The Prep School had a rousing start to their week recently when two drummers from Year 9 performed a duet for them. The students, who are both set to do GCSE Music, devised the whole thing themselves, drawing on rhythms they had learnt in drum lessons and material they had experimented with in their jamming sessions at school. They thought carefully about how to make best use of the entire kit, including two snare drums and they included a section which exploits the different timbre (sound) that can be achieved through rim shots. The texture of the piece is varied and the tempo also changes to help create a sense of build up and excitement. They even thought about the visual aspect of their performance by swapping places halfway through whilst still keeping the rhythms going! Unfortunately you won’t be able to see this but you can listen to an audio clip of their impressive piece here:
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
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:
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):
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:
Our Senior Showcase this term was a double bill of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Roald Dahl’s The Witches, interspersed with music carefully chosen to fit the ‘magical’ theme. All students in Years 7-9 were involved whilst Year 10 students provided much of the musical support. Two Year 10 students also devised the choreography for the dance and rehearsed it with the Year 7 dance team. You can listen to a few musical highlights below – more to follow. In the meantime here are:
‘That’s Life’ sung by our very own Frank Sinatra in Year 7
‘I put a spell on you’, sung by a quartet of girls from Years 7 and 8
‘Another one bites the dust’, performed by our Year 10 Band
Year 9 have spent the last couple of weeks looking at improvisation and learning how, although on the one hand it is a case of ‘composing on the hoof’, it also takes place within certain parameters, especially if a group of musicians is involved. There is usually a structure or framework and often a chord sequence or a scale which forms the basis of the improvisation. The students were given a chord pattern to learn, over which they then experimented with improvising a melody using the notes from the chords .
Here’s what two of the students created in the form of a piano duet:
Seniors were treated to a special assembly this week with a visit from violinist and composer, Joel Grainger. He trained as a classical musician but decided to branch out from the conventional route and broaden his range of styles to include pop, jazz and folk. As well as speaking and performing at TEDx in London he has showcased his live looping set on BBC 1’s ‘The One Show’.
Here’s a photo of his looping set which he used in the assembly:
Joel busks regularly in Cambridge and other major cities – look out for him in on a Saturday. It was truly inspiring, so here are a few highlights to give you a taste of what we experienced:
Year 9 are looking at experimental music; music that asks awkward questions like ‘what is music?’, ‘what constitutes a musical instrument?’, ‘what is the role of the performer?’, ‘is the composer always right?’, and so on. They watched the brilliant ‘Music for 6 Drummers and 1 Apartment’ which starts as a heist and becomes a carefully choreographed performance using household objects. If you haven’t watched this it’s well worth a look:
The students then came up with their own versions, focusing especially on texture, timbre, dynamics and overall structure. Here’s what they did:
Year 7 were set a performing challenge at the start of this term. Their brief – to turn a 4 part rhythm lasting one bar into a performance with a clear structure, varied timbre and, ideally, a call and response melody. Quite a tall order but here is what one group achieved: