Education 2011

Schools Music Project 2011
This year’s Project ran from 2-4 March and the six Norwich schools which participated in 2010 were keen to be involved again. They were Bignold Primary, Tuckswood Primary, Bluebell Primary, West Earlham Junior, Cringleford V A Primary and Eaton Primary. It is so good to have this continuity. (In addition, we had a plea from Yaxham V A Primary, just outside Norwich, asking if there was any chance at all of presenting live classical music in their school as they don’t currently get any. Chroma agreed to squeeze in an extra workshop enabling us to accommodate the whole school of 80 children and teachers in their school hall).

The Theme:
Romeo and Juliet

Instrumentalists from the Chroma Ensemble were led by Stuart King on clarinet with Julian Sperry on flute, Simon Stewart on saxophone, Heidi Bennett on trumpet, Tom Piggott-Smith on violin, Clare O’Connell on cello with additional piano (from Tra Nguyen) and percussion (from Rob Farrer) at the concert. Stuart also arranged all the music.

The Music:
Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet Orchestral suites including “Masks” and “Death of Tybalt” from Suite No 1 and “Juliet the Young Girl”, “Montagues and Capulets”, and “Romeo & Juliet before Parting” from Suite No 2, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story – in particular “Somewhere”, “Mambo” (with audience participation) and “Rumble”. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Overture Fantasy – Romeo and Juliet. In the workshops in School, Chroma introduced themselves and their instruments and then played parts of some of the music in the 45 minutes or so available. The children were also taught the words to “Somewhere” and then sang along to the music. In these sessions the school can have as many children taking part as will fit in their venue. So in most schools we found virtually the whole school sitting in the school assembly or sports halls eager to listen, reaching in total about 850 children. 

The children had to identify the three “families” of instruments being played. This is more difficult than it seems as “woodwind” includes flute (made of silver and gold, not wood), saxophone (made of brass but not in the brass family where the trumpet belongs, but which, like the woodwind instruments, is ‘blown’), and a bass clarinet which looks like a saxophone! We had some interesting answers to questions from the musicians – a “saxonet”for a soprano saxophone; ‘plucking’ in Italian was “pizza” (very nearly pizzicato) and the names of the warring families in Romeo and Juliet were “reds and blues.” Three of the workshops coincided with World Book Day on 3 March when teachers had asked the children to dress up as their favourite character from a book. Chroma are not used to performing before audiences of pirates, wizards, a Red Riding Hood and, notably, a boy wearing a cardboard box complete with a door and clothes peaking out – a wardrobe! (He struggled to put his hand up to answer questions).

The Concert:
Following the workshops, the Norwich schools were invited to attend an hour long concert on 4 March at the John Innes Centre, which is the preferred venue for NCM concerts. The concert included two more musicians and a fuller programme of music. Here the audience numbers were restricted by the size of the auditorium to about 285 children and adults. Some children brought along beautiful masks they had made. For “Mamba” from West Side Story, Rob the percussionist taught the children in groups to clap various rhythms including, memorably, clapping to the rhythm of ‘I like potatoes I don’t like cabbage.’ It was less traumatic to be in the group which shouted “Mamba” at the appropriate signal!

Feedback from Teachers:
Always a pleasure to welcome the musicians for an educational and entertaining time.” Bluebell Primary
Fun and informative… The children enjoyed the experience.” Cringleford V A Primary
The concert was even better than ever as the children were able to participate – their interest was held throughout. They loved the percussion. This is always a fantastic opportunity for our children and we look forward to it greatly. We have written about our visit this morning and the children quite clearly loved it! They talked about the composers, instrument families and the story line.” Bignold Primary
We absolutely love the experience of listening to professional musicians playing. The children in our school would never experience anything like this if you did not offer us the opportunity of a visit. Keep going – what you do is fantastic.” West Earlham Junior
It was difficult for my class to accept that some stories do not have a happy ending. A fantastic opportunity for the children to experience professional live music of such a very high standard.” Yaxham V A Primary

Feedback from children:
Children at Bignold worked on their own happier endings to the Romeo and Juliet story:
Romeo was trotting towards the tomb. He found Juliet lying down looking like she was dead. But no! Romeo let Juliet wake up and Romeo was happy. They ran off before their mums and dads came. They stayed in love forever.
Romeo went into the tomb and found Juliet lying on a slab of stone. He knelt down and said “Delight of my life. Please wake up.” Just then Juliet woke up and they rode off. The End.
She woke up and Romeo stopped crying. Then Romeo saw Juliet and cuddled her. The two families made friends and they lived happily ever after.
Susan Jack. Education Coordinator