The Music Workshop Company Coronavirus Home Learning resources
During this challenging time, the Music Workshop Company will be sharing activities and resources to keep music alive in your homes.
Feel free to explore the wide range of articles, top tips and other resources, or click on the links to find activities for specific age groups.
If you would like resources on a specific topic please email Maria AT music-workshop.co.uk
Early Years & Key Stage 1
Key Stage 2
Key Stage 3
Key Stage 4 & opinion pieces
At a time when more families are engaged in home learning, the MWC team wanted to share online resources that might be useful over the coming months…
General advice on Home Learning
Home Learning UK are sharing their expertise – https://homelearninguk.weebly.com/
World Poetry Day fell on March 21st 2020. The annual celebration, which was adopted by UNESCO in 1999, is an opportunity to revive oral traditions, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, and foster the convergence between poetry and other arts, including music. Poetry can act as a uniting force, expressing common human experiences – a vital force for connection in difficult times – and so UNESCO extends the invitation to everyone to take part. Read more.
The BBC have launched this year’s BBC Young Composer competition, the annual competition is open to composers aged between 12 and 18 from across the UK. Winners take part in a development programme and work with a mentor composer on a composition for the BBC Concert Orchestra, to be performed at the BBC Proms in 2021 in a special young composers concert. The closing date for entries to the competition is 5pm on Thursday 11 June 2020.
The competition boasts an illustrious list of former winners including Shiva Feshareki, Kate Whitley, Tom Harrold, Alissa Firsova, Mark Simpson, Toby Young, Lloyd Coleman and Duncan Ward. Read more.
1920 was a busy year for Stravinsky and Diaghilev with the premiere of the ballet Le Chant du Roissignol on 2nd February and the premiere of Pulcinella on 15th May.
Stravinsky first worked with Diaghilev on L’Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird) in 1910. The work is of interest both as Stravinsky’s breakthrough piece and as the beginning of one of the most well known collaborations in the ballet world. Read more
The National Trust was founded on the 12th January 1895 by Octavia Hill, Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley. As the Trust reaches its 125th birthday, we share its celebration of famous British composers and the work it does to inspire a new generation.
Leith Hill Place – Ralph Vaughan Williams
The Firs – Edward Elgar
575 Wandsworth Road – Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
December 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.
The event seems to have split the Classical Music community. Some individuals and organisations see the occasion as an opportunity to celebrate Beethoven’s musical achievements. Others suggest that Beethoven’s music is popular enough and performances and recordings of it are already so plentiful that audiences should be exploring new repertoire and lesser known composers, and particularly work by underrepresented groups. Read more
November 2019 marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Leopold Mozart (November 14, 1719 – May 28, 1787). Perhaps often primarily known as the father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leopold is an almost mythical figure, equated, perhaps partly thanks to the blockbuster film Amadeus, with a stern and conflicted father/son relationship.
Another interpretation is that Leopold, who had supported his child prodigy son for many years, was concerned as Wolfgang pushed for more independence that his son was unfit to look after himself – a worry which proved to be grounded in reality. Read more.
On 18th December 1892, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker was premiered at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Although the ballet is now popular throughout the world, the premiere was not well received, with popularity only coming after Tchaikovsky worked the music into a Suite. Following the success of Sleeping Beauty, Tchaikovsky was looking for inspiration for his next ballet and a gift of a new Russian translation of E.T.A Hoffmann’s story Nussknacker und Mausekönig gave him a story he could work with. The ballet is now a firm family favourite, and tells the story of a Christmas gathering where Drosselmeyer, a toymaker and magician appears, bringing to entertain the children, and a wooden nutcracker which is carved in the shape of a man for Clara and Fritz. Read more
"I am first black British artist to headline Glastonbury. At 25 years old I am the second youngest solo act to ever headline Glastonbury, the youngest being a 24 year old David Bowie in 1971."
The words of Stormzy as he headlined Glastonbury in June 2019. Some people questioned the announcement that Stormzy was to take the coveted Headliner slot at the festival. In an interview with BBC1Xtra, he answered the sceptics, saying, “There were so many doubters being like, ‘Oh, he hasn’t had a No 1 song’, or, ‘Oh, he’s got one album out, he’s not ready.’ I’m there because I’m a serious musician.” Read more
August 2019 marked 50 years since Woodstock ’69, the ‘most popular event in music history.’
Held between August 15 and 19 1969, Woodstock took place at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. The festival, which was billed as ‘An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music’ drew crowds of more than 400,000 people who heard 32 acts performing open-air gigs, sometimes playing through the rain. Described by singer songwriter, Joni Mitchell as, “A spark of beauty” where half-a-million kids “saw that they were part of a greater organism”, Woodstock has long been regarded as a pivotal movement in both popular music history and within the larger counterculture generation. Read more.
Clara Wieck was born in Leipzig in September 1819. Although for decades she has been predominantly known as the ‘wife of Robert Schumann,’ her contribution to music as a performer, composer and inspiration was immense. As a woman in a male-dominated world, she gives us a fascinating glimpse into creative relationships, and perhaps a sense of what other women could and did achieve, despite the familiar list of traditionally male historic composers. Read more.
Electronic music is music that employs electronic and digital musical instruments and circuitry-based music technology. Pure electronic instruments like synthesisers, computers and the theremin have no sound producing mechanisms like strings or hammers, but electronic compositions also include electro-acoustic elements.Electronic music began as early as 1913 with Luigi Russolo’s conceptualisation of the genre and development of prototype synthesisers. Read more.
MyMusicPB.com is an interactive resource for music teachers, music services and music students that offers a way for teachers to stay organised, up to date and compliant with European data laws while motivating pupils of all ages. Its intuitive interface is free for teachers to use. The Music Workshop Company speaks to MyMusicPB’s creator, Phillip Brunton ... Read more.
Music holds an important place in Welsh national identity – so much so that Wales is traditionally referred to as the ‘Land of Song’. However, despite the positive implications this moniker has in terms of the Welsh affinity with music, this is actually a modern stereotype based on the importance of 19th century choral music and 20th century male voice choirs, and in some ways it clouds a long and unique musical and social history... Read more.
In this guest blog, The Music Workshop Company talks to composer Steven Coltart about his work writing and producing the score for Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier.
Steven has worked extensively across film, games and television, but Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier provided a hitherto unique opportunity for him… Read more.
The Eduqas A-level music syllabus includes study of Western Classical music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This was a period of change and emancipation. No single composer led the way in terms of style, and artistic creativity was expressed with compositional devices including explorations in instrumental sonority and harmony, including increased use of dissonance and chromaticism. Nationalism, the use of cultural and patriotic references including the integration of elements of folk songs and folklore (often as programmatic forms and ideas) became an important feature. Read More.
Musical Theatre, or ‘Music for Theatre’ is a diverse topic, and the variety and quality it offers ensures its place in the exam board syllabus. Both the AQA and Eduqas at A-Level curriculums give Musical Theatre equal weight to hefty genres like the western classical tradition and jazz.
One composer common to both syllabuses is Richard Rogers (June 28, 1902 – December 30, 1979). Rogers wrote 43 Broadway musicals and more than 900 songs, and is recognised as one of the most significant composers of 20th century American music. His work has had a significant impact on musical theatre and popular music, and 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of his ground-breaking musical Oklahoma! Read More.
June 11 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Helen Tobias-Duesberg. Tobias-Duesberg produced a large and varied body of work. She was respected by her contemporaries and her work was regularly performed, yet few recordings exist and her name is not familiar. It would be easy to draw the obvious conclusion that this is because of her gender. The contribution of so many talented and successful women in the Arts has been marginalised. However the promotion of female composers ‘for the sake of it’ seems unhelpful in redressing the balance. Read more.
2018 is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking science fiction film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The narrative follows a voyage to Jupiter with a sentient computer called HAL. It explores themes of human evolution, technology, existentialism, artificial intelligence and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The film features scientifically accurate depictions of spaceflight, ambitious imagery and groundbreaking special effects. Read More.
March 2019 is the 150th ‘birthday’ of Henry Wood, and April 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Hallé. Both men left a lasting musical legacy integral to the orchestral world in the UK. But where did they come from and what inspired their achievements? In this ‘double bill’ we celebrate the lives of two great musicians. Read more.
A new survey by YouGov, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), shows video games as an important access point for young people to experience classical music.
The research, which included children aged six to 16, found that 15% said they listen to classical music “when it’s part of a computer game I’m playing”, while only 11% said “when I go to music concerts”. Read More.
It’s a question that often comes up - it’s a confusing and even controversial question 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. Read more.
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died in August 2018 at the age of 76. With her death, among the musical tributes, came a rush of tabloid-style headlines about the notoriously private singer. Read More.
Summer 2018 mareds the centenary of the amazing musician Leonard Bernstein who was born on 25th August 1918. Bernstein was a composer, conductor, author, educator and pianist, perhaps best known for what some consider the greatest of all American musicals: West Side Story. Read more.
"Composer: A person who writes music especially as a professional occupation"
The history of music is rich with composers, experimental, creative, daring, dashing, often with fascinating personal lives, and each still receiving regular concert billing. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Ives, Britten – in 2015, music exam board Edexcel featured 63 such composers in its A-Level syllabus.
In 2015, however, it was also pointed out via a change.org petition set up by student Jessy McCabe, that the syllabus was notably missing the inclusion of a single female composer.
Achille Claude Debussy, or Claude Debussy as he’s usually known, was, along with Maurice Ravel, the most prominent French composer of classical music associated with Impressionism. Born in 1862, he died on March 25th, 1918, making this year the centenary of his death. His music is still incredibly popular, and ‘centenary’ recordings are trending in the classical music charts.
"I am trying to do ‘something different’ — in a way realities — what the imbeciles call ‘impressionism’ is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics."
While planning a singing workshop, MWC’s Artistic Director, Maria, had cause to reflect on the names and lyrics of songs, how the meaning of some words has changed, becoming sensitive, controversial or unacceptable, and how some aspects of music might impact workshop participants.
Looking into the topic more deeply, Maria discovered examples that have created debate in the past and asked, so how should we teach these songs in schools, youth groups, holiday clubs and other community groups? Read More.
The UK music charts have been compiled for over 65 years. As teenagers, many of us would anxiously await the chart radio shows, hovering over the cassette recorder to capture our favourite songs. Today, the charts give a fascinating insight into the changes in the Music Industry since 1952, both in terms of musical styles and tastes, and in the way music is ‘consumed’. Read more.
December 10th 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of soul singer Otis Redding’s death in a plane crash at the age of just 26.
Just three days earlier, Redding had recorded what was to become his biggest hit. He knew the song would be huge – he remarked to his manager,
"I got it. This is my first million seller."
The feast of Saint David, patron saint of Wales, falls on March 1st, the date of his death in 589 AD. Saint David’s Day has been regularly celebrated since his canonisation in the 12th century.
Wales holds a special place in our hearts here at the Music Workshop Company; firstly because it’s the home nation of founder and Artistic Director, Maria, and secondly because of its apt and joyful reputation as “Land of Song”. Read More.
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. Read more.
Western classical music, by its very definition, is rooted in the sacred and secular traditions of the western world, centred around Europe. Although the genre has been influenced throughout history by folk song, jazz and music from other continents such as America and China, it rarely diverges far from its Western identity.
Much like Western music outside the ‘classical’ box, African music is incredibly diverse, varying greatly by region. There is lots of opportunity for creative inspiration. Read more.
July 17th 2017 marked 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.A Read more.
May 15th 2017 marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi. Born in 1567, in Cremona, Italy, Monteverdi was famous during his lifetime as a musician and composer, and his works are still regularly performed today.
Cremona is a city with a vast musical heritage. It was home to lute makers, later becoming renowned as a centre for musical instrument making, and home to the Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari violin making families. Read More.
Launched in 2009, OperaScotland is led by three brothers who had no idea that what to them seemed such an obvious need – developing an archive of the live performing arts – had also been addressed elsewhere. For OperaScotland, the supporting archive mainly consists of large numbers of programmes collected over a lifetime of opera-going by three Scottish brothers, Peter, Iain and Stephen Fraser. Other programmes were inherited from their parents or came as generous gifts from opera fans. It has been primarily from these programmes that casts are copy-typed into the website. Read More.
A 2017 article in the Guardian by Charlotte C Gill has raised some interesting questions around problems in music education, and caused a fair amount of controversy too.
In her column, Gill expresses concern over the problems in class music – uptake in music at A-Level and GCSE has dropped by 9% since the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2010, an issue, which we’ve previously covered under the ISM’s Bacc for the Future campaign. Read More.
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. Read More.
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. Read More.
This guest blog is from Dawn Rose, an early career researcher in the psychology of music and dance. Dawn’s background as a professional musician (drummer), music teacher and performing artist has informed her research interests. Following a successful completion of the Music, Mind and Brain MSc. at Goldsmiths, University of London, Dawn continued on to complete PhD. Her doctoral work investigated effects of music education on cognitive, behavioural and socio-emotional domains in children alongside expertise in adults. Read More.
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. Read More.
The sol-fa, or solfège, system is designed for singing. If you have ever heard the song Do Re Mi from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical The Sound of Music, you will be familiar with the idea. This concept transfers over to instrumental learning with the understanding that children can learn a great deal about pitch, rhythm and tone by learning to sing which can then be applied on any instrument. Read More.
TV talent shows have always made for gripping viewing. From programmes such as Opportunity Knocks and Stars in Their Eyes, the familiar format that takes ordinary people and thrusts them to stardom has long been popular.
So are these talent shows a good way to launch a performing career?
Tell us what do you think! Are TV Talent competitions are a good way to launch a performing career? Read More.
Funk is a genre that originated in the 1960s with musicians such as James Brown, was pioneered by singers like Betty Davis who was influenced by her husband, jazz musician Miles Davis, and by Jimi Hendrix. Funk was exemplified by the genius of Prince and it was among the styles explored by David Bowie, and integrated into his music. Read more.
Music can play on the emotions very strongly; a phenomenon explored throughout music history but more recently and notably manipulated by composers of film and TV soundtracks. One of the strongest reactions to sounds can be fear. What inspired the composers of scary music Taand why do these sounds frighten us? Read more.
Today the word concerto is typically used to describe a piece of music that features a particular instrument or instruments as a soloist, accompanied by an orchestra. Soloists are the most glamorous, highly paid classical musicians and their concerto performances demonstrate the pinnacle of their skill. Read more.
Music has been a big part of film since the early moving pictures, when live music was performed, usually by a pianist, to add atmosphere to silent movies. Movies often use a mix of pieces, some scored especially for the film and some pre-composed. Read more.
April is thought to be both Shakespeare's birthday and when he died, over 400th years after his death historic music specialist Emily Baines talks about the role and relevance of music in Shakespeare’s works. Read more.
Find out how William Shakespeare (1564-1616), poet, playwright and actor, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest English writers ever, has inspired others. Many composers have been inspired by Shakepeare’s gift for storytelling. Songs, incidental music and film music has all been influenced by the plays, and there are about 400 works, many of which are operas, plus songs and symphonic pieces based on Shakespearian tales. Read more.
It is important to understand how to look after musical instruments to ensure an optimum performance experience for participants. Whilst the care of a violin is obviously different to that of a piano, there are some considerations that apply to all instruments.
Here are MWC’s top tips on looking after your musical instruments. Read More.
Fryderyk (or Frédéric) Chopin was born in March 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, about 30 miles from Warsaw, Poland. He was just 39 years old when he died, but had established himself as a leading expert on the piano as a composer, teacher and performer. Chopin’s entire body of work focuses on the piano. All his compositions include the piano, and many of his works are for solo piano. Read More.
Perceptions around classical music can be that it is performed in a stuffy environment; that you have to be the right sort of person to enjoy it.
Why not explore some new music or the history of music you enjoy listening to?
Scotland is internationally renowned for its traditional music and dance, in particular the unmistakable sound of the highland bagpipes. But the pipes are only one aspect of Scottish music: They are often used to accompany solo and competition dancing, but music for social dancing is more likely to be performed on instruments including the accordion, fiddle and flute. Read more
The Blues developed towards the end of the 19th Century. It was first heard among the African-American communities who farmed the plantations of the Delta, a flat plain between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, an area so characteristic of the Deep South that it has been called The Most Southern Place on Earth. Read more.
Maria Thomas, Founder and Artistic director of the Music Workshop Company, is passionate about opera but is also aware that it has a particular reputation within the classical genre for being inaccessible. She tells us about her recent experiences as an opera lover, discusses the role of opera within the Arts and asks whether opera companies are heading in the right direction to encourage new, young fans…. Read More.
Body percussion is incredibly accessible; the human body is an instrument every participant possesses. Body percussion works on the same basis as any percussion instrument, but uses the body to create the different vibrations and sounds. These can include:
Stamping the feet on the floor
Patting the thighs with open palms
Clicking the fingers
Clapping the hands
In a 2015 interview by The Scotsman, world-renowned violinist, Nicola Benedetti, passionately criticised the suggestion that children should not be exposed to classical music.
MWC’s Maria Thomas explains why this is a subject close to her own heart with some food for thought on listening to complete works or individual movements. Read more
23rd April is St George's day - why not explore English folk music? There is a huge variety of dance associated with English folk music, some of it quite alien to modern culture. Folk music was either written as song or for dancing, and the dances have deep roots in the social history of England, as well as offering an insight into agriculture, industry and cultural diversity. Read more
We love unusual instruments at the Music Workshop Company. Spoons are great fun to play and obviously we have them in our homes, so they’re very accessible and very portable too. Spoons have historically been used as a makeshift percussion instrument, in the same way two bones such as sheep’s’ ribs would be rattled together to make rhythms in the earliest music that existed. Although they have an association with improvised music making in the roughest sense, spoons can become a complex rhythm instrument, the sound of which compliments certain types of music. They are not an easy option, but they are an accessible way to discover virtuosic percussion playing. Read more.
Junk percussion isn’t a new idea. Centuries ago, people made drums and other instruments from objects they found, including bones, wood and hard-shelled fruit called gourds. African slaves who weren’t allowed to play their own drums would make instruments in secret from shipping boxes and dresser drawers. Why not make your own instruments out of every-day objects, which would otherwise end up in the rubbish or recycling bin, to experiment with sound, compose music and prepare for a performance. Read more
There has not been much detailed study of the early musical history of North Africa, with most historical information focusing on music from no further back than the 20th century. However, the music of the region dates back many thousands of years. In the period of ancient Egyptian history known as the Old Kingdom, which spanned from 2686-2181 BC, harps, flutes and double clarinets were commonly played, and are depicted in many paintings found in ancient burial chambers. The music developed to include percussion instruments, lutes and lyres during the Middle Kingdom, which was from 2050 to 1650 BC. This was more than 300 years before the reign of Tutankhamen.
Singing releases feel-good chemicals such as endorphins into the brain, lifting the stay at home blues and relieving stress. It’s great physical exercise, raising oxygen levels in the blood, encouraging deep breathing and giving your lungs and facial muscles a workout. Singing is good for you mentally, giving an increased feeling of self-esteem and wellbeing: It’s very hard not to feel happy when you sing. Read more.
Samba music is fun, rhythmic and uplifting. It is the most typical, important and recognisable music of Brazil. It is common throughout Brazil, but is most frequently associated with urban Rio de Janeiro, where it developed during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is celebratory music, frequently identified with Carnival and the exotic, feathered dance outfits. Find out about the history and instruments Read more
There are many kinds of drum in Africa, made from wood, metal, earthenware or large gourds, which are hard-rinded fruit. Drums fashioned from gourds, or calabash, are most often seen in the Savannah Belt of West Africa. Learn more about the benefits of African Drumming.