. Along with many music and education organisations, we at MWC are taking this as a wake up call to educate ourselves about race issues and improve diversity in our organisation.

We wanted to share some of the content that is helping us:

Clara Amfo’s statement on her BBC Radio 1 show is powerful –

Keith Harris OBE has written an open letter to the Music Industry stating “We have had many false dawns in terms of equality in the industry, let’s make sure that this is not another one.”

See his full letter here:

Bassoonist, Linton Stephens highlighted the importance of the work of the Chineke! Foundation in an interview:

For those, like us, who are learning how to be better allies, this is a helpful resource:

https://guidetoallyship.com/

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust works to support young people through the early stages of their careers, to overcome barriers to employment, and to avoid long periods being NEET (not in education, employment or training). Read more here:

www.stephenlawrence.org.uk

Arts Emergency are doing great work in helping marginalised young people overcome barriers to participation and success in higher education and the creative and cultural industries:

https://arts-emergency.org/

And this – taken from resources shared by the Music Publishers Association (MPA):

Easy Music Games For Parents With Young Children

If you’re looking for some fresh ideas to engage your children with music as lockdown continues, there are hundreds of wonderful free and paid resources online. We’ve already explored some of our favourites. This month, we thought it would be fun to share some ideas from our own Early Years Resources. 

These games are aimed at young children, and are for parents who may be struggling to keep their toddlers busy. They can also be used with primary-age children, and even played with the whole family. We hope you enjoy them!

The first thing to remember is that music making with little children is simple and should be fun. You don’t have to be a ‘good’ singer or a professional musician, or even know very much about music. You just need to have a little confidence and enjoy yourself.

Why make time for music?

Music games help to develop communication skills, physical coordination, confidence and expression. Music can provide a way for your child to learn new skills using play. And it can help you to relax about your own responsibilities, knowing that your child is learning without stress. 

How to get started

Music activities don’t need to be complicated. One of the easiest things you can do together is to put on a recording of nursery rhymes or children’s songs and to clap along.

You can use this idea to create other “body percussion” – stamping, clicking fingers, tapping knees, or using musical instruments such as shakers. This could also be a fun way to explore the sounds of everyday household objects. 

You could use this game to introduce the concepts of loud and quiet, using hand signals to show when the percussion is quiet and when it is loud. 

Your child will have ideas about which pieces should be loud and quiet. You can also encourage your child to have a go at “conducting” loud and quiet. We use the word ‘quiet’ instead of ‘soft’ to avoid confusion with the meaning in terms of texture. 

Developing songs

You don’t have to stick with the traditional version of a song – you can adapt it to make a game. For example, the song, “If you’re happy and you know it” traditionally incorporates different types of body percussion like “clap your hands”, “nod your head”, “stamp your feet”. This can be developed in a number of ways:

  • You can include different instruments – play the bells, play the shaker
  • You might introduce loud and quiet – play loudly, play quietly
  • You could change the speed – play quickly, play slowly

Once the children understand these concepts, they can be combined – play fast and loud, play fast and quiet.

Action songs

Action songs are a great way to develop co-ordination and musical skills. Popular favourites are The Wheels on the Bus, The Farmer’s in his Den, Ring A Ring A Roses, Incy Wincy Spider, Row, Row, Row your Boat and In and Out the Dusty Bluebells. Use your imagination or check out YouTube for inspiration.

Movement activities

Musical Statues is a fun game that is easy to set up and takes little preparation. All you need is a device that plays music. The leader plays the music and the players move around the room and stop, becoming a ‘statue’ when the music stops. Encourage them to find interesting ‘statue’ poses to add to the fun. 

This can be developed into moving in time to the music – a marching tune such as the Grand Old Duke of York, being a floating star for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Another game you can use is to ‘copy the leader’ in time to the music.  The leader (you) begins by clapping in time to a piece of music so that the children can copy. You could use a signal like a foot stamp to make the game more complicated – when you stamp your foot, the children should remain silent – just like Simon Says but without words.

Rhythm activities

Use a ‘name game’ to introduce rhythm. This uses several concepts including keeping time, keeping a regular beat and filling a gap in the music.

Sit in a circle, or opposite your child if there are only two of you, and clap a simple rhythm – clap clap rest rest, clap clap rest rest (When Maria uses this activity in workshops, she uses  clap clap knees knees or clap clap nod nod – as trying to keep the rests full length is tricky.

Once this has been established each person takes it in turn to say their name in the rest.

To introduce this activity, you could say a name in the first rest and ask the child to copy it in the second rest. If the game is a bit limited because there are too few of you, you could make a circle of toys or other familiar objects such as pieces of fruit, and get your child to name them in the rests. 

Listening games

The simplest way to approach listening is to play the children a piece of music then discuss what they think the music was about. Ballet music like Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker is good for this. Another approach is to engage the children by asking them to draw pictures of what they are hearing.

For an interactive listening activity you need a selection of instruments with 2 of each – such as bells, shakers and castanets. You could prepare these together, making shakers from kitchen items or using some ideas from our blog. Use your imagination! 

The leader (you or the child) hides behind a home made screen and plays an instrument. The other players have to guess which instrument made the sound. In the initial stages the children could match the sound with the instrument, as they become more familiar with the instruments they can match the sound to the name of instrument. You can develop this game by playing two instruments together.

Composition

Don’t be put off by the idea of composition. It’s easy to make a start and allow the children to explore their creativity. You don’t need to be a composer!

The easiest way to start this game is to choose a story that the children know and to create a sound track to the story. This can incorporate voices, body percussion and musical instruments. 

You can create sounds:

  • To set the scene – a forest, the sea
  • For each character – a giant would have a loud slow sound, a fairy would have a fast quiet sound
  • Imitating the sounds within the story – animals, cars, trains

We hope you enjoy trying some of these games with your children!


Images by: Alireza AttariKristina Paparo, Alexander Dummer and Victoria Priessnitz on UnSplash

EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

This month’s guest blog is from a new initiative called EMERGE(NCY) PARTY which launches at the beginning of May. The initiative is aimed at asking young people how the world could change for the better after the Covid-19 crisis. It gives young people a voice in the crisis, to protest, to share and to celebrate – an opportunity to imagine and explore a better future through art.

EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

The project is open to young people aged between 12 and 18, who are interested in making art/theatre/music/film, community organising, forms of protest or simply have something to say in the midst of the current crisis.

EMERGE(NCY) PARTY part 1 will take place over 15 weeks from the beginning of May to the beginning of August with weekly online Zoom sessions for participants. These sessions will take the form of discussion and making workshops, including a check-in about how participants are individually coping, a discussion around ideas for positive community action and a practical workshop on a particular art form leading to that week’s creative assignment.

Themes of these workshops will include:

Personal Storytelling, Creative Limitations, Interviewing Techniques, Portraiture, Art as a Form of Protest, and Community Art

Creative assignments will include:

Photography, soundscapes and field recordings, making and editing short films, writing, theatre making, song writing, painting and drawing

The participants will be offered a creative mentor in an area of the arts that interests them, in order to help guide their creative responses to the tasks.

The young artist’s responses to assignments will be hosted online, at WWW.EMERGENCYPARTY.ORG which will archive their collective journeys.

Part 2 of EMERGE(NCY) PARTY will move offline once social distancing policies are being relaxed. This will offer young people the opportunity to organise celebratory community gatherings where they will showcase or exhibit their creative journeys. These events will be a chance for the young people to bring their local communities together again after isolation, reflect on their experiences and share their ideas for positive local initiatives moving forwards. They may involve, for example, a shared meal, hosted talks, performed readings or songs.

Sixty-five young people are already participating all over the country from Aberdeen to Coventry to London and the project hopes to engage 60 more in the coming two weeks.

The project is FREE to sign up to. There is a suggested donation for those who can afford it. All donations will go towards the running of the project and all profits will be donated to YOUNGMiNDS: https://youngminds.org.uk/

The Team

The team behind EMERGE(NCY) PARTY are Bethany West and Barney McElholm (Assistant Directors, Shakespeare’s Globe 2019), Emma Stones (NZ Fringe & RA Lates) and Jude Shapiro (British Red Cross). The project was inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s impassioned challenge to the social meaning of disasters in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, which explores the social meaning of disasters.

The current crisis has radically and abruptly flipped the world for young people. They are being asked to make sense of cancelled exams, to accept that their teachers’ opinions will determine their futures, to cope with being separated from peer groups at a time in life when this is so fundamental, to live in close proximity to family at an age when independence is so important. And this is all a mere backdrop to the terrifying global battle between life and death; where their parents’ fears for their livelihoods and vulnerable relatives might, understandably, take precedence over the teenager’s stresses and anxieties

Bethany West, Co-Director EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

For too long our society has been built around supporting the voices of an aging voting population; making multigenerational decisions on Europe, the climate crisis and state debt. Triple lock pension increases holding hands with the cancellation of free school dinners. Young people have either been excluded from political discourse or worse, vilified by our leaders. We are giving young people a voice. It will be a voice of intelligence, ingenuity and hope.

Barney McElholm, Co-Director EMERGE(NCY) PARTY

Get Happy

Music is a great leveller. It expresses emotion and helps us to connect. According to psychologists, we listen to music in order to regulate our mood, to achieve self-awareness, and as an expression of social relatedness.

These are challenging times. Concert halls have fallen silent and we are all under pressure as work and home life is disrupted. For this reason, we decided to share some happy music with you!

Let’s start with an obvious one. Here’s Pharrell Williams, Happy.

And wonderful Judy Garland singing Get Happy…

How about Shania Twain’s Up!

A piece that always makes our Artistic Director, Maria smile; the energetic Festive Overture by Shostakovich

A beautiful piece of ballet music by Tchaikovsky, the Dance of the Little Swans…

Here are some silly songs to make you smile:

The perfect silly song, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins

Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Aretha Franklin – Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

As we appreciate nature more, Feeling Good sung by Nina Simone:

And of course, family and friends who will get us through this …

The Late, Great Bill Withers singing Lovely Day:

Friendship sung by Red Skelton and Lucille Ball:

And to end with, the song that has come to be the anthem for this time – Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz, sung by Judy Garland… There’s no place like home!

Images with thanks to Andre Hunter and  Lidya Nada on Unsplash.

Our Favourite Home Learning Resources

At a time when more families are engaged in home learning, the MWC team wanted to share online resources that might be useful over the coming months…

General advice on Home Learning

Home Learning UK are sharing their expertise – https://homelearninguk.weebly.com/

MWC’s Maria loves opera for so to find out the best places for streamed opera check out BachTrack’s list – https://bachtrack.com/search-opera/medium=2,3

Explore Folk Music from around the World with https://folkcloud.com


Singing

Need inspiration for some new songs? Check out Sing Up who are currently offering free resources – https://www.singup.org/home-schooling

For families who have budding instrumentalists here is some advice on specific instrument challenges:

Oboists – Parents guide to an oboists reed crisis! https://www.rachelbroadbent.co.uk/post/parents-guide-to-an-oboists-reed-crisis?fbclid=IwAR0b9FMcX8mnibH84EK3ARmwHEtxUmXslao0K2sQ1sPhqlFyUXTGrVe6WGk

Ever wondered how to tune a violin? ViolinSchool have a handy resource to help you https://www.violinschool.com/how-to-tune-a-violin/


Creative Activities

Keeping It Creative with Miss Hodgson – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC04w15zk1qpp1wMVxIUN_BQ/videos?app=desktop

The Roald Dahl Museum has great resources to help children develop their creative writing skills – https://www.roalddahl.com/museum/make-stories

Creative Boom have put together links to lots of fun creative activities at –https://www.creativeboom.com/resources/fun-activities-to-do-at-home-brought-to-you-by-the-wonderful-creative-community/

Felt Tip Pen gives lots of suggestions for Art activities – http://felt-tip-pen.com/art-teaching-resources-you-can-access-anywhere/

Get free ballet Lessons with the English National Ballet – https://www.youtube.com/user/enballet

If you are looking for inspiration for theming activities, visit Teaching Ideas for festivals and celebrations from around the World – https://www.teachingideas.co.uk/events/march

London Bubble have created a free Speech Bubbles resource full of activities for drama at https://www.londonbubble.org.uk/parent_project/speech-bubbles/

64 Million Artists are sharing a daily creative challenge, sign up at https://64millionartists.com/


Exploring Art

Have a virtual day out at the National Gallery – https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting/virtual-tours

Explore Tate Modern with Nick Grimshaw and Francis Morris – https://www.tate.org.uk/art/360-video/grimshaw

Visit the Vatican including the Sistine Chapel – http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/tour-virtuali-elenco.html


General Home-Learning Activities

BBC Bitesize includes resources and activities for children and young people from age 3 up – https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize

TTS are offering free downloadable resources for Early Years, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 –https://www.tts-group.co.uk/home+learning+activities.html

Robin Hood Multi Academy Trust has free projects for Early Years, Key Stage 1, Years 3/4  and Years 5/6 on their website. These are broken into weekly tasks. Visit their site – https://www.robinhoodmat.co.uk/learning-projects/

NASA kids club has lots of activities for children – https://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html


Languages

Duolingo is a free app that supports learning a wide range of languages – https://www.duolingo.com/

Rosetta Stone is offering free access to their resources for the next 3 months – https://www.rosettastone.com/freeforstudents/


MWC’s Artistic Director, Maria loves Reading and History, so here are some recommendations in these areas…

Reading

Audible Stories now has free classic children’s stories – https://stories.audible.com/discovery

The World of David Walliams is offering free audio stories –https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/elevenses/

Literary Shed + has free resources for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 – https://www.literacyshedplus.com/en-gb/browse/free-resources

Ok, it’s not quite summer yet, but the Summer Reading Challenge has lots of great resources – https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/

The Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival is an international online literature festival running from 27th March until 11th April 2020  – https://stayathomefest.wordpress.com/

And the British Library have great resources and activities linked to children’s books – https://www.bl.uk/childrens-books


History

Did you know you can do virtual visits to museums such as the British Museum? Read their top tips on how to access their amazing collection – https://blog.britishmuseum.org/how-to-explore-the-british-museum-from-home/

The Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin is one of Maria’s favourite museums, visit their virtual museum at https://chesterbeatty.ie/exhibitions/gift-of-a-lifetime/

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has more than 103,500 objects in its online collection – https://www.ashmolean.org/


Mental Health

And of course, supporting children, young people and their families with mental health.

We need to talk about Children’s Mental Health – https://weneedtotalkaboutchildrensmentalhealth.wordpress.com/2020/03/27/tips-to-share-with-children-to-help-them-cope-with-the-new-normal/


N.B. MWC is not affiliated with any of these websites. This list should not be taken as a recommendation for any products or services (and those featured should not claim any recommendation). All data and GDPR rules – and terms and conditions – should be closely scrutinised by schools and parents.

The images used in this post courtesy of Unsplash, by Goetz Heinen, Sharon McCutcheon, Dragos GontariuToa Heftier, Kelly Sikkema, Annie Spratt, Brett JordanNational Cancer Institute

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