Post-Christmas Blues

Year 9 have had the blues since coming back to school after Christmas. They have looked at the origins and development of blues music and focused on the chord structure as well as identifying ‘blue’ notes and a walking bass line. After listening to some early blues by Robert Johnson and a blues standard, ‘Everyday I have the blues’, performed by B. B. King, they embarked on their own blues pieces. There are two examples of their work below – the first is a live performance combining a digital drum kit and a drum kit created through Logic Pro and played on a midi keyboard. The second was created on GarageBand and could be described as blues with a psychedelic twist!


Shaping music

So far this term Year 8 have been looking at the concept of structure in music and how composers of all genres and styles give a shape to their work. We have focused most recently on ternary form, otherwise known as ABA form, where there is a middle section which provides a contrast with the outer A sections. Most memorably for Year 8 ternary form can be likened to a jammy dodger biscuit with its contrasting filling sandwiched between two biscuits and of course, in the name of hands on learning, we had to sample a few of these just to be sure!
Here is piece in ternary form which two students composed and performed live to the class:

Cyberbullying awareness concert

Students at Sancton Wood were treated to an interactive concert given by upcoming pop star Josh Davis and his guitarist, Harrison. They have been touring the country performing in schools and talking to students about the importance of internet safety. Josh has just signed a deal with The Famous Company to create an EP of original material has performed at a number of events across the UK, most recently supporting former X Factor winner Ben Haenow. His voice has been hailed as the UK’s next Justin Bieber.
Our students were in good voice too on Friday afternoon, as you will hear in the clips below!

Cabaret Evening

The Cabaret Evening showcased talent in the performing arts from Year 8 through to Year 11, not forgetting our lovely poetry reading quartet of Year 5 and 6 students who extolled the benefits of music and drama in verse they had written themselves. For Year 10s and 11s it was an opportunity to air examination material – drama students performed their monologues and music students performed some of their solo and ensemble pieces. Year 8 and 9 students auditioned to provide supporting acts and it was really exciting to see the performing potential already developing amongst the younger years.
We can’t show the monologues as they are coursework submissions but, suffice it to say, there were some stunning and tear-jerking performances. Below you can find musical highlights from the evening as well as some rehearsal clips from the day.

Feeling Good, performed by our Year 11 band who have been playing together since the end of Year 8

Composed and performed by Oscar and James in Year 11

God Help the Outcast, sung by Jessica in Year 11

I see Fire, chosen and sung by Fraser in Year 8

Blackbird, played by Oscar (Yr11) and a budding new band in the form of Year 8 boys singing Locked Away

The Power of Love, chosen and sung by Phoebe and Sapphire (Year 9)

Asturias by Albeniz, performed by James in Year 11

Martha and Rose in Year 8 performing a piano duet

Chopin Waltz performed by Toby in Year 11

Senior Choir, A Thousand Years

Music on the hoof

Year 9 are trying their hand at improvisation which the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines as ‘the extemporaneous composition or free performance of a musical passage, usually in a manner conforming to certain stylistic norms but unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text’. Interesting that musical text or notation should be, by implication, restrictive and perhaps curbing creativity.

This is what one group have put together so far – the first piece you will recognise as a version of Seven Nation Army but the second is all theirs and most definitely ‘unfettered by the prescriptive features of a specific musical text’.

Sound into music

Year 9’s skirmish with experimental music continues as they explore music concrete. This took off with the invention and development of recording techniques in the 1950s which opened a whole new world to composers, a world which we 21st century-ites take for granted. Music concrete takes raw sounds and then manipulates and combines them into a musical composition.

The students’ first task was to collect a bank of sound samples using the Sampler in GarageBand. They then had to work out how they wanted to manipulate and combine them to create a piece of music. A lot of imaginative work went into this and you can hear some of the results of their labours below:

This piece combines samples and pre-composed loops – spot the topical content of one of their samples!

This is an imaginative remake of a song by The White Stripes in which the students use samples of their voices to realise the parts:

This, at times quite terrifying, piece uses a mixture of vocal samples and sounds recorded from around the school:

Transported to the Caribbean

Prep students and staff were transported to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago in assembly on Friday when Homerton’s steel pan band came to visit. Absolute Pandemonium was formed in the 1980s and is a student run band which plays regularly for schools as well as May Balls and other engagements.

Traditionally, steel pans were made from the oil drums left behind by the US army after the 2nd World War. They come in all sizes – the shallower the pan the higher the pitch. After heating to a high temperature, the top is hammered to produce indentations which give pitched notes when struck with rubber tipped sticks.


After performing in assembly, including a foot tapping arrangement of Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’, the band ran a workshop for anyone who wanted to get their hands on a steel pan. All sorts of latent talent was discovered as the Homerton students taught ours to play.

You can see some action packed photos from the workshop below:img_0803









Ode to Joy

What makes a good melody? This is a question Year 8 have been trying to answer by looking at a range of different, well known melodies, including the theme tune from The Apprentice (otherwise known as ‘Dance of the Knights’ by Prokofiev). The students teased out the musical features of this melody as well as the theme from Swan Lake and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, by analysing the rhythm, movement by step or by leap, use of repetition and overall structure. After watching an excellent flashmob performance of this in Sabadell plaza, Catalonia, they all learnt to play the Ode to Joy melody.

You can watch the fruits of their labour below (and it’s worth knowing that only two of the students performing in this short clip are having formal piano lessons):

Take a chance – Aleatory music

Year 9 were faced with the musical uncertainties of interpreting an aleatory score where key decisions affecting timbre, harmony and pitches are left up to the performer. Here’s the score they were all working on:

They came up with widely differing versions of the piece and definitely put their own stamp on it. Every one had a distinct character and was musically convincing in its own way. You can listen to a sample of their work below:

Look, no instruments…

Year 9’s entree this term into the world of experimental music is well underway. They have been listening to various pieces which challenge their assumptions about what music is, how it is created and where is is performed, including Stockhausen’s Helicopter Quartet (for conventional string quartet, except that each player is sitting in a helicopter which takes off and flies around). Their composing brief was to create a piece of music without using any conventional instruments and with the focus being on rhythm, texture, timbre and structure.

Here are some of their creations: