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2013 Recap

We started the Music Workshop Company blog in April this year, and as 2013 draws to a close with end-of-term concerts, Christmas parties and New Year’s resolutions, we decided to take a look back over the last few months at MWC; and of course, a look forward to 2014.

Expo standMaria and Sarah had a great time at the 2013 Rhinegold Music Expo at London’s Barbican Centre, meeting clients and exchanging experiences and ideas. MWC will be there again for the 2014 Expo, which is on February 7th and 8th. It’s a great opportunity to attend seminars and workshops, and it’s a chance for us to catch up with participants past and present, to get feedback, and to help us develop our workshops. It’s free to register so come and visit the Music Workshop Company Stand and meet the team.

We’ve been developing our workshops throughout the year, and added some new workshops, including a vocal workshop for Black History Month. You can read about Black History Month, its background, relevance and musical significance, in our August blog. Other popular workshops we’ve looked at in the blog include African Drumming and Samba Music. We’ve run schools’ composition workshops, drumming workshops, world music workshops, and even collaborated with Stevenage Symphony Orchestra in an exciting project with composer Alison Wrenn.Goddesses

Here is some of the feedback we’ve received from schools, colleges and private clients this year.

“Very educational, hands on and kept children’s attention throughout.” Tony Tremelling, St Ursula’s, Composition Workshop, February 2013

“Very enjoyable and rewarding.” Gillie Pipe, Carers First, World Percussion Workshop, February 2013

“I was happiest with the creativity and fun aspect of the workshop.”Mohammed Wasiq, Cranford College, Junk Percussion Workshop, April 2013

“Many thanks for Saturday night. Both Chris and Maria were great and managed to get most people participating! It certainly broke the ice and everyone enjoyed it.  Thanks again, it was exactly what I had imagined.” V Williams, World Percussion Workshop (As part of wedding celebrations), May 2013

“I liked all the pieces that Matthew bought for the steel pans. I enjoyed working with him and the pupils all liked the sessions.  I learnt lots of new ideas that I will be able to use with the children.” Valerie Freeborn, Bensham Manor, Steel Pan Workshop, June 2013

“Engaging and enjoyable.” Rachel Brazendale, Gordon’s School, Junk Percussion, Samba & West African Drumming, July 2013Welwyn Festival photo

We rounded off the year’s blogging with some top tips on how to organise a Christmas or end-of-term concert. These tips are relevant to the preparation of any performance or concert, and we’ll be putting together an information pack with even more ideas. The suggestions in this pack are based on the MWC team’s extensive experience in workshop and concert organising. You can also read our advice on what to look for in a music workshop leader in October’s blog.

We hope our posts have been informative and interesting so far. If there’s anything you’d like to see in the blog, contact us with your ideas. Meanwhile, we’d like to wish all our clients, participants and musicians a happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year, and we hope to see you all in 2014 for more workshops, more music and more fun. Music Company

Drawing by Stickman Cards by Johanna McWeeney for the Music Workshop Company

Top Tips for Concert Organisers

As the end of term, and probably the end of term concert, approaches, here at MWC we have been thinking about exactly what it takes to make a great show.

You’ll be able to read all of our ideas soon in our new resource pack on concert organising, but for now, here are some of our top tips for a successful evening…

Welwyn Festival photoPreparation and Rehearsal

The performers need to know all of their pieces or lines, but make sure you don’t over-rehearse. Your show will be flat and uninteresting if performers (and staff) are fed up with the material before they go on stage.

Check that anyone speaking is facing the audience so their voice carries. Find a focal point at the back of the hall for performers to speak to.

Have a dress rehearsal. A run-through in performance order helps build confidence for the night.

If performers are walking on stage in a particular order, check they know which person to stand next to. Line them up outside the performance space and practice walking on.

Keep costumes, props and scenery simple. Don’t ask parents to supply costumes: it’s a nightmare for people who don’t consider themselves “arty”. It’s worth contacting your local amateur dramatics society, operatic group or theatre to see if they would mind lending you what you need.

Consider copyright and PRS issues. The music publisher can advise you on this.


What happens if your piano accompanist is ill on the night? Do you have someone who could cover or is it worth recording the music as back up?

Will you record the performance (audio, video or photograph)? Do you have the appropriate permissions from all the parents? Will you allow parents to record the performance or will you sell copies of your recording?

If you have an active PTA or other parent group, get them involved. They could make costumes, props and scenery, help backstage, sell refreshments or help with front-of-house duties.

ReedsThe Performance

A good front-of-house team is essential. They will be responsible for greeting the audience, directing them to their seats (the toilets, the refreshments) and stewarding in the event of an evacuation.

Whoever introduces the concert should announce fire and evacuation procedures. It’s also helpful to let people know where the toilets are, whether there will be an interval, if refreshments are available in the interval or after the performance and how to collect performers after the show.

If you have instrumental performers, make sure they have help tuning their instruments. Allow plenty of time to tune stringed instruments. Check that performers have everything they need; spare strings, reeds, mutes…

When performers aren’t using their instruments, they need somewhere to put them, particularly the percussion instruments which can make a sound with the slightest movement. Collect instruments straight after a performance (this can be worked into the staging) or organise for them to be put on the floor.

Performers should be encouraged to smile and bow after their performance. Practice this in the dress rehearsal. Bowing acknowledges the audience’s applause and allows the performers their moment of glory.

People who help with preparation, costumes, props, scenery, lighting, should be thanked. A thank-you card signed by the performers is a nice touch, and key supporters should be acknowledged before the end of the concert.

After the Performance

Make sure you’ve collected any equipment you need and that younger performers have all been picked up by their parents.

How will you celebrate the successful performance? An after-show party for the organisers, arranged by someone other than you, is a great way to share the post-concert buzz.

Good luck with your show!

If you have questions about any aspect of your Christmas performance, email us at info@music-workshop.co.uk and we’ll send you a reply. We’ll also share the questions and responses with others. Or why not join in our Twitter Q&A on Thursday 28th November between 4 – 5pm. Tweet us your questions @musicworkshopco and we’ll respond.


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