A very busy 2015!

IMG_00000533-150x150[1]

This year has been phenominally busy, so I’ll just make a list:

March 2015

My usual visit to Dorchester for the orchestral version of Dave the Musical Caveman, Dorset Chamber orchestra with narrator Martin Clunes. This year I re wrote it to include young recorder players from Cerne Abbbas school.

Rainbow Island with adult orchestra of my ECMC, ESO, & other orchestral friends and all the children of Berrymede Junior School. There are loads of great pictures, which I’ve added to the gallery.

April

The memorial concert at Ealing Chamber Music Club for Anthea Sharma, founder member, who died in September last year. At the end on an evening of chamber music, we formed an orchestra & performed my Elegy, which I wrote for the occasion.

May & June

These busy months were spent writing and/or arranging music for large brass ensembles for English Brass Academy (under the direction of Paul Archibald) courses in Kuwait & Croatia. Also preparing the vast Berrymede recorder orchestra & guitar club, & kids in general for our Berrymede Talent Festival to be held in early July. I finished the arrangement for the Ealing Chamber Music Club’s Summer Sing/Play along Abba medley. & performed my Seeking Zamfir & Two Turkish Dances with a string trio at an Ealing Chamber Music Club concert.

July

Berrymede talent Fest – A whole week of performance events involving all 400 children.

London Composers’ Forum concert in Central London, in which John Holland, Owen Phillips & I performed my Reeds & Rhythm for soprano, & baritone saxes & drums.

Rehearing with Owen and John for the LCF performance, 2015

Rehearing with Owen for the LCF performance, 2015

The big end of year Ealing Chamber Music Club extravaganza ending with everyone singing & playing my arrangement of Abba songs. It was so enjoyable.

A week in Sibernik, Croatia, with English Brass Academy. They played 8 of my compositions/arrrangements in 3 concerts in spectacular venues. There are many pictures & recordings & a brilliant slideshow on facebook.

Related Images:

Music at the Zoo

The following is part of an article submitted to Music Teacher magazine. You can see the interview that appeared in the October edition here.

In 2008 a piece of music was needed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of a small West London Primary school. I wanted to write a musical story that would feature the immediate environment of the school, people the children knew, and the children themselves. It would blur the borders between truth & fantasy, and would enable every child in the school to perform with adult orchestral musicians. I thought three friends from Ealing Chamber Music Club might volunteer, however, seven offered. The number of volunteers, like the idea itself, has grown every year since.

Wind dragon was about a kite, which could be brought to life as a music loving dragon, to help children care for the environment. This story has to be completely re-written for every school in which it is performed, 3 so far, one of them with a sequel in which the local MP played a role.

Then I wrote ‘Rainbow Island’, in which all the children have to be divided into three groups, as members of red, yellow & blue villages in a fantasy about a storm which brings the villagers together, & teaches them to co-operate. This was the work in which I discovered how good children as young as 7 are at singing 3 part counterpoint, if each part is a separate song, and how much they love doing so.

March 2013 marked the 8th of these events – ‘Zoo Tales’ in Berrymede Junior School, Acton,

Most of the children are Muslim, there are many languages spoken, and the children LOVE music. The school hall is not big enough for all the children, plus an 18 member adult orchestra, plus parents, so the only solution was two entirely separate performances – years 3 & 4 in the morning, years 5 & 6 in the afternoon. The adult volunteers from Ealing Chamber Music Club & Ealing Symphony orchestra agreed to play all day.

Berrymede has a large recorder orchestra, as all children learn. Year 4 played descants for their performance, and 47 children played descants, trebles & tenors for the Upper school performance. There was also a percussion group for each performance. Everybody learned all the songs, and they were the most difficult songs I have ever written for a whole school to sing. One required the boys to hold one tune, while the girls sang another, and there were others in 3 parts. When I realized how short the Spring term was this year, I thought ‘This time I’ve gone too far!’, but the kids hurled themselves at the task, sometimes with more enthusiasm than finesse. Some classes only get music for half of each term, but they still managed to learn all the songs in time, aided by weekly whole school sing-alongs after Half Term.

We made nearly 400 animal masks – templates were photocopied,& the children coloured them. Lions, Orang Utans etc. had to have woollen hair. We chose actors & mime artists for the lower school, & readers for the upper school, and gradually everything fell into place. The adult musicians only got one rehearsal, which went amazingly well, in spite of my conducting. The children learned their songs & instrumental parts to backing tracks I’d made of the adult orchestra parts.

The biggest problem was working out how to seat everyone. For each of the performances the classes were divided into 3 groups, & each group needed to be close to each other, but the recorder orchestras also needed to be together. Then there were the main characters to be considered, & for the song in which the boys sang one tune & the girls the other – they just had to sit mixed up, but miraculously managed the song perfectly well.

The performances were stunning – better than I’d dared hope, & even in their favourite song, ‘Bears like to Boogie’, in 3 part counterpoint, they avoided the temptation to shout, so all the parts could be heard. It was very exciting, & children & adults were as high as kites afterwards. Questionnaires completed this term revealed how much they’d learned.

This work has follow up stories, and we have plans for some literacy and creative writing activities for this term. ‘Zoo Tales’ has taken up most of my life for most of a year, and it was pretty intensive towards the end, but it was worth every sleepless night.

If any other school or group of schools would like to perform one of my musical stories, I’d be happy to supply score, scripts, lyrics, rehearsal CDs, and related artwork. The ideal solution would be if a Music Service could offer orchestral musicians for the performance. Alternatively music students might help. The best one to start with would be Rainbow Island.

New photos from Berrymede performance

IMG_3318.jpg

New photos from the Berrymede performance of Zoo Tales have been added to the gallery! Take a look at the images here.

The performances were covered in the Berrymede spring newsletter, which you can read  here. This is what they had to say:

Zoo Tales Performance
This was held on 27th March in the North Hall. Berrymede has a large recorder orchestra and everybody learned all the songs. There was also a percussion group for each performance. Nearly 400 animal masks were made, templates photocopied and coloured in by the children. Ms. Sharma organised for an 18 piece orchestra comprised of the Ealing Chamber Music Club and Ealing Symphony Orchestra to volunteer and give up their day to play for Berrymede.
The performances were stunning and it was very exciting for the children as well as the parents who attended.

 You can see the children making their animal masks on the Berrymede sketch club page.