The Etiquette of Applause

It’s a question that comes up seemingly annually, often around the BBC Proms Season, it’s confusing and even controversial in classical music: when it the “correct” time to clap? The Music Workshop Company’s Founder and Artistic Director, Maria Thomas, shares her feelings about applause and its impact on the concert experience.

“Different styles of music each have their own traditions about when clapping is appropriate. In Latin American music clapping along to the music is often encouraged. In jazz is it usual to clap immediately after a solo and then again at the end of piece. In classical music, recent tradition suggests audiences should refrain from clapping until the end of the piece, signified by the conductor placing the baton down on the music stand, rather than at the end of each movement. The etiquette of clapping in opera seems to be particularly nuanced depending on programming and venue.

The topic of concert etiquette is so challenging it even has its own Wikipedia page.

Note that I mentioned “recent tradition” with reference to Classical Music above. In the past it was usual for audiences to applaud between the movements of symphonies, and if enough enthusiasm was shown, a movement would be repeated before the next movement was played. The response of audiences indicated to composers and performers the views of those listening.

[Image: Domdomegg]

However, in the 19th and 20th Century there was a move to restrict clapping so audiences would only applaud at the end of a piece. Mahler apparently specified in the score of his Kindertotenlieder that its movements should not be punctuated by applause.

The debate on clapping in classical music has been raging for decades. Arthur Rubinstein, the pianist, said in a 1966 interview, “It’s barbaric to tell people it is uncivilized to applaud something you like.” Alex Ross’s discussion in The Rest Is Noise gives a variety of examples of the debate.

Back in 2016, the Telegraph discussed the response to clapping in between movements at the Proms and reported that many regular ‘prommers’ dislike the habit, whereas Proms Director David Pickard believes it is a good thing:

If you’re listening to something and you think it’s exciting you applaud it.

This year the question was raised again by Chi Chi Nwanoku, double bass player and Founder of the Chineke! Orchestra. In an article in the Guardian, Nwanoku states:

I despair when anyone is reprimanded for showing their spontaneous response at the end of a movement, particularly a heady one that ends on a high… It’s absolutely fantastic to be on the receiving end of rapturous and spontaneous applause.

The Guardian’s letters page featured a number of responses to this comment, some agreeing with Nwanoku’s opinion:

It is intellectual snobbery at its worst to maintain that one must listen to the entire work in silence.

And some disagreeing:

The silence at the end was a profoundly emotional one. And it was into that silence that a small amount of applause broke the spell.

Those who support the idea of clapping in between the movements of a classical work seem to come both from both sides of the performance; auditorium and the stage.

As Nwanoku discussed, reasons for accepting that people will clap in between movements include cultural differences and the possibility that people might be put off attending concerts because they don’t understand the etiquette or are worried about getting something wrong.

As both a performer and concert-goer (including regularly as a ‘prommer’), I know what I prefer in the concert hall, and that is saving the clapping until the end. As noted by the Guardian letter-writer above, there is often a magical moment at the end of a movement, a short pause before moving into the next.

In a similar way, I find it frustrating when a classical radio station plays individual movements of symphonies. The end of the movement is reached, and if I know the work I am mentally preparing for the opening of the next movement when the presenter speaks…

I also find it frustrating in jazz gigs when audiences clap over the music to acknowledge a solo.

As one of the Guardian letter-writers acknowledged:

I would never be so rude as shushing those who clap between movements, but that doesn’t mean that I like it.

So is there an alternative way for audiences to show their appreciation? Orchestral musicians shuffle their feet when a colleague has performed particularly well. It can only be heard by those nearby and is designed to be a subtle movement and sound, but large audiences doing this would still break that magical silence.

How about adopting an alternative way of showing appreciation that is in use by many people already – the gesture of waving both hands in the air, sometimes called ‘jazz hands’ that is used by the deaf community and others such as those with autism. It allows people to ‘applaud’ without breaking the peace, and for those who do not want to be disturbed between movements, they can shut their eyes and enjoy the silence.”

How do you feel about concert etiquette and applause? Does clapping between movements bother you, or would you prefer to be able to spontaneously express your appreciation of a particularly fine performance? Is it elitist or respectful to follow tradition? Would worries about correct etiquette put you off attending concerts? Let us know what you think!

[Image: Niccolò Caranti]

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Higher Education: What’s Right for You?

Although the deadline for applying to conservatoires and music colleges has passed, the closing date for university applications through UCAS (UCAS.com) is the 15th January 2018.

This gives plenty of time for potential applicants to consider whether they want to study at university, and if so, which university and which course best suits them.

Alex Baxter, Programme Leader Music Technology Programmes at the University of Hertfordshire advises:

The best degree courses expose their students to the huge range of connected areas which make up music technology as a whole – including those that students may not know even exist when they start their course.  Industry accredited degrees highlight that the broader industry sees the course content as being relevant to current industry practice, and this also offers excellent opportunities for industry input, and live projects where students’ developing techniques can be applied.  Universities which foster collaboration opportunities between courses (ie music technology students working with film & TV and animation students) offer that great extra dimension, as does the opportunity to study abroad or take a work placement.

UCAS offer 1,763 courses with ‘music’ in the title. These range from BMus(Hons) and BA(Hons) in Music to courses in Music Production, Songwriting, Music Performance, Community Music, Music Psychology, Music Technology, Music Composition, Music Business, Musical Theatre, Commercial Music, Digital Music, Popular Music, Sound Design, Composition for Film & Games and Music Industry Management…

That’s before looking at Joint Honours Programmes: Music and another subject.

[Image: Emily]

Supporters of universities suggest that benefits for students include the opportunity to study an area of interest, meeting people with both similar and different interests, making connections with fellow students, lecturers and industry, and improving job prospects.

With current fees in the UK at £9,250 per year for many degree courses, plus the additional costs of study (text books, resources, accommodation, travel etc.), it’s important to consider whether university study is for you.

There is a big difference between studying for A-Levels or BTEC and studying at university. Although universities offer a range of support services, particularly for those with learning needs, university studies are much more focussed on individual study and research. This requires self-discipline and focus.

Choosing the right university for you is also important. Different universities have different specialisms and contacts within particular Industries or Sectors. For example, if you are considering studying Music Business or Music Industry Management, you may want to study in or close to London to take advantage of the opportunities in London for internships and attending Industry events.

Universities also have different ‘feels’. Attending open days where you can meet staff and current students and check out the facilities can help you get a good feel for each institution.

[Image: Ольга Жданова]

The teaching staff are also a key element of your university experience, so research the teaching team. See what research they have been involved in, what their position in the industry is and how active they are outside the university. Also find out about industry speakers and alumni. Developing your network while still at university is crucial to developing a career on graduation.

When selecting a university, key questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do you want to live at home or move away?
  • If you want to move away, does the university have halls and suitable accommodation nearby?
  • If studying music, what aspect of music do you want to study? What might you want to do as a job?
  • Do you want an academic programme or a more vocational one?
  • Do you want to study with particular tutors/lecturers?

Key questions to ask the University include:

  • How much contact time do you get on the course? What wider support is available?
  • What experience do you get on the course? For example performing opportunities, recording, managing live projects?
  • What opportunities does the course give for Studying Abroad or a Work Placement as part of the degree?
  • Does the course focus on a specific discipline or does it give you a wide overview of your chosen area?
  • How involved in the programme are named tutors?
  • How many students are in each cohort / class?
  • What jobs do recent graduates get? Where are alumni working 3 – 5 years after graduation?

[Image: Danchuter]

The key to finding the right path for you is in looking at the most important aspects of study thoroughly. The most important decisions centre around whether or not to go to university, which course to study and where to study. It’s vital to take time to visit any universities you’re considering, and to seek advice from family, friends and people in your preferred industry.

The author of this blog, MWC’s Maria Thomas, is a Senior Lecturer on the Music Industry Management course at the University of Hertfordshire. 


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Celebrating the Centenary of Two Jazz Greats: Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie

October 2017 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of two jazz legends: Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

Born 11 days apart on October 10 and 21, 1917, pianist, Monk and trumpeter, Gillespie, shaped the landscape of jazz composition and improvisation, each exploring harmonies with a complexity previously unheard in jazz, leaving behind an immense legacy of music.

Anyone familiar with jazz music knows the tune Round Midnight. That was written by Monk, as were standards including Blue Monk, Straight, No Chaser, Ruby, My Dear, Well, You Needn’t, and In Walked Bud.

Round Midnight, Thelonious Monk

Monk had an unorthodox approach to the piano. In fact, he was pretty unorthodox all round. Musically, his compositions and improvisations feature dissonances and angular melodic twists, which combined a highly percussive attack with sudden, dramatic use of silence, switched key releases and hesitations. The unusual contours of his music led the jazz critic Whitney Balliett to describe them as rippling,

with dissonances and rhythms that often give one the sensation of missing the bottom step in the dark.

Apparently, on one occasion, when Monk was a guest at a jazz class at Columbia University, the lecturer turned to him and asked if he would ”play some of your weird chords for the class.”

“‘What do you mean, weird?” Monk bridled. ”They’re perfectly logical.”

He thought of jazz as an adventure and was always looking for ways to use notes differently: New chords, new ways of syncopating, new figurations and new runs.

Personally, he was known for his distinctive dress sense – suits, hats and sunglasses. He was also unusual in his performance style. Often, during a gig, while the band carried on, he would stop playing, stand up from the keyboard, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano. He was frequently labelled as aloof, eccentric and weird, with even his son, drummer T.S. Monk, describing his father as an, “unusual guy”, while critic and writer Stanley Crouch called Monk “an abstracted stride piano player… he played it in a way that made it funny.”

As a testament to his musicianship and character, Monk is the second most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington. This is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed more than 1000 pieces, whereas Monk wrote only around 70. He is also one of only five jazz musicians to have ever been featured on the cover of Time Magazine, alongside Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and, more recently, Wynton Marsalis,

According to an obituary of Monk by John S Wilson, Randy Weston, a pianist who studied with Mr. Monk, called him: “As complete an original as it is possible to be.”

Alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Monk led a generation of jazz musicians through the bebop era. Dubbed the “The High Priest of Bop,” he refused to conform to expectations.

For years, they were telling me to play commercial, be commercial. I’m not commercial. I say, play your own way. You play what you want, and let the public pick up on what you were doing, even if it takes 15, 20 years.

Monk Performs with his Quartet in 1969:

By the 1960s, Monk had achieved recognition. He worked regularly with a quartet featuring tenor saxophonist, Charlie Rouse until in the 1970’s, his public appearances became infrequent because of illness. His last official performance was at Carnegie Hall in 1976.

John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, along with Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, ushered in the era of Bebop in the American jazz tradition. The youngest of nine children, Gillespie began playing piano at the age of four and received a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Noted for his trademark ‘swollen cheeks,’ he admitted to copying the style of trumpeter Roy Eldridge early in his career.

It was when Gillespie began experimenting with his own style that he eventually came to the attention of Mario Bauza, the godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz who was then a member of the Cap Calloway Orchestra. Gillespie joined the band in 1939.

The following story is recorded in Playing the Changes: Milt Hinton’s Life in Stories and Photographs, by Milt Hinton, David G. Berger, and Holly Maxson,

Diz’s music was revolutionary. Even back then he was playing way ahead of the times. But only a couple of us who had our ears open listened. I knew he’d take music to a new place. So did Chu, Cozy [Cole], and a couple of the others.

Diz’s biggest musical problem was that he’d try playing things he couldn’t technically handle. I’d often hear him start a solo he just couldn’t finish. Whenever that happened, some of the older guys would look over at him and make ugly faces. Cab usually showed the same kind of disgust and often scolded Diz at rehearsals or after a performance. He’s say things like, “Why in hell can’t you play like everybody else? Why d’ya make all those mistakes and have all those funny sounds come outta your horn? Play it like the other guys do!”

Diz would sit quietly, with his head hung down. He looked like a little school kid being scolded by the teacher.

Gillespie continued to develop as one of the founding fathers of the Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz tradition. Influenced by Bauza, known as Gillespie’s musical father, he fused Afro-American jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms to form a burgeoning Cubop sound.

He toured Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America under the sponsorship of the US State Department, frequently returning with new musical ideas, and with musicians who would eventually go on to achieve world recognition.

Dizzy Gillespie, On the Sunny Side of the Street 1958

With a strong sense of pride in his Afro-American heritage, Gillespie left a legacy of musical excellence that embraced and fused the music of Africa, the Caribbean, Cuba and other Latin American countries. He also left behind a legacy of humour and good will that infused jazz musicians and fans throughout the world with the genuine sense of jazz’s ability to transcend national and ethnic boundaries.

Dizzy Gillespie, Salt Peanuts:


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Handel’s Water Music – 300 Years in the Charts

July 17th 2017 marks the 300th anniversary of the first performance of Handel’s famous Water Music. The orchestral suites were written for a party on the Thames river in London, held by King George I, in 1717.

 

The music consists of the Suite in F major (HWV 348), Suite in D major (HWV 349) and Suite in G major (HWV 350). However, although many of the pieces became instant hits throughout London, none of them were published at the time. Extensive research by Samuel Arnold led to a 1788 edition of nineteen pieces that is generally accepted as the authoritative Water Music, but the original structure is unclear.

One of the best-known and most frequently performed movements is the Alla Hornpipe from the D major suite:

George Frideric Handel is known today for many compositions, and for his role as a court composer. Born the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, he is one of the foremost composers of the Baroque era.

But he should never have been a composer in the first place.

Handel was born at a time when music and the arts flourished only in the highest echelons of society. His grandfather was a coppersmith, his grandmother was the daughter of a coppersmith. Handel’s own father was a barber, and his mother was the daughter of a Lutheran minister. Handel went to the gymnasium school in Halle. A gymnasium in the German education system is a selective school for the gifted. The headmaster at the school Johann Praetorius, was passionate about music, but many of Handel’s biographers record that he was withdrawn from the school because his father was implacably opposed to music education.

In fact, Georg Handel was alarmed by his son’s interest in music that he took every step to oppose it, even banning musical instruments in the house and forbidding Handel from visiting any house where they might be found. There is a story that Handel found a way to sneak a small clavichord into the attic of the house, and he would steal away to play it when the family were asleep. This tale is unsubstantiated, but for the fact that Handel was able to play the keyboard well enough to come to the notice of Duke Johann Adolf, who on hearing Handel play the church organ, persuaded his father to let him have music lessons.

 It’s quite incredible given this unpromising start that Handel is still a household name.

His Water Music was written for King George I of England. It consists of three orchestral suites, and was first performed on barges on the Thames. Its first performance as an integral part of a massive Royal shindig, was reported in Britain’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant.

The party was possibly an attempt by King George to win popularity (for various reasons, including a serious economic crisis in 1720, his refusal or inability to learn English and rumours about the treatment of his wife, the King was not well liked), and he turned to Handel to help him impress.

In 1710, Handel had worked as Kapellmeister to the German Prince George; the same Prince George who in 1714 became King of Great Britain and Ireland. Handel had left Germany to settle in England full time, which had angered Prince George at the time.

However, the Water Music is said to have allowed a reconciliation between King George and Handel. It was rumoured that the success of the music enabled the King to regain some of the London spotlight back from his son, Prince George, who was throwing lavish parties and dinners. The Prince did not get on with his father – a resentment that possibly began when King George dissolved his marriage to the young George’s mother due to ‘abandonment’, which meant that the children never saw their mother again (though the King did his best to ensure that his son had more choice when he was himself to be married).

The Courant records that at about 8pm on Wednesday, July 17th 1717, King George I boarded a royal barge at Whitehall Palace, along with several aristocrats, for an excursion up the Thames towards Chelsea.

A second barge, provided by the City of London, carried around 50 musicians who performed Handel’s music. Many other Londoners also took to the river to hear the concert.

According to the Courant, “the whole River in a manner was covered” with boats and barges.

The king enjoyed the music so much, he asked the musicians to play the suites at least three times over the course of the trip, both on the way up to Chelsea and on the return journey, with the orchestra playing from around 8pm until well after midnight.

In 2009 the BBC aired a documentary showing an ambitious reconstruction of the performance, with the Water Music played by musicians of the English Consort in full period costume.


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Nursery Rhymes – Literacy, Imagination and Identity

Nursery rhymes are traditional poems sung to small children. They often contain historical references and fantastical characters, and many have been rumoured to have hidden meanings.

The earliest nursery rhymes documented include a 13th century French poem numbering the days of the month. From the mid 16th century children’s songs can be found recorded in English plays. Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man is one of the oldest surviving English nursery rhymes, first appearing in The Campaigners, a play written in 1698 by Thomas d’Urfey (1653 -1723). Interestingly, D’Urfey, active as a writer in the days when the term ‘wit’ was held almost as a career epithet, also composed songs and poetry and was instrumental to the evolution of the Ballad opera.

The first English collections of nursery rhymes were published before 1744.  Tommy Thumb’s Song Book and Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book included rhymes including London Bridge is Falling Down, Hickory Dickory Dock, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and Baa Baa Black Sheep; the very same songs popular today, nearly 300 years after they were first published. In fact they were probably sung for many years before publication, passed down in the oral tradition.

There is a lot of speculation about the words of these rhymes with suggestions that they refer covertly to insalubrious or violent topics. It is commonly believed that Ring a Ring o Roses is about the black plague that hit London in 1655, with the ‘rosie’ thought to refer to the rash that developed and ‘we all fall down’ (dead) being the result, but although this theory fits with the illustrative lyrics, there is actually no evidence to support this.

John Newbery’s collection of English Rhymes, Mother Goose’s Melody (or Sonnets for the Cradle) was published in 1765. This is the first record of many of today’s classic nursery rhymes. Newberry’s compilation seems to come from a variety of sources including drinking songs, historical events, traditional riddles, proverbs, ballads, lines of Mummers’ plays and even ancient pagan rituals.

The name Mother Goose is associated with Maurice Ravel’s piano suite (Ma Mère l’Oye) which was originally written for two children of Ravel’s acquaintance and subsequently orchestrated for ballet. The movements of Ravel’s suite relate more to fairytale characters such as Sleeping Beauty and Tom Thumb than to the nursery rhymes of Newberry’s publication.

There are rumours that Mozart wrote Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He didn’t. But he did write variations on a French children’s song, Ah! vous dirai-je, maman, originally an anonymous pastoral song dating from 1740. The words to the popular English lullaby are from an early 19th-century English poem by Jane Taylor, The Star. The tune has been used for other songs too, including Baa Baa Black Sheep.

Despite, or maybe because of, the lack of real historical clarity, nursery rhymes and their weird and wonderful characters continue to entertain. History and the role of music in society are undoubtedly interwoven in a fascinating way into the sometimes seemingly nonsensical words of the songs. Pop Goes the Weasel is a nursery rhyme and singing game, first found in a manuscript of 1853, which not only references a pub that still exists, The Eagle on City Road, London, the words were added to an already existing dance tune.

Considering elements such as the incorporation of a pub into this song, it does seem likely that many nursery rhymes were not actually written for children. According to Kay Vandergrift, Professor Emerita of Children’s Literature at Rutgers University, most of them were part of an oral-based society that relayed news, spread coded rumours about authority figures, and worked out its moral dilemmas in rhyme and song. Existing nonsense rhymes would be adapted to make references to current events. It was not until the 19th century and the Victorian romanticising of childhood the past that nursery rhymes were written down and presented in collections for small children.

The poems are inhabited by kings and queens, peasants and drunkards, historical and mythical characters from a wild, often rural past. They predate many of our modern preferences, yet they are still relevant to today’s children and parents.

The world that spawned the rhymes seems far away from our modern lives, but the reasons people sang nursery rhymes are still the same.

Why Nursery Rhymes are Important

The dish ran away with the spoon…

Adults instinctively converse with babies using a sing- song voice with short, repetitive phrases and long pauses for the baby to respond.

This ‘dialect’ can be described as musical in its characteristics of rhythm, timing and rising and falling pitch. The qualities for relating well to babies and toddlers are also the basis of music, a nice synchronicity, since music is a means for bringing people together.

The way in which parents interact with their baby is vital to the baby’s development. It has been found that mothers who are having difficulty relating or who are suffering from depression can be helped if they are encouraged to sing and play musical games with their children. The singing provides a framework to support the mother to baby interaction.

Nursery rhymes fall into two categories:

  • Lullabies – designed to lull a baby to sleep or soothe a fretful toddler, lullabies are an age-old part of childcare in all cultures.
  • One-to-one songs/play songs – more appropriate for older babies and toddlers, these songs. They are sung and played on laps, often featuring actions such as knee joggling, tickling and surprise dips and spills. They are mini dramatic stories full of language, excitement, anticipation and rhythmic movement.

They help infant development and family relationships:

They are good for the brain. The repetition of rhymes and stories teaches language and builds memory. Nursery rhymes also often represent a child’s first experience of literacy. Before a child learns to read, they can see how a book works.

Nursery rhymes preserve generations’ worth of history and culture. Familiar rhymes provide common ground between parents, grandparents and children, and between people who don’t know each other.

Singing is a great group activity. Singing nursery rhymes allows children to feel confident about singing and dancing, engaging them with music and building self esteem.

The moralistic lessons in some rhymes might seem important, but the main message of nursery rhymes is that they are fun to learn and sing. The supposed meanings of the songs and their obscure origins do not detract from their value – the words just sound good and help children discover a shared language, shared experience and a sense of a shared past.

Resource:

http://www.mamalisa.com has lots of great songs and nursery rhymes from around the world. Here’s one we use in our workshops – a Turkish version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm


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Myths, Fairytales and Musical Inspiration

The fairytale, a story featuring fantasy creatures such as goblins, mermaids and witches, often with an element of magical enchantment, derives from different stories passed down through the oral tradition in European cultures. As a literary genre, it was first identified by Renaissance writers such as Giambattista Basile, who collected and studied tales ‘from court to forest,’ published posthumously as Il Pentamerone, heavily baroque and metaphorical, and collector and writer of short stories, Giovanni Francesco Straparola. This idea of anthologies of stories followed in later collections such as the Brothers Grimm and One Thousand and One Nights.

Fantasy stories became increasingly popular during the 19th century, with authors such as George MacDonald writing tales of goblins and princesses for children, whose literature had previously featured heavily moralistic, didactic information.

Slightly earlier than MacDonald, one of the most famous fairytale writers was the Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. Born on April 2nd 1805, Andersen’s stories include The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, and many more. His stories foreshadowed other children’s classics including The Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh, and Lewis Carroll and Beatrix Potter later used the technique of making inanimate objects come to life.

Fairytales often have a dark, gory side, with emotions and morals identifiable for adults as well as children. It is over 200 since Andersen’s birth, but his stories, along with other tales of fantasy and witchcraft, continue to inspire writers, artists, film makers and composers.

Many pieces of music have been based on myth, folklore and fairytales.

Here are just a few examples of music that began life as a story…

Alexander Zemlinsky: The Little Mermaid – 1902-03

Zemlinsky was a prize-winning opera composer and a star pupil of Arnold Schoenberg. He was forced into exile by the rise of the Nazis. The Little Mermaid was the first in a series of attempts by the composer to grapple with his demons. He wrote the work as part of a personal process of recovery from a failed love affair – the woman he had pursued for nearly two years rejected him in favour of Gustav Mahler.

In Andersen’s story, a mermaid saves a prince from drowning and falls in love with him in the process. She goes to the Mer-witch, who, in exchange for her voice makes her human. But the mermaid is tricked into making a perilous bargain: If she fails to win the prince, she will die. The original tale does not have the same happy ending as the Disney film. The prince marries another. This story resonated with Zemlinsky and in setting it to music he was able to express his pain.

The Little Mermaid opens with a musical depiction of the first lines of Andersen’s tale:

Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it. Many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above. There dwell the Mer-king and his subjects.

The Mermaid’s theme is introduced by solo violin while the middle of the first movement portrays the turbulent storm during which the prince falls overboard.

Engelbert Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel

An 1893 opera based on the story of Hansel and Gretel from the Brothers Grimm collection.

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, Baba Yaga’s Hut

One of the most distinctive figures in Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as an evil witch and lives in a hut with chicken’s legs.

 Leonard Bernstein: Candide – 1956

Candide, ou l’optimisme (1758) by Voltaire, contains numerous references to the story of Sinbad the Sailor from One Thousand and One Nights, notably the underground river in Eldorado, where the book’s heroes are picked up by a machine. In his introduction to his work Zadig Voltaire wrote, “The story was first written in Chaldean, which neither you nor I understand. Later it was translated into Arabic to amuse the famous Sultan Ouloug Beg, at the same time that the Arabs and Persians were beginning to write the Thousand-and-one-Nights, the Thousand-and-one-Days etc. Ouloug Beg preferred Zadig, but the Sultanas liked the Thousand-and-One more. ‘How is it possible,’ said the wise Ouloug, ‘that you prefer tales which have neither sense nor reason?’ ‘That is just why we like them so much, ‘replied the Sultanas.”

Bernstein wrote his comic operetta based on Voltaire’s satirical novel with the libretto worked by writers including Dorothy Parker, John Latouche and Richard Wilbur.

Rimsky Korsakov: Scheherazade – 1887

Scheherazade is the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights. The tale goes that the Sultan, having found that his wife was unfaithful to him, resolved to marry a new wife every day, and behead her the next. He had killed 1000 women by the time he was introduced to Scheherazade.

In the tale, Scheherazade volunteers to spend one night with the king. Once in the king’s chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story. The Sultan lay awake, listening with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of the story. The king asked her to finish, but dawn was breaking, so the king spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night.

This went on day by day for 1001 nights and 1000 stories, during which the Sultan fell in love with Scheherazade and thus spared her life, making her his Queen.

Rimsky Korsakov based his famous symphonic suite on the story, presenting the ideas and characters as a kaleidoscope of fairy tale images and Oriental themes. As in Zemlinsky’s work about the tragic mermaid, the character of Scheherazade is represented by a solo violin, introduced and developed throughout the work.

Panic! at the Disco: The Emperor’s New Clothes

Reference to fairytale and fantasy is frequent in pop culture too, in computer games, TV series and even music video. This song by American rock band, Panic! at the Disco is named after a story by Andersen, though the lyrics and video don’t really relate to the original tale:

Do you have a favourite fairytale you could use as inspiration for a composition workshop? We’d love to hear how your favourite storybook characters and their adventures spark your imagination.

Irish Song – A Window on History

Irish traditional music has existed for centuries, with songs and dance tunes passed on from generation to generation through the oral tradition. This practice of learning ‘by ear’ is still common today. Despite the number of printed tune and songbooks, students of traditional music generally learn tunes by listening to other musicians.

The traditional music that developed in Ireland first arrived with the Celts. Until the last decade or so, scholars dated the ‘arrival’ of Celtic culture in Britain and Ireland to the 6th century BC. However, recent research has given rise to the idea that Celtic culture emerged in Britain and Ireland much earlier – in the Bronze Age – suggesting its spread was the result not of invasion, as previously thought, but of a gradual migration enabled by an extensive network of contacts that existed between the peoples of Britain and Ireland and those of the Atlantic seaboard.

The Celts were originally from Europe – countries including Austria, evidenced by rich burial-site finds, Northern Italy, and even as far east as Turkey. By the middle of the 1st millennium AD, with the expansion of the Roman Empire and extensive migrations of Germanic peoples, Celtic culture had become restricted to Ireland, the western and northern parts of Great Britain (Wales, Scotland, and Cornwall), the Isle of Man, and Brittany. Between the 5th and 8th centuries, the Celtic-speaking communities in these Atlantic regions emerged as a reasonably cohesive cultural entity, with a common linguistic, religious and artistic heritage that clearly distinguished them.

spring_hill_review_jan_-_june_1907_1907_14768255862The Celts were influenced by music of the East. It is believed that the traditional Irish harp may in fact have its roots in Egypt. In ancient times the harp was one of the most popular instruments. Harpists were employed to play for chieftains and to create music for noblemen. In 1607, native Irish chieftains fled under threat of invasion, leaving the harpists to travel the land as itinerant musicians, playing where they could. One of the most famous of these harpists was Turlough O’Carolan, a blind musician and songwriter born in 1670 who travelled throughout his life from one end of Ireland to the other, composing and performing.

There are several collections of Irish folk music from the 18th century, and by the 19th century ballad printers were established in Dublin.

Like all traditional music, Irish folk music has evolved slowly, and most of the folk songs around today are less than two hundred years old. Where the oldest songs and tunes are from rural settings and come from the Celtic language tradition, the more recent songs generally come from cities and towns and are written in English.

The ultimate expression of traditional singing is an old-style called sean nós. This is usually performed solo, or very occasionally as a duet. Sean-nós singing is highly ornamented, with the voice placed towards the top of the range. A true old-style singer will vary the melody of every verse, but not to the point of interfering with the words, which are considered to have as much importance as the melody.

Non sean-nós traditional singing, even when accompanied, uses patterns of ornamentation and melodic freedom derived from sean-nós singing. It also uses a similar voice placement. This song from the Irish band Altan shows a more modern take on the traditional style.

Caoineadh is Irish for a lament. There are many laments in the Irish song repertoire, expressing sorrow and pain, often of a person lamenting for Ireland itself, having been forced to emigrate due to political or financial reasons. Laments were also used to express loss of a loved one or have their roots in war or the various economic crises caused by both partition and war. This song, Far Away in Australia, is a lament as an Irishman leaves home to seek better fortune, but like many Irish ballads is imbued with hope for the future.

The song, Mo Ghile Mear, written by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill, is a lament of the Gaelic goddess Éire for Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was in exile.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley relates to the Irish Rebellion of 1778. Written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836-1883), it expresses a young man’s sadness at leaving his lover to join the United Irishmen, a sorrow that is cut short when she is killed by an English bullet

Other aspects of Ireland’s history are found in popular songs such as Whiskey in the Jar, which tells of the betrayal of highwayman Patrick Flemmen who was executed in 1650. This ballad became a signature song for The Dubliners in the 1960s and was even recorded by Thin Lizzy and Metallica.

If you would like more information about our Irish song workshops, contact the Music Workshop Company today.

Looking Forward to 2017

david_bowie_-_toppop_1974_10As the year draws to a close, it’s a time to reflect on 2016 and to look forward to the New Year. 2016 has seen the deaths of many true music legends – popular musicians including Prince, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, and over Christmas, George Michael and Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt. It has been a tough year in music education and the music industry too, with the ISM struggling to get a response to its Bacc for the Future Campaign and the anxiety caused by the Brexit vote.

Anniversaries

To start 2017 on a positive note there are opportunities to look back at the contributions of musicians over the centuries. The New Year marks the centenaries of Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, two monumentally influential jazz musicians. Both Monk and Gillespie were born in October 2017. Monk was the most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington while Gillespie is recognised as one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all time, and teacher to other great musicians including Miles Davis. An October celebration of these two kings of jazz could make a great focus for Black History Month. Look out for our blog about these great musicians later in the year…

Another renowned African American musician, Scott Joplin was born 150 years ago this year, and 2017 also marks the centenary of his death. Joplin died in tragic circumstances aged only 49, but his reputation as a pianist and his role in popularising Ragtime music mean he is still well known today.

department_store_ukulele_adIt is 350 years since the birth of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi. Monteverdi was a key figure in the transition between the Renaissance and Baroque periods in music history. His opera, L’Orfeo, is the oldest surviving opera still regularly performed.

It is 50 years since the death of Hungarian composer and music edu
cator, Zoltán Kodály, who popularised the sol-fa method of vocal training, making music learning accessible to children of all backgrounds. Read more about the use of sol-fa in our blog Sol-Fa – Singing Through the Ages.

And it’s 100 years since that most popular of instruments, the ukulele, was patented by the Honolulu Ad Club!

Events

The Youth Music Give a Gig extravaganza will take place in March 2017. The Give a Gig Week will run from March 24 to 31, aiming to raise funds for Youth Music. Youth Music is asking musicians to organise concerts and events to raise money with artists including Liam Gallagher and Tom Odell already on board.

The UK’s biggest music education event, Rhinegold Music and Drama Education Expo, will take place in London on the 9th and 10th of February 2017. The Expo is a chance to network and get up to date with other music education professionals, and to take part in workshops, conference talks and CPD. Registration is already open online. And Rhinegold is launching an exciting new event in Manchester on October 4th, the Music and Drama Education Expo, for teachers of music and performing arts.

And finally, the 10th International Conference for Research in Music Education will be held at Bath Spa University between April 18th and 22nd, 2017.

The Conference website states:

The aim of the conference is to gather together researchers, teachers and practitioners to share and discuss research that is concerned with all aspects of teaching and learning in music: musical development, perception & understanding, creativity, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum design, informal settings, music for special needs, technologies, instrumental teaching, teacher education, gender and culture. Music education is also viewed in the context of arts education, the whole curriculum and its sociocultural contexts.

Whatever your area of music education there are many exciting events taking place next year. If you’d like to let us know about an event, or to feature your event in a guest blog for the Music Workshop Company, feel free to contact us or to tell us about it in the comments below. The Music Workshop Company team wish you a happy, successful and musical New Year.

 

From Small Beginnings to Big Impact Learning

6082091This month marks the 14th birthday of the Music Workshop Company. To celebrate, Maria Thomas, Founder and Artistic Director, tells us about her inspiraton, highlights and vision for the future. Alongside her work at MWC, Maria is Programme Leader for the Music Industry Management Programme at the University of Hertfordshire. Her specialism is entrepreneurship and small business.

Why music?

“Both my parents are music teachers and keen semi-professional musicians, so I was introduced from music from a very young age. I learnt to read music when I learnt to read words, and played recorder and piano from the age of 3. I took up the oboe when I was 9: I wanted to play the trombone but my arms weren’t long enough! The oboe gave me the opportunity to play regularly in a fabulous range of ensembles including orchestras and wind bands. When I was about 14, the music service had vacancies for bassoon players and saxophone players. I looked into playing bassoon, my arms still weren’t long enough! So I took up saxophone alongside oboe, recorder and piano.”

Beginnings…

200-0-706-0-6469-10000-1243-2“I studied oboe at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban) on what had been called the BMus Plus course, which offered students the chance to tailor their studies to their interests. We were introduced to workshop skills in our first year and I loved visiting schools working with children on performance and composition. I was very lucky to have an inspirational workshop skills tutor, Kate Buchanan, who encouraged me and allowed me to sit in on workshops she was leading. Whilst at College I had vague ideas of working with other musicians to run workshops, but I never thought I’d end up setting up and running a business!

I loved visiting schools working with children on performance and composition

In my final term at Trinity, Kate told me about an internship opportunity that was being advertised through the Education Department at The Royal Opera House. As a big opera fan, I applied immediately. The job was in the Orchestra Office and after a summer of interning, I was able to join the team in a full time role, working with the orchestra, stage bands, as well as co-ordinating auditions, chamber music concerts and Health and Safety.

While I was at the Opera House I began to think seriously about the idea of setting up a kind of agency supplying workshops to schools. I knew teachers who were keen to have workshops but didn’t always know what would work for them, or which musicians would be best, and I knew lots of musicians who were running inspiring workshops. So I left the Opera House to set MWC up as a bridge between the two.”

The idea…

“One thing I was keen to do was to create the projects that schools wanted. Other workshops organisations who were around at the time each had one specialism – one would feature singing, another African drumming – I wanted MWC to be able to offer a wide range of projects that could be tailored exactly to the school’s need.

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At the beginning I really didn’t know much about running a business, and although I was lucky enough to have support from my local Enterprise Agency with advice on contracts and general marketing, they didn’t know the specifics of working in Arts Education. I wish I had known more about running a business before I launched MWC, that’s why I’m so passionate about my work at the University. It’s very full on, and I try to ensure that my students know both the real life challenges and benefits of running their own business. I have learnt a great deal through trial and error.”

Growing the business…

“Our initial market was schools as that is where my experience lay, but since launching we have worked with a wide range of organisations such as community groups, event managers, businesses and Universities.

The growth into areas such as community groups and businesses was not something I originally planned, but we have worked with a great range of people from Brownie camps in Lancashire to businesses in Southampton. The team has grown: What started with just me in the office and a team of 5 musicians is now a business with up to 4 people in the office and 40 musicians!”

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The future of music…

“I am passionate about access to music for everyone and schools offer a great opportunity to give children and young people the chance to actively take part in music making. We hope to inspire people to follow up their MWC experience through school or online resources. One of my favourite experiences is when we run open workshops in venues such as shopping centres. Children have the chance to show parents the rhythms they have learnt at school or adults come and join in having not played an instrument since they were at school.

I believe that Music and the Arts should be an integral part of education at all levels

I believe that Music and the Arts should be an integral part of education at all levels. So many skills are developed: Team work, performance skills, motor skills, language skills and confidence… So much research shows that access to the Arts is a vital part of life, we need to do everything we can to widen access both in schools and out.”

The vision…

“MWC visits a wide range of schools, many of which are doing great work at engaging children and young people with music and see it as an important part of school life. few see a one-off workshop as their obligation to music completed, which I think is very sad.

maria-djembeMy hope for music education is that it is compulsory for all schools to engage with music up to Year 10 and that students are encouraged and supported to take part in musical activities post Year 10, whether that be playing in a band, attending concerts or just playing for their own pleasure.

I hope that MWC inspires participants, through exposing them to new genres of music or inspiring them with our talented workshop leaders who bring their performing expertise to the workshops. I’m also keen to develop MWC’s online learning resources. The archives of blogs, articles and Top Tips are growing but we have plans to develop this further with more teaching resources.”

The inspiration…

“I love everything about running music workshops! I enjoy liaising with the clients to find out what it is they are looking for and leading a workshop, but my favourite moment is when the participants perform the piece they have been working on whether it’s an informal performance at the end of the session or a performance in a school assembly. Seeing the development from a group who may never have seen that particular instrument through to an ensemble that can perform a piece is something I find hugely rewarding.

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I also love returning to work with the same group over time. One of the groups I have worked with is a local adult Mencap Group. I’ve been running workshops for them since 2007 and have got to know the members really well. It’s great to repeat their favourite activities alongside introducing them to new instruments and rhythms.”

About MWC…

The Music Workshop company (MWC) aims to supply high quality, bespoke, interactive and fun workshops to clients. We aim to supply the workshop on the date of choice and follow the timetable of choice. We can create a workshop that is just for fun such as for Arts Week or Cultural Week or meet specific outcomes such as preparing for a performance, linking to GCSE / A-Level set works. This can be a challenge as if people haven’t had workshops before they don’t know what to ask for – or they have had a workshop in the past and want an exact replica and we might supply something slightly different.

 

The Best of the Guest

As we regroup for the start of the new term and a new academic year, we thought it would be interesting to look back over some of our recent guest blogs. This year we’ve been privileged to be able to share forward-looking contributions and ideas from exam board AQA, the ROH Bridge Project, Alex Stevens of Rhinegold Publishing and Handel and Hendrix in London among many others. Our guest bloggers continue to inform and inspire, enriching our view of music education.

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Updates from AQA

In July 2016, Sarah Perryman, Music Qualifications Developer at AQA, wrote for us, sharing the many updates and new online resources in the run up to the first year teaching the revised music A and AS Levels and GCSEs. These resources are relevant whether or not you teach with AQA, and are a great way to develop your students’ understanding of the subject. If you’d like some ideas to help with your new-term lesson planning, check out Sarah’s blog here>> 

Handel and Hendrix

One exciting musical highlight of the upcoming term is October’s Black History Month – carte blanche to explore many wonderful genres of music and outstanding musicians from African, African-American and Caribbean cultures. Jimi Hendrix was one such influential African-American musician, and a new exhibition celebrating his life opened in February 2016.

6. The main room of 23 Brook Street

Hendrix, known as one of the greatest instrumentalists in rock history, was inspired by Rock and Roll and electric blues genres, and he influenced other iconic musicians such as Prince. The London flat where he lived in 1966 is directly next door to Handel House, motivating Handel House Museum to develop an exploration of the two musicians, separated by only one wall and 200 years of history. Check out the guest blog and the learning resources at Handel Hendrix for inspiration.

Shakespeare Anniversary

Another fascinating window on society was provided by historic performance specialist, Emily Baines, in a blog celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of playwright, William Shakespeare.

The music and stage directions in Shakespeare’s plays offer an opportunity to creatively explore ideas of drama in music and how music reflects society and current affairs. Have a look at Emily’s blog here >>

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The Rhinegold Music Education Expo

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We were lucky enough to hear from Rhinegold’s Alex Stevens in the run up to the 2016 Music Education Expo. Alex gave us some insight into the planning of one of the UK’s biggest Music Education events. Visit the 2017 website to register for the next Expo, which will take place on February 9th and 10th 2017.

Other Highlights, valuable for students on their journeys forward, included advice from Martin Lumsden of Cream Room Recording Studios on making an album, and a detailed look at the BA(Hons) Music Industry Management degree at the University of Hertfordshire with MWC’s Maria Thomas

We’d like to thank all of the contributors to our guest blog so far and look forward to sharing some new, exciting posts with you in the new school year! And if you’re involved in music education and would be interested in writing a blog for us, we’d be delighted to hear from you. 

 

 

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